It seems ironic that not 24 hours ago, I felt like joining hands and singing Kum-bah-ya with the spectrum world, given all the unity and solidarity I felt from and within the social media community.
But today seems like a different story. It seems as though as soon as the clock struck midnight, anything I said was a disastrous misstep.
Although I’ve been on the spectrum all my life, I haven’t been living the culture for very long. It has only been six months today that I’ve even been aware of my own Asperger’s orientation; in the grand scheme of my lifespan thus far, I’ve only been cognizant of my spectrumhood for about 1.2% of the time (six months divided into 39 years). As you probably know, I began researching immediately. An entire new world opened up wide, swallowing me.
Suddenly, I had a plume of new terms to discover and familiarize myself with. Words and phrases like “ableism” and “executive function”; concepts like “inspiration porn”. I came upon an entire(ly different) culture that up until that point, had been completely unknown to me. The learning curve still remains at a substantial incline, and I suspect that it will be for a while.
I’m the type of Aspie that tends to tell it like it is, at least the way I see it. I don’t exactly mince words. I know that I’m not alone, but I also know that (a few) other people aren’t always as forgiving, which I don’t mean that in a bad or offensive or derogatory way; everyone is entitled to their own viewpoint. But that also means that I should be, too.
Apparently, not everyone agrees. (Which again, is OK; it just hurts sometimes.)
As for the remaining Twitter Tribe (I hope I can still say that), I love everyone I interact with. For any of you reading this, please know that none of this is directed toward you. Here is a fantastic, lovable, refreshing group of people people who share many of the same difficulties in life, who understand certain facts of my life, without my having to explain or justify myself. Everything glowing that I said in a recent post still stands.
But because I’m new, I still sometimes feel like an odd one out. (Worry not; it’s not any of you who make me feel that way.)
I don’t lean to the left, politically (don’t worry–I don’t lean much to the right, either). I don’t know any (yet) who don’t lean left, unless they’ve been fairly politically low-key thus far. I hope that doesn’t lose me any more friends, and I’m not trying to start a political debate. (I’m really not trying to go there.)
I’m not an anti-vaxxer by any stretch, but I’m not always strictly pro-vaccination in all cases.
I’m health-conscious, and fortunate to have few comorbities (which is also not meant to be offensive). I don’t often feel as disabled as I’ve seen from other posts and tweets (although believe me, there are days…). I do indeed also suffer PTSD (and the anxiety and insomnia that so often accompany Asperger’s), but I’m negative for any other mental or emotional disability (although I stand staunchly in spirit behind those who live with any).
I live in Texas, where the granola moms and fundamentalist families support puzzle-piece organizations (although I don’t–at all) and blog about their autistic children (not that I hold anything against that, so long as names aren’t used, the posts aren’t derogatory attention-seeking martyr-rants, and the child(ren) isn’t/aren’t put on public display).
I’m odd in that I’m self-employed. I don’t draw any governmental disability assistance, so I can’t identify. I can respect those who do, though.
I’ve only met a handful who are into health or Paganism or center-wing or refuse to support Hillary or are small-business-friendly.
I’m not gay, bi, or fully-trans, although I do accept them with open arms, support them, and champion for progress in this area. (I’m also not “straight”, either; I am indeed non-binary and bi-romatic, though.)
I realize that my “special interests” are different. I don’t know any other Aspie/autistic people thus far who like to research biochemistry, talk on ham radio, target-shoot, or cast astrological natal charts. That’s to be expected, of course; most of us have interests that the others don’t share.
Sometimes, I still feel like an outsider. I’m often late to the party. I feel accepted by many, but shunned by a few select others.
Maybe it’s just me. (Usually, it probably is.) Maybe part of it stems from a feeling that originates from within myself. Maybe it’s just a manifestation of my own social anxiety and awkwardness, rearing its ugly head in yet another, fresh venue. I’ve probably dealt with a lifetime of marginalization myself, without even realizing it.
