Yes, it is autism awareness month and as I’ve said many times I would much rather focus on understanding than awareness alone and today I want to make you aware of what it is like being in the middle of two worlds because that’s what I feel is a great way to describe Asperger’s.
I’m often aware of differences and I’ve done my best in life to try and blend in. This may play out in me not talking at all fearing that I’ll say the wrong thing, or maybe nodding in agreement in a conversation when I don’t understand a single word, nor care to, the other person is saying. If anything, to appear normal I have to counter what my body is telling me is right. Imagine that for a second; my body is highly defensive to its surroundings and I have many invisible walls to keep myself as safe as possible because the world is a scary place (autism spectrum or not). With that, however, when I allow what my body and brain tell me to do, say, to retreat or to avoid it often leads to as much of a difficulty as if I were to tackle something head on which is why, there are times, I have to deny what my body is telling me is right.
How difficult is all this? I’m a rules follower and rules weren’t meant to be broken. I have many personal rules as well, but this conflict that happens on a daily basis is all so tiring. On one hand my body tells me the outside world is random and scary but my job requires me to leave the safe confines of home. Think of it this way; imagine being at a stoplight in the dead of night with nary a soul around and you’ve got a red light. Time passes, a couple minutes, and still the light is steadfast it telling you to stop. Still, no cars or people are around and after five minutes you come to the conclusion that this stop light is broken. What do you do? At some point you are going to have to break the rule and you’ll check your mirror, you’ll look both directions for one to make sure no police officers are watching but secondly to make sure you aren’t going to get T-boned when you cross. After you make sure it’s safe you’ll decide to cross the intersection but you will be filled with dread and a sense of, “I shouldn’t really be doing this” but do it you must. Your foot goes down on the accelerator and as you reach the center of the intersection you’ll have a momentary sense of relief that you are finally back on your way but at the same time there will be this sinking guilt because you’ve never willingly ran a red light before. Sure, it was broken and sure no one else was there but you’ve just done something you’ve never done and something your brain has told you never to do.
What if this stoplight example happened every time? And what if it didn’t become easier to make that decision to cross against the light? This is the battle I face on an everyday basis. Sure, somethings aren’t all that major, but others are and the exhaustion that it can have on me can lead to situations where I decide I don’t even want to approach the proverbial intersection because I just have nothing left. Is it the coward’s way out? Unless you live with it you’d probably think so, but there are times I just can’t handle something.
This is why understanding is so vitally important because, in a perfect storm, I’m put in a lose-lose situation. I need to advance but the fear of having to go against what my brain is naturally telling is so great that I retreat. Perhaps this is too abstract, but if you live this you’ll understand the battle that this analogy has put forth.