Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Why I Don't Watch Shows Involving the Autism Spectrum

With a title has straightforward as this one you may think I could have a vendetta against shows like The Good Doctor or Netflix's Love on the Spectrum. There's no vendetta though, nor any opinion on the realistic (or not) depiction of the autism spectrum. Instead, it's that I'm simply not strong enough.

My girlfriend, several months ago, asked what I thought of The Good Doctor, and I gave a non-answer. How could I give one when I've never seen an episode? I told her what parents at my presentations have thought of it, but I was unable to give a first-hand answer. Then, last week, she asked what I thought about Love on the Spectrum, and again I was unable to respond. Atypical may have come up early in our relationship and then, like the others, I was unable to answer. I think she asked me at some point in time why I hadn't watched, and I gave a closed off answer that teetered on truth but wasn't the reason. I knew the reason, but I couldn't vocalize it so, as I've done so often, I'll write about it.

As mentioned, I have nothing against those shows. The reason why I don't watch is that I'm trying to protect myself from emotions. Way back in 2011 I was on a panel that discussed the movie Adam and while watching that movie I felt extreme feelings of compassion and empathy. I felt similar emotions while watching Temple Grandin but seeing how I presented on a panel with the real person that seemed a bit, well, different. Back on point... While watching and then discussing Adam there were those two strong emotions and typically, I can watch forms of media without any spark of emotion whatsoever. However, if I can relate to a scene, or a struggle, the feelings compound and it's downright overwhelming.

The misconception out there is that those with Asperger's fully lack emotion. I laugh, and then want to cry, when I hear this because it's not based in reality. What is true is that I'll do what I can to avoid situations that will entail an emotional response, or I will do my best to conceal the emotion because emotions often cause more emotions which bring about more and that is just so tiring. Also, because I believe emotions are felt at an unfiltered level meaning that instead of a scale that's zero to ten mine is zero and then maybe a nine but most certainly a ten. 

With no shallow or middle ground, the emotions that are triggered become a tidal wave. If emotions of outward empathy and inward reflection are spurred at the same time it is an overwhelming mess. With the "everything is now" memory system I have, when a memory is conjured up by relating to a scene from a show, the emotions I had at the initial moment of living it are brought back to the present. And, since I had a hard enough time the first time I felt something, it's even more difficult many years later with now interest being added to the initial emotional debt.

Perhaps I'm missing out. Maybe a blog of "life on the other side of the film" would be a great project to do in reviewing and relating to the various shows out there. How based in reality are they? Could they do better? I know I could provide insight to this, but right now, as I think about Adam, I can still feel the helplessness in the situations the movie depicts, and it gives me an image of drowning in emotions. Maybe there are others out there on the spectrum that share my extreme hesitation to take the media plunge and watch. The odd thing is that reading books doesn't have the same impact on me. I find this curious, but perhaps that's because I was an author first and it's a media of the mind and not of someone else's interpretation of a script.  

To close, that person you may know that is avoiding a movie, or genre, perhaps like myself with things involving the autism spectrum, there could be a silent reason as to why they will do whatever they can to steer away from it. I've known this about myself for almost a decade and couldn't describe it to anyone. It took me a decade to get the bravery to say way so if you don't get an answer as to why, perhaps it's too deep, too personal, and they too would want to avoid the tidal of emotions that can be brought about by seeing a struggle they struggle with on the television screen.

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