Recently someone asked me why I’m kind of ‘in your face’ about being autistic and it really made me stop and think about why I actually do it.
The easy answer, and the answer I tend to give when asked, is that it’s a shortcut that works well for me. There’s plenty of people out there who have preconceptions about autistic people of what it’s like to be autistic. A subset of those people are assholes about it. Having the latter group immediately make themselves known saves me a lot of energy and anxiety.
(If you’re still reading this, you probably don’t belong to that group).
But there’s more behind it. For me, my kind of autism and my mental health issues around it mean that it’s something I always need to take into account. My energy levels are ridiculously low a lot of the time and everything is exhausting. That means that it’s on my mind a lot, which in turn means I talk about it a lot. *
It can be helpful too. Because I’m so open about being autistic, and because I have the language to talk about what it means, I’m able to help others understand autism. Whether it’s their own autism or that of someone they’re close to. If you’re polite and willing to learn, I’m willing to put in the energy to answer your questions.
There’s stigma too. Everyone seems to have that óne family member with an autsitic kid. I’m not like that. My autism isn’t pretty either. I’m not the stereotypical quirky smart guy who suddenly can do stuff when it’s practical for the story (I am, admittedly, kinda quirky and at least a little smart). I’ve got meltdowns and panic attacks. I’m stubborn and often accidentally rude.** I don’t deal well with change, I find social interaction difficult and confusing.
And that’s okay. I’m not going to apologise for who I am.
So, yeah, it works well for me. It allows me to be more myself without feeling the need to apologize constantly because of the stuff I might not be able to do or the stuff I do differently. There’s a lot of stuff I do like about being autistic as well, but that’s something for another post another time.
*This is often referred to as spoon theory or being a spoonie. Here‘s a link to read more about that.
** note the use of accidentally. I never mean to be rude, but it does happen