Trigger Warning: Bullying
I have spent a lot of time over the past week thinking about what my answer to that should be, or even if I have a right to answer it. The investigations that led to my self diagnosis began after last thanksgiving, and I came to my conclusion right around christmas.
That moment gave me a brief liberation, as I finally had a word that described me. I was an "aspie". YAY!!!!
Then the reality set in. I found out I was a camouflaged member of an extremely marginalized, abused and discriminated against group of people. I felt unworthy, I felt like a coward. I am "passing".
I learned to start passing in 2nd grade. I had many awkward moments in K and 1st but I was not friendless and antisocial, just weird. In 2nd we were given group assignments. I did not feel comfortable in the group and I would stare at the floor, flap my hands and scratch myself through most of the morning. One of the "cool" kids took to imitating me in front of the class. The teasing and bullying became contagious. People who were my friends for the last 2 years took to mocking me. One day after school, a bunch of kids. It was probabaly 10 or 15 kids but at the moment I thought it was 100. They stood about 30 feet away, some behind trees and booed me. A few threw rocks and pine cones. A few were the same kids that voted me class president the year before. My teacher started sending me to the school psychiatrist daily. I wonder what diagnosis was on the table? I spent a lot of my time there, but nothing I know of came of it.
I felt like I wasn't smart anymore, I wasn't good anymore. In 3rd grade I spent my lunch hours with a speech therapist, because I had developed a lisp and I spoke out of place in conversations. I realized being myself was being loathed by others, so I figured out the best thing I could do was be invisible. I became conscious of my flapping. I stopped raising my hand in class. I answered wrong on purpose sometimes. I opted for the library over the playground or spent recess time in the bathroom. It took a long time to learn to disappear. I was picked on for my eccentricities throughout school. I had severe meltdown issues my first year in college as I felt forced to socialize (party) nightly with my peers. Sophomore year I opted for a solo dorm rather than a roommate and got approved. I made occasional public appearances as to maintain the fact that I was not dead, but I had finally succeeded. I disappeared.
I disappeared so well that no one noticed when I dropped out of college 2 years later. I supported myself working night shift at a 24 hour fast food place. I job hopped for years. Out of desperation I took a pressure sales job at an electronics retailer. Fortunately, they had good sales training with how to videos. I established a formula for eye contact and making small talk and actually became an above average performer, though the anxiety I felt was overpowering. I eventually quit that job and holed myself up for 7 months with saved money.
None the less, I learned to pass, to hide myself and appear "normal" in that fashion. Anything I did that was abnormal, like head rocking, flapping, listening to repetitive video game music and hip hop beats over and over for hours I discussed with no one ever. I watch news so I have something to discuss if ever engaged by anyone in small talk. I have learned to deflect conversations and questions about myself. I wear nondescript clothing showcasing none of my interests...
Getting to the topic of this flash blog thingy (I am very new at this!). I don't know very many autistic people besides myself. And I relive these past experiences with the new found knowledge and wisdom that I am Autistic. And I read the incredibly heart wrenching things that self advocates have to say about their experiences from these blogs. All I can say is that:
Autistic people should be Free.