Published on 12, July, 2020
I am absolutely not saying that all NTs are weirdly interested, but I had an experience lately that really got on my nerves and is still bothering me.
A couple of weeks ago my grandparents had a friend to stay, and this friend used to work in schools before she retired, with autistic students and other students with special educational needs, but she was particularly keen on working with autistic students. Whilst she was at their house, my grandparents phoned me to ask if I would go over and chat to her. I'd heard them talk about her before and how "interested" she was in my being Asperger's and as I'm actually quite sensitive about the subject I wasn't sure I wanted to, but as my grandparents are amazing and I always want to please them, I said yes, sure, and went over.
So I get there and I meet the friend, and the first question she has isn't, "How are you?" She immediately asks me, "What goes on in your head?" That is the first question she asks, in that many words. I have only meet this woman sporadically throughout my life, on three occasions at most, in twenty years. I remember being taken aback at the time, but now I just feel boiling mad. Like, you wouldn't ask a neurotypical twenty-year-old girl that question, so why ask me just because I'm Aspie and you're "interested"?! Remembering the syrupy voice she used just makes me even more cross. It was as if she was talking to a five-year-old. To be honest I can't exactly remember what I said in reply, but I think I said something along the lines of, "Well, emotionally I struggle, and I get quite anxious, but apart from that nothing particularly interesting goes on in my head really. Not things that other people would find interesting anyway."
Then we got onto the subject of me being a writer, and my poetry and things, and she asked, "So could you make up a poem now for me? From your head?" And I was like, "Well, I'd have to go and sit down and write it. It wouldn't be an immediate thing." And she looked stricken and was like, "But people with conditions like yours, they can do that sort of thing, can't they? Just make things up from their heads? You must be able to."
Me: "No, really, I can't. Unfortunately. It takes time and effort. I'm not so good at being put on the spot." *Fake laughter*
She then started telling me stories about the autistic children she worked with, including one about a boy who used to imagine that he was projecting films onto the backs of his eyes from his brain and showed her by drawing a diagram (which does sound rather cool, I have to admit). Then like some excited Labrador, "Can you do that? Can you do that?" And she kept going, "Of course, I asked if I could work with children like you because I was interested. I just find you all so INTERESTING!" She proceeded to grill me, asking me about my plans to go to uni, and as I was unable to talk in detail about my mental health (aside from my Asperger's) and how it looks like it won't be possible for me to go this year, she was like, "But you must go! Because otherwise, people like you get stuck with their parents all their lives. It's so sad." Then my grandma joined in like, "I try and tell her mother not to be so over protective, she should go to university, she is easily clever enough" etc etc etc. It felt like I was being descended upon by vultures or something.
At this point I was virtually crying, as in, tears in my eyes, trying not to let them spill over. And I might suffer from emotional dysregulation, but I have gone whole therapy sessions without shedding a tear. So I was upset.
This attack ended with the friend saying, "You mustn't be so sharp with her. People like her are very sensitive, aren't you, dear? It's what comes of having such wonderful minds!"
All this happened a couple of weeks ago, but thinking about it still makes me sick to my stomach. It seemed ridiculous and kind of worrying to me that his woman was so fascinated in a medical condition. I hated the way she spoke to me, and I don't care if she was a kind old lady; it just made me angry and extremely uncomfortable. I felt like an exhibit in a zoo. To be honest, this isn't the first time that I have experienced this sort of thing: people being openly fascinated by autism, and asking me what my "power" is (er, I'm Aspie, not Supergirl!) or how quickly I can solve a maths problem (I barely scraped my necessary C at GCSE Maths, and that was with a lot of hard work and extra tuition, and on my third go at the exam!). I have to say that as a sufferer I really can't see why autism is so fascinating, and it frustrates me because again, it's the stereotypes they get excited about! Has anybody else experienced this weird fascination with autism?
*reads comment.... rage increases.... expresses a few choice explitives that if posted would probably get Modded...... would have walked out of the room, thinks your first instinct was correct and in future you should act on that instinct*
in short, yes.
in long: welcome to what i call Sherlocksyndrome. people who know me support me and enjoy my abilities, there's even an injoke about me being 'Sherlock'. in a wider context, i think everyone thinks we are performing circus animals. no wonder tigers turn round and mawl whoever's cracking the whip...
what you outline above i would interpret as crass in the extreme, and appalling. my personal feelings with regard to NTs (academics in the field even) *edges closer to being Modded* is that autism itself is treated like some sparkly bauble that is held and intellectualised over rather than in any way understood. it is always about the person /doing/ the intellectualising - or in this case "finding it so interesting!".
