A Window into the Invisible

Asperger’s is supposedly an invisible disability which is something that has upsides and downsides. The upside I suppose being that it’s easier to pass for “normal.” That’s the theory anyway because I’ve never found that to be true. I’ve found the opposite to be true, that looking more normal puts more pressure on you and sometimes places unreasonable expectations on you. People expect more than you are really capable of. I say supposedly invisible because in my experience people who are autistic don’t have too much trouble spotting each other. But I’m aware that to most people I can come across as simply ill-mannered and uninterested, I’m starting to realise that I can’t win on this count. Don’t interact with other people or make any effort to hide my anxiety and they’re often unhappy with me. Do make an effort and they may regret I’ve attempted to do so. Because they have trouble understanding me and I them, I guess sometimes it’s just not worth the effort.

The reason I decided to write something for today’s prompt is a study which I read about last week. A study which showed that people with autism are more likely to have a shortened life expectancy in comparison to their neurotypical peers. Not only that but autistic adults who don’t have a learning disability are nine times more likely to commit suicide than their NT peers. A fact which surprised some of the NT people who have no experience of autism reading it. It didn’t surprise most of the people familiar with autism in some way and it didn’t surprise me. It would surprise me were that not the case. Most of the people with autism I’ve known both in real life and on the internet have either had some kind of mental health problems or bad experiences at school or work. It’s not necessarily the autism that causes the mental health problems, not directly anyway. It’s more how you get treated by other people. When I read about the failings of the education system here in regards to autism I’m surprised there’s not more of these problems. In fact there probably is more of these problems than the statistics shows. Because the mental health services have developed a neat trick when it comes to not dealing with such things. They simply refuse to see a child with autism who is expressing suicidal thoughts, stating that it’s to be expected with autism or “we don’t do autism.” It’s the kind of logic you expect from a system that assess an autistic child as needing speech and language support then refusing to see them because they are too complex or too autistic. It makes no sense whatsoever, surely being more severely affected by their autism means they need it all the more. They also use the reverse of that excuse too, refusing to see people who are “high-functioning” because they can talk, they don’t need us. Which begs the question who the hell speech therapy is meant to be for then. But yet they can get away with excuses like that.

Just like schools can get away with not believing in autism, with questioning a child’s diagnosis and refusing to support them. Just what they get out of such behaviour I don’t know. It’s certainly not very joined up thinking. An unsupported and miserable child won’t have a good chance of becoming an independent and well adjusted adult. The odds are already stacked against them anyway, why is it that all the people who are meant to help you are instead working against you? You get the feeling that the world would prefer you didn’t exist.

I certainly share that sentiment quite a bit of the time, have done for a long time. I’m no stranger to such thoughts. I’m sure in fact the only reason I haven’t acted on them is because I’m an indecisive coward who can never commit to anything. Whether that’s a good thing or not I’m not sure. I’ve read a lot about autism and depression. A few days ago I read something that really struck a cord with me. The gist of it was that they had no idea their feelings of self hatred and depression weren’t normal, it wasn’t until they were diagnosed with autism as an adult they found this out. It didn’t take me quite so long to find out, I was sixteen when I learnt that the way I dragged myself out of bed everyday wasn’t normal. That not everyone struggles quite so much with being able to accept themselves for who they are.

Just why someone would be surprised at those findings I don’t know. It’s so blindingly obvious. What else do you think would come of having to spend most of your life pretending to be something you’re not? Not to mention the other things which often come with autism like poor sleeping habits, limited diet and in my case the fact I spend most of my time inside hiding away from the outside world.  I’ve been pondering such things lately. Whether or not being able to pass for an approximation of normal is a good thing or not. Because if you can do it for some of the time then people expect it all the time. Except they don’t know or understand what it costs to do that. There are times when I can pass for something close to normal and other times when I can’t even contemplate attempting it. I’ve been thinking a lot about what a good day is and I’m realising that what I think a good day is and the people around me think such a thing is doesn’t match up. Is a good day when you can be yourself or when you’ve successfully spent most of the day hiding your true self?

The older I get the more I find that the pieces don’t fit together. I can avoid getting too stressed out and depressed. But only by shutting out the world around me. Which is the opposite of what everyone wants of me and maybe of what I need to be doing. After all if I’m hiding away from everything then I’m never going to learn how to take care of myself. It’s all so confusing and I have no idea what I’m doing. The only thing I can be relied upon to do is run away and hide. Which is what I’ve spent the past year or so doing, even more than usual. Because football makes sense, you know where you are in the table and what your team can realistically achieve. It’s not perfect but it’s certainly a lot safer and predictable than real life is. Despite the depressing nature of today’s post I’m not especially unhappy. For two reasons, first the Jogi video I discovered lurking in my recording of Bayern’s game from Wednesday night. How I missed that I don’t know. It’s not like me to forget that half time shows are for interviews and not for getting more snacks, it’s not a mistake I’ll make again. Secondly and more importantly Leipzig lost 3-1 to 1.FCN earlier today. Which means victory against KSC tomorrow for Freiburg will mean going to the top of the table, just one goal. One winning goal is all that stands between them and first place. Now that makes sense to me, I’m scared but not at all confused. I may once again find myself without any friends and I have no idea what’s going on in real life right now, but I know where Freiburg are and I know where they can be if everything goes right.

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