Today, we have a great buest blog entry by Tina Shelley. Tina maintains her own blog called "The Duh I Don't Get." Today's entry is quite the read and offers another interesting perspective into the world of autism. I think all of you will enjoy reading it just as much as I have.
Duh?? But I thought...
I have a stuffed dog that I put next to me on the bed at night. Now, if we had a real dog, OF COURSE, he would be right there on the bed...next to my stuffed one. Anyway, I just make a joke about how "well behaved" my stuffed dog is, and leave it at that. My stuffed dog's name is Cooper, and he has a red bandanna around his neck. If he lands on the floor during the night, I pick him up and pat his head. It's like I'm apologizing, just in case he got hurt. Is this necessary? Of course not. It just makes me feel like I have a friend. Cooper reminds me of my friend who gave him to me. I like thinking of Joanie... how artistic and amazing she is. Oh yes, and the fleece material he's made of feels amazing against my face... Like a Teri-cloth bath robe but much softer! I like it very much. Do I sound like a child with a favorite toy? Good. That's what I was going for.
I have a quote on my Facebook page that says:
"I tried being an adult; I didn't do so well at it."
The quote is mine, I didn't borrow it from anywhere...and I hope that it is not nearly as immature as it sounds.
I think this is a battle that Autistic adults face quite often. That is, balancing the child-likeness of their heart, with an intellect often more grown up than many people twice their age, and a mind that often does not allow them to rest because some huge idea is causing overload, like too big a file on a hard drive. I may appear child-like... but this "child" has a college degree and has traveled outside the country. Perhaps this does not sound like much to some, but considering that sometimes I have to psych myself up just to leave my house...it's a big deal.
I think this can be a hard thing to talk about, period, because the assumption can be that someone thinks of us as weak, or unable to take care of ourselves. Please know that this is NOT my intention in writing this. For guys, this can be a different issue altogether, whether autistic or not. I once heard the female autistic personality described as a "blank slate.". I know not whether autistic males have this same issue, but I personally was rather annoyed with that description. Whatever we may emulate to "build" our personalities, we still have our own distinct personalities... whether we are children or adults.
The really odd thing is that as a child, I got along much better with adults, liked adult conversation, and was interested in adult things. At eight years old, I was interested in (drum roll please)... Greta Garbo and Buddy Holly. One, an actress from the early days of motion picture and the other, one of the pioneers of rock and roll.(He died way too young. He was twenty two. February 3d, 1963, Clear Lake Iowa...plane crash.). I guarantee you, nobody else in the third grade knew anything about that! Even if they did... why would they care? This can be the hard part, right? The "who would care" part.
So, let's see... anxiety, a fondness for childlike things, and an inclination to go on and on about... Myself! Yep...all autistic traits! Now I think I should say that I have never been diagnosed by a doctor as having Autism. I'm only self-diagnosed...I'm reading that MANY are self-diagnosed. Growing up, neither I nor my family knew anything about Autism, certainly not that it could be "high functioning.". In my particular case, I have a separate disability, and any quirks or idiosyncrasies I had were attributed to that.
However, in any case, how does a person balance a childlike heart with... the need to be an adult. Well, if I could write a manual, I would. (Hey, there could be book there!). But I'll just say it: You have to have courage. Nobody wants to stick out like a sore thumb...I get that. So I look at it this way: Be a breath of fresh air to someone else, and ware that like a "badge" of courage. Your different interests, colorful way with words, or obsession with something they've never seen before can be just the inspiration they need! This may seem over simplified, and perhaps it is... it's just a "shift" in thinking that I try to use when something negative has happened to me.
I figure if I can set my own pace, and someone is intrigued by me, they can slow down a while and we can talk. (I'll try to remember to give them a turn). (LOL). I believe that it also helps a great deal to be forgiving and patient with those who do not understand us. This might also seem like it is overly simplistic, but in my view, this can help us take a lot of pressure off. It saves a lot of angst and stress for us being misunderstood and helps the one misunderstanding us to know that we are more "down to earth" than they thought. Awesome!
For a long time, the only image we seemed to have of Autism was Rain Man. This is an image that I think has really been changing in recent years. But I think a much better example of what it can FEEL like to be autistic is Raymond's (Rain Man's) brother, rather than Ray himself. All Ray needs to feel okay, is to recite "Who's on First" over and over. This helps him get his energy out...simple. His brother (who's name I don't remember), however, needs a perfect image to be okay. Any " cracks" in this perfect image are unacceptable. A babbling, disabled brother who needs his help certainly is not something that makes him look perfect. As a result, Ray is treated cruelly and insulted and not given the same kind of attention that the NT individuals around him received. We've all been there, right?
But my point is that sometimes we can truly try to "prove" (as Autistics") that we can behave the same way as nuero-typicals, with the hope of bringing about different treatment from others, when the reality of it is that WE have the upper hand. Why do we have the upper hand? Because we are the "breath of fresh air.". We are (or can be) the difference in someone's thinking. We can be an epiphany that someone has never had before... That wonderful moment when someone has the "same" conversation they've had a million times, but they realize they've never heard that word or phrase, for example.
Today, at 35, one of the things I brag about is that I'm reading the story of Opal Whiteley. She was said to supposedly have autism, and between the ages of four and seven, she kept a journal using scraps of paper, crayons, the ability to speak more than one language, and an advanced vocabulary not familiar to most adults. Her favorite things to do were to talk to the farm animals and take nature walks. It's kinda sorta like a "Charlotte's Web," when you consider that the animals all had identities. But Opal was a real person. She even had pet pig. Grown up story? No, because Opal liked her own world better than the one around her. Typical? Nope. Interesting? Depends on who's reading it, and to this "adult," it absolutely is!!
So to every autistic adult who has ever worn themselves out trying to "keep up" with a world they don't seem to fit into... this is probably why we have the ability to disappear into worlds of our own. So, when you have a Star Wars marathon, put up a tent (in your bedroom), play with light sabers, buy animal crackers, chase bubbles, splash in rain puddles, watch cartoons for hours, hug Teddy bears, talk in foreign accents, spend too much money on a Halloween costume, or have many costumes that are NOT Halloween costumes; Congratulations to you. You are an amazing adult "child.". You have braved the neuro-typical world and behaved your way through it. Now... be yourself, to the best of your ability. I wouldn't worry about those who might have a problem with it, because you will be somebody else's "breath of fresh air."
PS... "Who's on First"!!! If you've never listened to it...please do so... and. LAUGH...LOUDLY!! :)