what i find so interesting is that the empathy brigade, as i call them, seem to have so little empathy or understanding of what i call: positive discrimination. "lets all be equal" is the collective cry, when actually we are not equal, none of us are. equality is not the same as 'sameness'.
all the person did was show off. so what if they worked with autisic people, so what? doesn't mean they understood or understand at all. that premise can be applied to many.
i'm furious on your behalf. i'd be boiling. i would also understand the experience as something that a) was a pure demonstration of someone enjoying themselves and being all about them and not about anything else and entertaining themselves for an afternoon b) one to put down to experience for yourself for future reference - walk away, say no, or breathe into the recorder and say "you. repel. me."
Verdict: the woman was a moron.
sorry any mods reading this but *annoyed Sherlock!*
Hi, thanks so much for your reply. I'm really glad you don't seem to think I'm being silly for being upset! I totally agree with everything you're saying...nobody seems that interested in helping autistic people, they just want to study us like we're some new species and have their theories and imply they're better than us. I also find it amazing that people say autistic people like empathy when actually, a lot of NT people who have been in a position of trust as far as I'm concerned have showed a total lack of empathy, saying things which should have been obviously hurtful, things that I would never dream of saying to anyone, as well as being domineering, condescending, invalidating and sometimes downright mean, abusing their power. Treating me in a way that I would never dream of treating others, and I'm the autistic one!
I know I should never have gone when my grandparents asked, but that's the thing with me: when people ask me to do something, I feel I have no choice. My mum was away at the time, and she says if she'd been around she wouldn't have let me go. I wish she'd been around!
Thanks for being on my side; it means a lot.
I never like the 'them and us' scenario/situation in conversations, but yes, it does happen and yes i have noticed this pattern. unfortunately. my best advise is just make for the door metaphorically and possibly literally.
"I know I should never have gone when my grandparents asked, but that's the thing with me: when people ask me to do something, I feel I have no choice."<--- i have the same issue, it's an autistic thing, we can never react well in the moment when something comes out of the blue, we never know what the right thing to do is (or how to respond in the moment to comments that come flying at us) and we end up just going along with things because we don't know what the right thing to do is. and then the issue compounds.
i've learned to try to do the wait thing, which is when i get instances where demands are put on me which i don't know how best to react to, i ask to be given time to think about it. if the person persists, i say no, and then if they persist in me doing something, i keep saying no, i'm sorry, i can't, i'm in the middle of something, i don't have time to think about this right now. i don't get it right every time but it does help sometimes.
I think perhaps because your grandparents asked you, you thought: okay, for them, i'll do it for them. and you get on well with them. and that their house is a safe place. but in actuality it was all about the other person's needs when you got there and you ended up getting bombarded with an interrogation.
Maybe it might be an idea as you get on well with your grandparents to just say for future reference: look, what happened really wasn't very nice, it has upset my equilibrium a bit, please in future if people ask, i don't want to be in that kind of situation again. hopefully they'll 'get it', they sound on your side too.
Thanks so much for replying again. It's nice to have a chat.
I'm not sure anyone would have been prepared for the interaction I had with my grandparents' friend. Ironically, it feels almost like her behaviour was strange and unexpected, not mine. To be perfectly frank, I'm not stupid; I do know what the right thing for me is, which is to stay out of situations that trigger ruminations and negative emotions, and I knew this would be one of them. I think lots of people have trouble with being put on the spot and with saying no, whether they're autistic or not. It seems to be something that a lot of people would change about themselves: the inability to say no to things they haven't got time for, aren't interested in (like those people on the street who try to sell you things; I've bought things I can't afford and don't want because I don't want to hurt their feelings saying no!) or that could have negative outcomes for them. But you're right...it is probably going to be extra tough for an Aspie/autie to be put on the spot.
I don't want to make people wait for my answers to things because ultimately I am lower down than them and I should be the one doing the pleasing. Some people in life are lesser people, and I am one of them, it seems. It's always been like that.
Honestly, if I spoke to my grandparents I don't think they would understand. I love them dearly and overall I have a great relationship with them; we're a small, very close family, but all they would have seen is their friend paying me compliments, saying I was clever, pretty (which I'm absolutely not, and she basically contradicted that by telling me that I'd put on "a bit of weight" since the last time she'd seen me...er, yeah, the last time she'd seen me I'd been totally lost in my eating disorder, so that was lovely to hear *sarcasm*) and "enchanting," and other stupid untrue OTT things, and encouraging me to follow my dream of going to uni. I doubt that they would see anything wrong in what happened (particularly my grandma - just to be clear, my granddad was looking slightly uncomfortable throughout the whole thing; according to my mum he sort of gets my problems a lot better than my grandma, and also thinks that uni would be too much of a challenge for me right now. My grandma sees things more simplistically than he does, but anyway). I reckon they would tell me not to be "dramatic" or whatever.
