If you read my articles, then you know that it's my goal to help autistic people by increasing understanding. This is another one of those, with a light sprinkling of the irritation that sparked the first "Joel Rants" back in high school. I'll have to tell that story some time.
Being autistic is a lot of things, but one that doesn't always get touched on is: infuriating. But Joel, all I've heard is that Autistic people annoy others! Why yes, dear hypothetical reader! That's because 98% of the population is the assumed default perspective, and it's the allistic perspective which is given a platform when discussions are had about Autistic people. So, what's infuriating about being autistic?
Let's paint a picture for those of you who haven't lived this, and I ask that you remember that I intend to capture the emotion, not the full reality.
We function very intensely, and no one seems to get that. Our senses are extremely sensitive and don't always work the same way as everyone else's. But, unless a specific set of circumstances comes together to help us communicate directly or through someone else, we tolerate certain experiences because someone tells us that we're "just being picky" or "are too sensitive". We are forced to endure, and endure, hardship after hardship to the point that we assume that we have no agency in what we experience.
It was a genuine shock when I went to William and Mary College and could establish personal boundaries and trust (only a little bit) that they would be maintained.
We do things for our own reasons, but because our reasons don't always line up with everyone else's, they are inherently assumed to be less valid. Personal example? The tendency to create fictional universes when playing with toys as a child (and maintain strict internal consistency within them) frustrated my parents endlessly. I don't blame them. Now, that behavior has become what allows me to create and maintain complex fictional worlds for the storytelling I do in my spare time.
Of course, this habit was—in part—trained out of me by my parents. I was gradually forced to be more and more understanding and flexible with how I played with others. It was done for my own good, and it helped me tremendously. That said, it did not change the overwhelming feeling that every autistic person I've ever met has been made to feel that their way of existence—of interaction and feeling and being—is wrong.
We are told again and again and again that our way doesn't work, that we must change, and that we must be like other people. The most painful part of this for me is knowing that it is, to some degree, true. Our ways of interacting with others are not innately understood by others, much like their's is not understood by us. We function on a different wavelength from the average person, and only atypical people or those who dedicate tremendous time and effort, can come to an approximation of what it's like to be in our shoes.
We aren't enigmas, we aren't puzzles, and we aren't broken. We work differently—and sometimes that's all it takes for the world to deem us 'impossible to understand'.
We are not understood because people assume that we are either just like them or completely alien and therefore incomprehensible. The real kick in the teeth is that frequently they assume both at the same time.
It's infuriating that my passion and drive so drastically outpaces that of my allistic friends that not even a tenth of them will engage in my interests as intensely as I do, and those who attempt to do so frequently wind up burnt out and tired.
It's infuriating that I have to reign in my passion and fervor and love for the things I do and the subjects I like because if I don't, I lose friends with every passing day.
Of course, as I said at the beginning of this picture-painting exercise, I understand the singularity of my viewpoint. I also know what it's like when your interests don't match someone else's, and they attempt to engage you in their passions without mutual interest. The difference is that I experience this withdrawl due to intensity every day of my life, and I can't stop being passionate any more than I can stop breathing. Instead, every new interest guarantees frustrated friends and fear of ever-increasing isolation because I want to share what I love with the people around me.
And that's why being Autistic is frustrating.
Thank you for reading.