In his post ‘What it’s like to be autistic’, Greg Burns did a great job describing what it is like to be autistic. As I read through his description though, I was struck by how similar and how individually different we all are. Since I was diagnosed this year with ASD-1 at age 61, I will try to describe my experiences.
These are my experiences, and may not apply to everyone:
Because you were hurt by those closest to you growing up,
you shut down emotionally and block out feelings toward other people
(a coping mechanism). You also have difficulty trusting others.
You go through school and into college without
anyone knowing you, and without ever dating.
You frequently bump into things, drop or spill while eating/drinking,
and have accidents. Because of poor fine motor skills, you are unable
to learn how to operate a typewriter or a 10-key adding machine.
You comprehend information differently
than most people, and that intimidates people.
Unaware of subtle nuances of language, you offend
acquaintances and co-workers without knowing it.
Not aware of your own feelings, you overlook the need for
empathy and offer unsolicited solutions to problems.
Then you are accused of invalidating other’s feelings.
Within your own home, you are mocked for interpreting
situations differently than expected. Despite not
knowing expectations, they are not explained to you.
Because you are loyal to friends,
you are easily manipulated or taken advantage of.
You are so logical and (seemingly) devoid of emotions that you
identify with a fictional alien character, “Spock”.
You naturally research your interests until you are
an expert—then move on to other fluid interests.
You feel no human connection to infants,
small children, or seniors.
Your focus is always centered on your interests and on
solving problems to the detriment of human relationships.
You are viewed as self-centered and unfeeling because of this.
You view morals, and ethics as black or white concepts, and resist compromise.
You view and reconcile conflicts in logical terms.
You are quick to anger if confronted by people who are manipulative,
unethical, or dishonest. You become unhinged to the point
of meltdown when someone lies to your face.
You are obsessed with completing projects
and become agitated if anyone stands in your way.
You have annoying obsessive-compulsive habits, such as
picking at callouses or skin blemishes on your feet.
You become overcome with anxiety in meetings that are contentious,
and revert to fidgeting and failing to make eye contact with others.
You become preoccupied with escaping the meeting.
You are hyper-aware of sounds, cross-conversations, and bright lights,
and all sounds and conversations become jumbled together at once
so that you can not concentrate.
You are overwhelmed in large family gatherings
and leave abruptly to avoid sensory input overload.
You have difficulty sleeping for longer than a
couple of hours without medication for anxiety.
You have unusual abilities that offset disabilities.
For example, I have an extreme commitment to accomplishing goals,
and I leverage my ability to hyper-focus for extended periods of time
when necessary. On a project that was behind schedule, I worked 22 hours straight
repetitiously running VB Scripts to generate input files to load data to a system.
Then repeated this feat the following week to complete the project on time.
It’s kind of unusual, but I have never been late
completing a project in the past 35 years.