Thursday, August 27, 2015

Reaction to a Friend's Article

A friend of mine wrote an article that was recently featured here. I replied to it, and it became a bit...long. I will repost it here.

I am on the spectrum, too. I may have started to talk and read and even write earlier than most children...but once I did I had trouble stopping for anything. Even eating was sometimes a fight. To get me to interact socially with any children beyond a very few was a war. I didn't WANT to. I didn't LIKE talking to people. I learned very early that if you look like you're so involved in what you're reading that you literally cannot notice what is going on unless they physically move your book...well, that got most people to leave you alone.
And why wouldn't I want people to leave me alone? People were loud and startling, and they didn't make sense. Books made sense. You read and turned the pages and eventually there were no more pages to turn. Then the book was over, and you started another. Books were linear. They had plots and people in books acted in accordance with the plot - either to move it along or to hinder it. Protagonists and antagonists.
Eventually I learned that if I didn't talk to people and didn't "make friends" I would be labeled a "problem". What? I wasn't a problem. I didn't make trouble, I did okay in school, I was relatively quiet and well-behaved...but I ignored "real people". I didn't understand them. They didn't follow any set of rules I could follow. Saying hello to one person could get me a hello back, but another person would treat me like something to scrape off their shoes if I said hello to them. I didn't get it.
Later I found video games. RPGs, really. It was like a book, with a story, but YOU made the story happen. There were rules, and the people you didn't control acted in accordance with those rules. You acted within those rules to further the story. It was simple.

Eventually I found friends. Eventually I puzzled out this strange thing, human interaction. I learned more and more of the sets of rules that others followed. Sometimes I still stumble on the unknown, another rule to learn, another set of rules to puzzle out.

But it was hard. Everyone was loud and in my face and they moved through a conversation so was, to me, like trying to hold a conversation with an auctioneer.
I learned to read emotions. I do it so well now that I will react to the emotions of people I pass on the street. Walking through a city is a mental drain. So many people going by so fast and about a third of them I notice how they hold themselves and how their faces look and the energy they surround themselves with - anger or fear or the frantic panic of the very late...happiness and deep sadness or even preoccupation. It gets to the point that sometimes it overrules what I actually feel, and when that happens, I break down. Sometimes it's a panic attack, sometimes it's complete emotional deadlock - locking everything so far inside that I don't feel any emotion. I'm told that it's anxiety disorder modulated - modified - by being on the spectrum.

I have cats. I can tell you right now that without those cats I would not be functioning as well as I do. I don't do well academically and I can't work a steady, ordinary job. I'm not good at organising things and I have trouble keeping my house straightened out.

What I do do well is horses. Horses are simple. They have social rules and set behaviors. Stables have rules and are laid out in a simple way, everything in its own, very obvious place. Stalls are all mucked out the same way. Mucking out goes into the pile outside, no matter where in the world you are. Tack needs to be cleaned and stored the same way the world over. Horses need to be groomed the same way. Feed is measured the same way. Hay bales have flakes no matter where you are. No matter if you're in America or the UK or Siberia, every horse the world over needs water. Tack is put on the same way no matter what horse you're tacking up. Feet are cleaned, bits de-grassed, and aisles swept the same way. Bathtime always involves water and soap and hoses and sponges. It always ends with some amount of water and stray horse hairs on you.
If you act this way, horses will react this way. Act that way and horses will do that. It's simple.

But to tell this to people who know I am on the spectrum and they, save for family and friends who might as well be, will treat me like a five-year-old who wears glittery Disney princess dresses and wants a pony to keep in her backyard.

Sure, I may wear clothes that most people don't, and have interests most people aren't interested in, but that does not mean that you can treat me like a five-year-old pony-obsessed princess girl.

I may be in a bliaut, but I have a six-foot-tall bow in my hand, arrows at my hip, and know how to use they for target-shooting...or elegant, witty, barbed discourse.

I am on the spectrum...and while that makes me different... also makes me who I am, and I will neither apologise for it nor hide it.

And you, Jason, are one of the people who helped me be that person.
Thank you, my friend.
I am who I am thanks to my friends. With all that I have gone through in my life because I am on the spectrum I feel it is wrong to hide who I am and how I think. I would hesitate very little to go around in a lovely long bliaut and chemise. Work, shopping, a nice walk. I WOULD, however, think twice about wearing just a bathing suit to the beach. I prefer to cover up. I am modest. I like looking pretty, but my idea of pretty - for myself - is much different from how most people my age like to dress to feel pretty. I like my jeans and my t-shirts, my long skirts and shorts that almost reach my knees. Sometimes I wear multiple skirts at a time. I am different. To many people that is enough, in their minds, to make me unsuitable as a friend. To them I say this:
If you feel you cannot be yourself with your friends, then maybe they are not actually your friends. If you cannot be yourself, if you feel you have to be perfectly socially acceptable, then just think: why? Why do you feel you have to hide yourself? You are you and that should be enough.

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