Your first para sounds very typical aspie/autie in that no, we don't want to hurt people, or their feelings ironically, so yes, we do end up doing or saying things to solve that issue. sometimes the solutions we come up with are for NTs, not for us, so just bear that in mind.
Your second para "I don't want to make people wait for my answers to things because ultimately I am lower down than them and I should be the one doing the pleasing. Some people in life are lesser people, and I am one of them, it seems. It's always been like that."<---i'm no psychiatrist, but WHAT? Ditch this thinking/perspective/philosophy, it's erroneous/flawed. if anyone told you you were a lesser person, they were wrong. no-one is a second class person, no-one. and if people have to wait for answers, so be it, it takes longer for an aspie/autie to process things. we're not stupid or 'slow'. giving a quick answer is not a sign of intelligence, or having the ability to answer quickly is not a sign of intelligence, it is a historically false perspective that anyone 'smart' is 'quick thinking'. not so.
Your third para - i do think they would understand, but equally i totally understand your opinion/perspective here because a) you know them best, and b) you're not stupid or a lesser person, you sound like you have a very good handle on the situation, one which is balanced and insightful. and yeah, sounds very much like just a situation of crass behaviour on behalf of their guest - aren't NTs interesting!!! *scarcasm, eyeroll*... as for the personal compliments thing, yes, for aspie/auties these just mean nothing and are illogical. i would agree that you should follow your dreams, or rather, follow yourself *suspects you are an RPer* and by that i mean follow your nose, where it leads you, your interests, your instincts, because ultimately you know more than you think you do, trust yourself, trust your subconscious, trust your aspie-ness because it does give you and edge others do not have. and remember, everything is relevant, all experiences are.
Ultimately, be you, because you can't be anything else and you have every right to be, no-one can take that away from you. You are valid, and so is everything your feel and think. You are not /less/ for it.
I am a second-class person, or people wouldn't have treated me the way they have. If I was a person worthy of respect, people would have respected me like they respect other people. Growing up, I was fat, ugly and socially inept. I had the **** ripped out of me every day at school. Most kids didn't go through that, because they were OK people. They deserved respect. So I am lower down, and I have to let people what they want and do what people ask of me. It's the only way I'll ever get anyone to want me. That's life.
Me is horrible. Just sayin'.
And ideally I don't want to be Aspie. I wish wish wish I wasn't. I hope I'm not offending you when I say that; I don't mean it horribly.
Okay. I hear you. I see it.
(No, you're not offending me, at all, in any way. I'm autisic. You can't offend me by being you, by being truthful. I'm sat here thinking, processing, making sure I'm doing the right thing - for you - because you are being very truthful and honest and this is an open forum. AND: this is a sensitive subject for you, it is the nitty-gritty, and we're getting down to the /cause/)
So I have to ask your permission to continue. And for two reasons:
1. I don't want to upset you, or overload you and make you feel like this is an interrogation - which would be terrible
2. I can give you /the/ answer, but .... this is why I ask for permission.
It's a tricky one. I can give you insight, or rather offer it, because I've been there, in the playground, having terrible experiences, having food problems etc. I am autisic. I know what it's like. But it might be too... raw for you to have the truth? I can't explain it, merely, I have to think of your wellbeing and whether you wish to continue exploring this thing for /you/. If you want the answers, I can offer answers.
So... do you want to continue?
Yes, I want to continue. Thank you for asking; I appreciate that very much.
Okay. Here we go... the following is open opinion, please take it as such. I'm no psychiatrist disclaimer as per usual.
As aspie/auties we take anything negative that we experience as personal. It's in our nature. It's what makes us who we are. If we were leopards, we would have spots and beautiful patterns that others would be able to identify us as aspie/auties. But we don't.
As aspie/auties, we experience everything at a very sensory/personal level, because that's how the world feels to us. It can be overwhelmingly hostile.
Negative things that happen to us, and that range from the environmental, to things which are said to us, affect us deeply and are deeply affecting experiences. And that starts from the day we are born.
Experiences affect us deeply because we are aspie/autie, we are black and white thinkers, right/wrong, on/off, yes/no, literal thinkers.
