Byron Filler on the 10 things you’re missing out on in life if you don’t have high functioning autism
I grew up with some mixed messages throughout my life. I constantly sought to fit into normative social settings but I consistently found myself with roadblocks. Sure, having Autism kept me from having ept social skills, but ironically, the roadblocks were not set up by my brain. I either was bullied and beaten up because others saw I was different, or people would befriend me under the guise of taking advantage of me.
Even if I did have proper social skills at the time, there was not much incentive to be social and I began demonising myself because I couldn’t keep up with being “normal.” But then one day I woke up from all of that, I discovered something about disabilities, about myself, and about having Autism that I firmly believe to this day:
A disability is simply a tool that you’ve not yet learned to use
Now, how you define “tool” becomes so much more dynamic when you’re talking about any disability. It’s about how you use it. In this pursuit, I cultivated my own social norms, training my mind to handle being over stimulated, and learning about how my brain works. I’m going to show you that underestimating anyone with a disability is SO NOT RAVEN…that read so much better in my head…crap…go to point one…I said go to point one!
1. If I had never told you, you would have never known.
And when you feel weird about it when I tell you, I bask in the awkwardness you feel about not knowing more about my disability. It’s friggin’ scrumptious.
2. There is no one else like you.
No. You’re not special. Honestly, do you really want to be visited by a wizard who tells you that you’re the epicentre of a prophecy with world-ending consequences? Mhm. That’s what I thought.
Autism is what is considered a Spectrum Disorder. This means that every individual case is completely different from one another. I imagine that it makes most scientists that study the condition, flail their hands above them in defeat and say something like “dang nabit!”
3. Social skills? Where we’re going, we don’t need social skills.
It’s strikingly apparent to me that people just don’t seem to have the patience to teach one another comprehensive social skills or norms. When I was able to start holding a conversation with people, I didn’t have any kind of idea of social norms or skills.
Eventually I started noticing that people didn’t know what to do when I had an unconventional way of expressing myself. Trying to navigate all of this is exhausting. So if I wasn’t gonna get any help, then screw it! Social norms, rules, whatever! It’s all b*llsh*t!
4. Search your emotions. You know them to be true.
People who have Autism are not robots. We just do really good impressions of them. What I think most people experience is that you see a person with Autism who looks like they’re devoid of all emotion. What you’re really seeing is a lack of expression as the result of exhaustion from being overstimulated all the time. Not only that, but when your brain is persistent about nitpicking between feelings and emotions, and treating these as mutually exclusive assets, being unable to see how they’re related, and then make you do all the work to make the connections between the two, you’d wanna hibernate for the winter too.
Here is what is absolutely brilliant about this. You’ve automatically become the most objective person in the room. The same reason you’re unable to express a smile is the same reason you don’t express contempt. When you don’t have the energy to express emotion, who really has the time to judge people? I have found that people have naturally gravitated towards me because they can trust me, trust that they can say anything and I’ll be real with them.
5. Your friends and family are the fiercest people on the planet.
Having Autism is something where you’re already feeling alienated because you naturally feel disconnected. Getting bullied in school definitely wasn’t any help, but when one of my friends saw me getting into a fight, them coming to my aid was as if I was capable of summoning a Lava Hulknado (yes, that is a lava tornado made up of a menagerie of Bruce Banner’s rightly p*ssed off). If you’re capable of summoning even one Lava Hulknado, you’re awesome.
Most certainly any good friend or family member will fight for you, but when they’ve connected with you because they have seen what you’re capable of as a friend, despite the challenges you face from a socially debilitating condition, forms some unbreakable bonds with people. I wouldn’t be the person who I am today if it wasn’t for the beautiful, loving, and supportive Lava Hulknados in my life.
6. Your sense of humour is twisted.
Along with the assumption of a “lack of emotion” is this notion that people who have Autism don’t have a sense of humour, and it does makes sense. I did stand-up comedy for a few years, so I can tell you that, yes, people with Autism have a sense of humour, it’s just different. Someone with Autism is typically going to take things a bit more literally, so typical jokes just don’t play off so well.
7. You’re not socially awkward when you don’t know what social awkwardness is.
I…I…um…I know I was meant to write a whole section here but I wrote the headline, and then I’ve been sitting here trying to think of something clever…and…and I…I’ve got noth…look this explains itself doesn’t it? I mean I kinda figured you’d fill in the blank on the bulk of this article after section 3 if you’ve been paying attention but…yeah, okay, sue me, I spent way too much time coming up with “Lava Hulknado” and I thought that was really funny…so this is awkward…wait…I feel awkward?
8. Conscious subconscious brain.
Part of why your brain is working as if it’s in overdrive is because you’re acutely aware of your subconscious and what it is doing. Not only do you see your own actions and language, you see the process of why and how you’re using it. You can’t unsee it, it makes you feel like anything you do or say is predetermined, and that there is no control that you’re allowed to have.
This is exactly the reason why I’m capable of understanding how my brain works. You have everything you need to analyse your own brain, and when you’re capable of learning to understand your patterns, you become acutely aware of other people’s patterns too.
For example, reading body language was something that was once difficult, but in the times that I have been able to analyse my own self expression, it helped me analyse how others might express body language themselves. That was how I was able to teach myself some basic social skills.
9. My Autism senses are tingling.
Life is fun when you live in a constant state of being overstimulated all the time! You constantly have acute awareness of your surroundings on a painful scale. No seriously, I’ve experienced physical pain from being over stimulated. My brain is incapable of filtering information that comes into my head. You ever wonder what’s going through the head of a person who has Autism? It’s EVERYTHING AT THE EXACT SAME TIME!
10. Have you ever tasted the colour blue?
I have! Sort of. Let me explain. Blue, contrary to popular belief, is hot. Not spicy, just hot. And actually this makes a lot of sense. Based on how light works, blue generates more energy than colours like red or yellow. So it’s safe to assume that black tastes cold. Have you ever felt warm in a dark place? …THAT WAS A RHETORICAL QUESTION GOTH KIDS!
But how could I possibly know this? Well, I figured out why my brain can’t filter stimuli and what it’s actually doing. With the colour blue, my brain recognises this colour as sight information, that, most definitely, shall always be a thing. It also doesn’t understand that blue is just sight information and doesn’t know that it should be compartmentalised as such. So my brain also compartmentalises blue as sound, taste, smell, and touch too. I should clarify, this doesn’t mean that I’m actually capable of tasting (or hearing, or smelling, or feeling) blue, my brain is just working too hard to read that information and interprets it indiscriminately.
Now imagine all of that multiplied by every type of stimuli you can think of. Hearing shapes, tasting sound, touching scent, smelling vibrations. Every waking and sleeping moment of my life, my brain relentlessly attempts to interpret way too much, and it will never stop!
One thing is for certain, I don’t have much control over my brain, but what I do with that is within my power.
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