It may stem from a lifetime of habitually perceiving the more obvious differences between myself and the others around me, and I’m so used to it that it’s hard not to do, even when surrounded by spirits more kindred than I’ve ever experienced.
But maybe it’s not just me. The Defensive-Me temptingly whispers in my ear, “if someone doesn’t like you, write them off; they’re just too sensitive anyway.” But are they? I suspect the true answer lies somewhere between “yes” and “no”.
On the one hand, as someone helpfully (not sarcastic) pointed out, they may have triggers of their own that anchor them back to traumatic experiences or toxic relationships.
On the other hand, that can be incredibly detrimental, since the world doesn’t operate that way. I’m not advocating that we simply roll over and give in to the cold, hard, mean world (again, not sarcastic–the world really has those characteristics), but a tiny desensitization effort might be better for our own strength and well-being.
So, sometimes I feel like I should still censor myself a little. I try so hard (almost too hard) to be likable. I don’t want to offend anyone. I don’t want to ruffle any feathers or rock any boats. I don’t want to turn anyone off or turn anyone away.
But I did. Occasionally, I do. And until I learn more, I will. The worst thing that can happen is that someone can turn away (or turn me away), while I’m still learning, without telling me what I did wrong, and without giving me a second chance (if possible).
The truth is, if something is gently-but-straightforwardly pointed out to me, chances are that I’ll fix it. I’ll be grateful for the learning opportunity. I’ll be grateful for the compassion and understanding. Aren’t those concepts we crave most? Why can’t we (a select few) show/give them to each other? We of all people should be able to do that, especially for each other.
Sometimes, I find myself in situations where all the hearts and smileys in the world don’t help.
Of course, there might be the rare occasion where I’ll stand by my words as they are, especially if I’ve put extra thought into them and chosen them carefully to begin with. (That being said, I promise the entire community that I will make every effort in the world not to be mean or rude in any way.) Sometimes I actually feel the need to use potentially-sensitive words like “moron” (never in reference to someone who is mentally challenged; always in reference to a neurotypical, and not online/written, but verbalized in in-person companyof people close to me) or “crazy” (usually referring to myself, figuratively).
I can–and do–regret (very much) if it offends someone, but if I don’t know how else to express myself, or I’m under stress and can’t think of other (more palatable) words quickly enough, there may be the (uncommon) time I may not apologize for using the word, especially if it otherwise seemed pretty benign to the vast majority of the rest of the community.
What I won’t do is knowingly say something that I know poses a common trigger. I do have to draw the line somewhere; I don’t want to be scared to speak, although sometimes, that’s exactly how I feel.
I thought that it was mostly neurotypicals who got offended the most often, and that Aspie/autistic people were a comparatively more resilient lot. And it’s true that most of us are, especially with each other. But it’s also true that some of us aren’t.
I went through a version of this on Facebook, too (“that was my best post yet today! Why hasn’t anybody liked it??” or “oh man, who did I offend now? Someone dropped out without warning”).
I’d like to think that I’m not some impossible emotional bottomless pit that constantly needs to be fed, because I don’t think I am. (I think) I’m more logical, stable, and healthy than that.
I’d like to think that I’m at least semi-self-confident. I’d like to think that I’ve come fairly far, having made progress in this area.
But maybe I’m not as healed or strong as I thought after all. Because rejection still hurts (too much).
Maybe I’m the one who’s a little over-sensitive…
Regardless, it sure looks like I have some more work to do. 🙂
(PS: Please know that I certainly don’t think less of anyone in any of the situations or with any of the characteristics mentioned above; I love you all as human beings, no matter what other characteristics or lifestyles or other labels may apply, or how much or how little we might otherwise have in common. And I promise (a word I don’t use lightly) that I would walk beside you, stand behind you, go to bat for you (if needed/wanted), cheer for you, and love you just as you are, without question.)
Please understand if I’m a bit “gun-shy” for a little while. ❤
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