We are also problem solvers, and we find solutions to best adapt, to solve and provide a solution to negative things.
We do the logical thing, but we are acting upon/reacting to illogical information. Everything around us is doing something different to us, it's not the same as us.
And you know what, people can be really, really, really mean to anything that is different and that they don't understand. We on the other hand, try and try to do the right thing, find solutions etc etc.
So for yourself, think for a moment, about how negative things affect us.
Negative things = we've done something wrong, or something is wrong
We've done something wrong = we need to do the right thing to get the right responses (respect from other people)
Doing the right thing = "I have to let people (have/do???) what they want and do what people ask of me" so in aspie/autie terms this means putting ourselves in situations that we aren't suited for... and--> "It's the only way i'll ever get anyone to want me" = people liking us, therefore no rejection, no negativity, no wrong answers and solving the negative problem of people not liking us is based on what we have seen/observed others do as receiving positive reinforcement
Positive reinforcement that we've seen = respect
So we try to emulate what we have seen. It is a code. We mask, we mirror. We try and learn the code. And we keep failing.
When we keep failing our self-esteem and self-worth becomes eroded
And when people pick on us, it makes us feel awful, and very alone in a negative way.
As for our bodies, as we take everything personally, it is absolutely logical, in our thinking, that aspie/auties look at themselves when they receive negative comments and think: this needs correcting. As such it is inevitable to develop things like body dysmorphia, suffer from eating disorders, etc. Our ability to mask/mirror means we look in the literal mirror and think: that's wrong, put that right, fit it in to what needs to be right. So yet again we impose upon ourselves a regime of trying to get it right, and failing.
We try to correct the error to stop the negative comments, or negative reactions around us, or fit in with what 'get's respect'.
We try to make ourselves into something we can never be.
We try to cover our spots and stripes and not be leopards, but something else, something that doesn't get hunted down, picked on, singled out etc etc.
"Me is horrible"<---this is absolute pure logic. it's like a computer putting out an answer
Me is horrible = everything bad, negative, wrong
But it's not the correct reason why.
The correct reason why is: because it wasn't your fault that everyone around you didn't understand. because it's not your fault that people are awful and say awful things, or do awful things, or that in school people ripped the **** out of you - I've been there, I've been there... alone, I know what it feels like - it's not your fault that people don't understand what you say, when you say things, how you are, who you are, what you do, why you do what you do. their lack of understanding is not your fault, nor is it your responsibility.
You are not faulty. You are a leopard with spots and stripes and in your own environment you are perfectly adapted to be leopardy.
I totally understand when you say you don't want to be aspie. Who the hell would? Seriously! If they knew the half of it. If they understood the anguish. Who would want to choose a life of difficulty and negativity, and emotional pain, and physical pain. No-one would. Everyone wants to fit in and be normal. And that imposes upon aspies/auties the requirement to fit in and do things that we are just not adapted to. We can't. We just can't. But we are forced to negotiate the world around us that isn't designed or fits with the way we think and do things.
But we are able to do other things. We have qualities that others do not have. We are like computers with excellent hard drives. And we have the ability to see the world in ways that others cannot. We are the artisans of the world, the artists and the creatives.
It's not what is on the outside that matters. The outside is the lie, the inside is the truth.
Thank you so much for taking the time to be so thorough in your reply. I'm sure this is true for lots of people. However, I am not in the least bit logical. I really am not. In fact I suffer from a total logic bypass. I'm not a problem solver; I never know what to do. I'm so weak; somebody always has to find a solution for me. I've also never had issues from a sensory point of view. I have no problem with noise or bright lights etc. When I was a little girl I had to wear T-shirts under my fairy princess dresses because they were scratchy to me, but it isn't an issue anymore. I don't really become overwhelmed by these things. I don't see the world as hostile. I don't even see people as hostile. Not really. But I do see myself as hostile. Angry. Horrible, ugly, evil, wrong. Wrong wrong wrong. Because I don't want to be different. I want to be like other people. I want to be the person they want. I want friends my own age. I want a romantic relationship. I want to go to uni. I want all the stuff I've been through to never have happened. Because it's hurt me to the point where my emotions are totally broken and I have such dark thoughts, and I hurt myself on purpose (not that I'm going to go into that any further because I don't want to upset anyone). I think you're right that I'm programmed to think it's my fault, but whether that's Aspergic or not I don't know. I don't fit in on either side: I've tried to go to autism social groups but I don't fit in there either. I don't fit in anywhere, and it makes me panic. I'm terrified of being alone forever.
And I don't want to be a computer.
Do I make sense? x