If one does not understand a person, one tends to regard him as a fool.
There is a fine line in Asperger’s. Even for me, it is hard to distinguish what is the disability and what is quintessentially me. People always say they understand, whether that be me or my disability, but the truth is, nobody understands. Perhaps someone else with Asperger’s, yet these aren’t people I come across daily.
I always have a question mark stamped over my identity, over what makes me who I am. When I discovered I had Asperger’s, it felt like my questions were answered but it turns out that with this disability comes more questions. It doesn’t cure me and it certainly doesn’t change the way I feel inside. To know that I will always struggle through life in ways that others will never really understand, to always have reoccurring depression and constant anxiety, that truly is enough to crush someone.
But the main issue here is those mockingly pitiful words that always come out of people’s mouths- “I understand.”
I understand. Of course I understand.
Words that I always hear when people know about my disability, about my mental health. But no, you don’t. I now understand that I should never expect any of you to understand. Worst of all, none of you do understand because you have absolutely no interest in doing so, because people are inherently selfish. I’m not saying that people don’t try or at least make exceptions for me, but people simply don’t care to understand. If it doesn’t affect them then why bother? Let’s be honest.
Friends and even my own family really don’t have any true desire to understand. As long as my autistic mannerisms never slap them in the face then why pay attention?
With this, you’ll never know my frustration. One believed trait of autism is that those individuals don’t understand social cues. But I’m here to tell you now, I know when I’m being made fun of. I know the exact moment you think I’m funny because of the way I walk and talk. I know the moment that you lose interest in anything I have to say. I know the moment you find me some kind of easy joke.
I’m autistic, not stupid.
Hannah is an easy target. Hannah is the weird kid who walks strangely, who talks with a bland voice, who has no social interest, but is happy to still tell you why Waterloo Road is a good television show years after it was any good at all. Hannah is the one who shows no emotion but then claps suddenly because the new Star Wars will be a good movie. She’s the one that doesn’t really care about her appearance or whether she looks like a boy or girl.
People love outliers like that. To know, no matter what, that we can always make fun of Hannah.
Yet, they think I don’t notice or that it doesn’t hurt. Banter is banter. But when everyone laughs at the way you are, from as far back as I can remember, then it becomes frustrating. It’s a reminder that no matter how much I pretend, I am the disabled one. I am the tragic one that is so easy to make fun of.
Neurotypicals will never truly understand the extent of that confusion. People with autism have definitive traits of talking about subjects that only they want to, to do activities that only they care about, and to be selfish. But I find that it’s not autistic people that are selfish.
I try my hardest every day to consider other people’s opinion and to find what they do interesting. I try my hardest to be a good friend and good family. To know I have Asperger’s is to be reminded daily that your existence is nothing but a mere inconvenience for other people. I always try and dumb down my traits, to be normal, because maybe then people will take me seriously.
People think I make no effort, but I do nothing but cater to others. There’s always that voice that tells me I’m being annoying, I’m not considerate enough, I’m not being a good enough friend. All due to my autism. And no matter how much I try to overcome my traits to be more considerate, no matter how much I put myself out for others, I will always be the same archetype. I’m the socially inept one. I’m the bitch. But ultimately, I am the selfish one.
Yet, people who read this will try and disagree. They’ll say that’s not what they thought of me or they would never think any of these things to be true. But I don’t believe that to be true. Not really.
Because in the end, you don’t understand.
Having Asperger’s is frightening. To not understand anything and to struggle with the most menial tasks, and to know that other people either find it funny or frustrating. To know that other people have no intention of indulging my interests but I must always indulge theirs.
A favourite is how guilty can we make Hannah feel for things she’s not aware of, even as we pile shit on top of her. I’ll always be the rude one, the blunt one. I’m always the one that hurts other people’s feelings. I mind my p’s and q’s with the knowledge that people will use my autistic behaviour against me. And they do.
And when you hear that exact accusation from someone who you’ve always made the effort for, someone that you’ve always bent backwards for, it’s not a good feeling.
Yes, I suppose these are all universal feelings. But when I say this is a common occurrence, it’s pretty much every time I talk to anyone. Or even look at anyone. To question how you sit, how you eat, what your expression is. To question your whole existence because that voice reminds you that you are disabled and no matter how hard you try, you are odd.
Then I hear the same platitudes- “Does it matter if you’re weird?”
Well, yes. It does. Being weird is not a hindrance, but to feel that you never connect with anyone, that’s the worst feeling. There are only two people I have truly connected with in my entire life and they are my brothers, who are also disabled. Yet, everyone wants to be understood, to feel like someone knows them and accepts them. I don’t feel like I understand myself half the time, so to expect that of someone else would be unfair, in some respects.
I see other people in relationships or in friendships and I like what I see. So I imitate it but it’s not the same. Perhaps this is where I upset someone, but if we’re friends, most of my behaviour is probably standard behaviour I believe to be worthy of a friend. When I imitate others, then for a second, they forget I am disabled.
And I guess in most ways, this is where the fine line is drawn. I can dress myself, talk to others, and study at university. So people forget just how disabled I actually am. But that is a pretence. What you see is all a pretence. It becomes hard to upkeep, so when people see a glimpse of how autistic I am, it is either a joke or it bothers them.
I don’t want to be funny. I’m not trying to be funny. I don’t want to be laughed at for something I cannot control. And I definitely do not want to be blamed for my autistic behaviour. This is where the crux of the argument is, where people really do not understand. To most, autism is a hypothetical situation. Even if you have autistic children or friends. You don’t really understand what is happening- how they think and feel.
Although it may sound as if I’m asking you to understand here, it’s more an expression that I know you don’t. And that’s okay, because I now know that asking that much is quite impossible. People won’t understand and so, it’s really whether you accept the way I am. Sometimes that’s still not enough.