I am a socially interested person with autism. I am fascinated by people; what they eat, what they wear, how they speak, their behaviour, their interests…… I am a natural anthropologist, cultural analyst, philosopher of life. In fact, right from the word go, I have always been interested in culture and the trappings of humanity: books, dolls, girl’s hair, human interest stories, the human body, babies, child development, food, words, history, museums, society, politics, the human condition.
I find it so very hard to relate to others on a deep level. I can’t emotionally connect with other people. Emotionally I feel like a small child. I have a mature intellect but I feel at one remove from other adults. I often feel threatened by the thoughts and opinions of others. I feel insecure because I can’t read others, and I have no way of knowing what they think of me, or where my place is within the social pecking order. I want to connect with others.I wish I could read other people. In short, I wish I was neurotypical. I do feel on edge when I admit this, because it is not what a good autistic is supposed to say. No, a good autistic is supposed to accept their condition and to see the positives that autism is supposed to give them. I do not think autism has given me anything positive, but I do have a positive outlook on life. I seize opportunities as they come my way, and I try and turn a negative into a positive. For example, I like to raise awareness of autism in order to try and make society more accepting of difference, to reduce the number of barriers that autistic people face, and also, on a more egotistical level, to bring a sense of meaning and fulfillment to my own life. Who knows what I would be doing if I was not autistic. Maybe I would be a teacher. Some autistic people, it is true, become teachers. However, my autism affects me quite profoundly (despite appearances), and teaching would not be good for my mental health, which must come first. Instead I have become a public speaker. I have therefore turned a lemon into lemonade, as the saying goes. I would like to develop my public speaking career, and who knows what the future may bring.
I do admire the much maligned Neurotypical. I admire people who can read minds, who have the emotional, social intelligence that does not come naturally to me. I try and learn, second hand, how to do what comes naturally to the NT. I try and mimic them. I have watched and copied from a young age. I am a natural people watcher. I just wish that I could truly connect with other humans. I have always like an outsider. Different. Alone. From a different world – the world of me. I think that autism has deprived me of a very valuable part of human existence or experience. I can study it academically, but this is not the same thing as actually feeling it. Conversely, the NT will never have access to the autistic experience. But the autistic experience is atomised – each autistic is an island unto themselves – autism is not connected. The NT, while different from other NT’s, lives in a relatively unsolipsistic world. In other words their reality is more closely shared with others. The autistic is far more different from another autistic than any NT is from another NT! We talk about autism as if it were one condition when this could not be further from the truth. Autism is a collection of unconnected dots that only have a surface similarity.
My autism is a burden. But I find solace in the fact that, through my own determination, I can, bit by bit, overcome my fears and learn to be more at peace in the world.