This is the second in what will probably be three posts in this series. Whether or not there will be a third post depends on how gutsy I am to publish the third.
I apologize if this looks like I’m beating a dead horse. If it looks like I am, it’s only because I had a hell of a work week and I’m only now catching up on putting the thought-buds that had been building up throughout the week into (hopefully coherent) sentences. I promise that I’m not continuing to write about this in order to keep emotions fired up, conflicts alive, or trauma-reactions in perpetual motion. I hope that everyone who either knows me on social media or has sifted through my blog thus far knows that that’s not my style.
I just have a lot to say.
So I guess I’ll get right down and say it.
During the past several days, there’s been a sometimes-heated discussion about self-diagnosis and whether or not it is–or should be–accepted among the Asperger’s/autistic community.
Those who are against the idea of self-diagnosis do make a fair point. (Stay with me; keep reading.) 🙂
I know this may come across as social chameleonism akin to the behavior of a politician, but I admit, both sides made many excellent points during the Diagnosis Debates over the past few days.
Personally, I am open about my own self-diagnosis (in which yes, the term “diagnosis” could literally be a correct usage of the word in my case; I’m a doctor myself and there is no law or ethical code in my region that prohibits doctors from diagnosing themselves).
I also support the act of spectrum self-diagnosis or self-identification by other people, regardless of whether or not they are medical professionals. I have no place not accepting those people as members of the spectrum, as I’m of the philosophy that we know ourselves better than anyone else could know us.
But this post isn’t about that.
In fact, if you’re reading this, and you’re self-diagnosed or self-identified as an Aspergian/autistic person, this post isn’t about you at all. 🙂
This post is about some of the “other” self-diagnosed Aspie/autistic people–the ones who claim and latch onto a label just because they took a single online quiz. Or those who might’ve heard about a few pop-culture-popularized traits from a friend, family member, coworker, neighbor, or on Facebook or other social media, and cavalierly assumed that because they also have those one or two traits, that they must be on the spectrum, too. And from there on, they assume they are and shout it out from the rooftops.
I have a few words for Those People. (No, not profanity, although sometimes it’s tempting!) No, those words include “imposter”, “pseudo-Aspie/autistic”, “faker”, and a few others.
They’re the ones who are doing it because they might want attention. They might want to be different, to set themselves apart somehow, because they think their lives are boring. They might want sympathy from those around them. They may be solely after disability/out-of-work benefits eligibility. They might be a drama-king/queen. They might like to stir the pot. They might have a general “poor me” vibe. They might be megalomaniacs or narcissists. They might want an excuse for other (non-spectrum) issues like indecision, lack of motivation, pure-blue laziness, lack of commitment, lack of maturity, antisociability, rudeness, etc. And they think that they can get a “pass” if they say the “magic” words “Asperger’s” or “autistic” because hey–those are becoming more socially-acceptable, and no one would dare question them. They might just succeed in getting that free pass they’re after.
They’re gaming the system.
That irks the Aspie/autism spectrum community. It doesn’t matter whether we’re officially diagnosed or self-diagnosed/assessed; that behavior should irk all of us.
Regardless of whether you accept my (semi-unique situation of) self-diagnosis as “valid” or not, please understand and respect that the “imposters” irk me, too.
They can cause real damage. This damage can happen to Aspergian/autistic people individually. This can take the form of lies, betrayal, deception, illusions, delusions, manipulation, even collateral damage. Damage can also be done to the entire Asperger’s/autism spectrum community. People who have not taken the time to seriously consider and actually do some research (preferably of the official diagnostic criteria used in their region of residence) and genuinely, with an open and logical mind, do some hard and serious self-checking, self-analysis, and self-reflection, but go around and holler from the mountaintops that they’re on the spectrum……I have no words–nor defense–for that type of behavior.
And there is no defense for that type of behavior. It’s just wrong.
I’m sure that the “pseudo-Aspies/autists” have a real, genuine issue of some kind. They might genuinely feel different from other people. They may be suffering from depression, anxiety, or any other common malady.
That doesn’t make them Aspie/autistic.
Rather, they may be bipolar instead. They may be ADD or ADHD. They may be Borderline Personality. They may have dissociative personality issues. They might have schizophrenia or some type of neurosis. They may be sociopaths. They may have a history of a particular physiological response to a mind-altering drug (recreational or prescribed). They may be codependent. The possibilities are many.
That doesn’t make them Aspie/autistic, either.
They may simply be needy. They may be bored with who they are. They may feel like they’re not “interesting” enough. They may be ashamed of who they are. They may feel broken. They may yearn to belong somewhere, anywhere.
I’m not going to deny them any of that. I’m not going to deny that something is indeed “up”. But it doesn’t make them Aspie/autistic.
They might truly share some aspects of Asperger’s/autism; for example, they might be introverted. Or they might have low tolerance for crowds. Or sensory processing issues. Or they may be blunt. Or they may want to stay home most of the time. Or they may consider themselves antisocial.
That still doesn’t make them Aspie/autistic people.
Personally, I’m fortunate enough not to have had any encounters with “pseudo-Aspie/autistic” people. I personally haven’t been burned, betrayed, heartbroken, deceived, lied to, or otherwise hurt in any way. Thus, I can’t personally relate much to the experiences described by some on the self-diagnosis-isn’t-valid segment of the spectrum community. I don’t share their ire, (but only) because I personally haven’t witnessed that type of behavior.
But I’m not going to deny that exists. I won’t claim that it hasn’t happened to other people, and/or that other people haven’t truly been hurt when it does happen. Just because my experience thus far doesn’t include that kind of behavior doesn’t mean that it isn’t real.
And the very idea of someone engaging in that type of behavior does irk me. I may not have much cognitive empathy, but I do have a fair amount of emotional empathy, and I have a decent imagination. Taken together, that can add up to create a little “fire of ire” kindling inside me, too.
Being careless, cavalier, or casual about spectrum labels or conditions isn’t acceptable.
Throwing around terms without knowing what they mean isn’t acceptable.
Simply taking a single online quiz and knighting oneself as a member of the spectrum isn’t acceptable. (It’s a great starting point for further research, but it should never be one’s endpoint.)
Using other people isn’t acceptable. Neither is lying to, deceiving, or manipulating them.
Pretending to be something you know you’re not isn’t acceptable.
Using labels to “set yourself apart” to be “trendy”, “interesting”, or “cool” isn’t acceptable.
That being said, please… let’s unite–both “sides”, the officially-diagnosed AND the genuinely-researched self-diagnosed/self-identified–together, against the faking, bandwagon-hopping, trend-grabbing, deceiving, and manipulating, and call that behavior out for what it is.
If the person is truly hurting, fragile, and genuine-in-spirit-but-misguided, I urge the spectrum community to be gentle in steering them the other way and pointing them toward the more likely underlying culprit in their situation.
If they’re simply looking for drama, excuses, or something trendy or “special”, then let’s call them out on it, and harshly if need be.
The biggest mistake the spectrum community could make is to shun someone who has genuinely done real footwork, researching as thoroughly, credibly, and far-and-wide as possible, and realized–as accurately and objectively as can be ascertained after cautiously considering ALL of the variables and the lifelong timeline of events and traits–that they identify strongly as someone on the spectrum. (Obviously I’m biased, as I fit that description. 🙂 )
The best thing we can do for our community is to focus on positivity, individual and equal rights, create a “safe space”, and assume that someone who self-identifies as an Aspie/autistic person actually is, taking them at their word unless/until they prove otherwise. But that’s just my opinion. I don’t claim to speak for the community at large, and (I hope) I never have.