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Vulnerability and Autism

2020 has been quite the year so far. I read a quote recently that said “I stayed up and yelled Happy New Year for this sh*#!?” Perfectly stated.

Vulnerability is one of the new trends of 2020. It’s cool to be vulnerable now. One can, ideally, reveal their weaknesses and insecurities and be met with acceptance and respect. That hasn’t quite been my experience.

I recently opened up about being on the autism spectrum. Before my mother knew what that was, she definitely knew I was different. I truly appreciate her refusal to medicate me at young age, or to put me in any particular box to make others comfortable. “But Tania”, you may ask, “you don’t look autistic.” Although this is an honest comment, usually made from a place of curiosity not malice, it rubs me the wrong way. What does autism ‘look’ like? What is the standard build and gender? There was a time when only young boys were thought to have autism, resulting in rampant misdiagnosis of young girls and adults (both sexes).

Nobel Prize-winning economist Vernon Smith, Satoshi Tajiri, the creator of Pokémon, Colorado State University professor and author, Temple Grandin, Anthony Hopkins, Tim Burton, Susan Boyle and Daryl Hannah are a just a few adults diagnosed with Asperger’s at some point in their lives. However, that is not who or what people think of when they hear ‘autism’. These days, most people immediately think ‘disability’, instead of ‘asset’. There are already many ways I can be discriminated against, therefore, in my mind I felt it safer to avoid adding another to the list. Now I’m in my 40’s and feel far braver than I did at a younger age.

Please note: There is NO scientific evidence associating vaccines with autism.

I’ve been in various types of therapy, the most frequent of which is cognitive behavioral therapy. When my mother passed, loved ones put me in additional therapy because I didn’t ‘grieve correctly’ (this is a direct quote). There was no malice in decisions like this. Autism and ‘different behaviors’ or ‘abnormal grief response’ weren’t understood, and when people who I know truly cared for me didn’t know what to do, they sought help. As a young adult, I was officially diagnosed as having Asperger’s syndrome. This term/diagnosis eventually dissolved into the ‘autism spectrum’ at some point. Until now, I have kept this to myself since my original diagnosis over 18 years ago. I did this for a number of reasons including ridicule, discrimination, and more.

I’ve also experienced betrayal from those I trusted most in this world, and I can’t wrap my head around the ‘why’ no matter how many times it’s explained because I think so literally. If those individuals knew this added nugget of information about me, would they have also used this data to hurt me further? Some things don’t make sense to me, and it is far more comfortable for me to retreat into myself than risk being hurt for reasons that still remain unknown. It isn’t a fear of vulnerability, it’s an overall disinterest. When someone says “Tell me about yourself,” I cringe. I want to respond with “No, thank you” because it’s such an open-ended request. I was recently told a “No, thank you” response to this request is consdered rude. Quick rant: Why is that? Why is an answer demanded or expected by the person inquiring, just because they asked? And WHY is it rude if I decline to answer, but it’s NOT rude to ask the question in the first place?? Why is it assumed that I would want to engage in conversation of significant depth with someone I just met? I’d rather someone ask me, “What are five statements or singular verbs that describe you?” This is a much easier question to answer.

End of rant.

This why vulnerability and I have a shaky relationship.

As I said, my journey isn’t over and I’ve learned so much about myself, others, and the world around me. Like everyone else, I’m trying to find my place in this world. I am most comfortable in my own space and my own company. Someone told me that everyone needs a place to call their own, and that place is specific to the person and their preferences. It was a reminder that we are more alike than different (especially at a genetic level).

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