Coping with being a high functioning person on the Autism spectrum

Picture of a jigsaw puzzle head

Life is not a bowl of cherries,
but sometimes it is the pits

Sometimes being an intelligent and fairly functional person on the autism spectrum is not an altogether pleasant experience. The problems that have plagued me throughout my life seem to spring out of a misunderstanding of my limitations; what they are, and how they affect my life. One of the real difficulties is dealing with people who think there is nothing wrong with me. Another is dealing with the few who over estimate my disability. I want to be clear that people on the spectrum can be very different from one another. Your milage may vary.

At an early age I was diagnosed as hyperactive with a number of learning disabilities. These disabilities make it difficult for me to spell, do math, write, keep items in a particular order, keep track of time, etc. On the other hand my abilities to read, comprehend, extrapolate, problem solve, etc. have always been well above average. Less obvious, is how I deal with emotions. I am constantly stressed and find myself unable to cope with other people and their feelings. When bombarded with emotions I tend to become irrational, shut down completely and become violently opposed to people confronting me.

The result of my inability to cope with emotions is that I have become increasingly inclined to be emotionally detached. You may imagine this to be a choice, but I assure you it isn’t. Picture, if you will, every time you did some particular thing you were swatted on the back of the hand with a ruler. This is the essence of conditioning by negative reinforcement. ¬†You might think that a person could make some sort of rational choice. However, choices that repeatedly have painful negative consequences are ones that will eventually be rejected.

One has a very difficult time dealing with the fact that any real human attachment will result in unpleasantness. The more attached you become the more pronounced and inescapable the effect. Furthermore, all these emotional confrontations have a cumulative effect. This results in an ever increasing inability to cope with placing yourself in situations where you will be emotionally vulnerable. On top of this, as a person on the spectrum, you must deal with the fact that you will need to endure this just to interact with other people. Some of these expect you to be emotional with them. This situation brings emotional pressure in itself that you need to cope with.

Right now, as I type this, I feel like my face is covered in poison ivy. Just from the stress of just talking about this. Put these things together and the eventual result is thoughts you don’t want in your head, in your head.

Dealing with others

Throughout my life people have done things in an attempt to deal with me, my personality, and my various cognitive challenges, such as:

  • Saying to me “I know you hate me”; I don’t know how anyone would think that saying this to someone would do anything but make a person feel shitty. Hating people is a waste of time. People are like anything else, they are either a benefit or a hazard if they are a hazard they are best avoided.,
  • Telling me that I need better self esteem and that the bad thoughts will go away if I just think better of myself; Wrong, I like myself. I don’t have a problem with myself. It is other people, in particular those with whom I would seek to feel a personal attachment who eventually see me as not worth the trouble. Due to my particular way of processing thoughts and feelings they will eventually conclude that I represent more of a hazard than a benefit (see above).,
  • Reciting “Just let it go”. How many times have I heard that one? Yes I would like to make it go away. You might as well tell me to flap my arms and fly. Letting go is not something I have ever been able to do. People assume others can do the things they can. You may, for instance, believe that the ability to recognize people’s faces is something that anyone can do. It isn’t. It is an ability, contained in a specific area of the brain. If you don’t have access to this ability, that most people take for granted, you have to constantly work very hard to compensate.

I so despise the term ’emotional intelligence’ because it implies a condition of emotional stupidity. In the case of face blindness, one does not get mad when a person with this condition does not recognize you because the complex set of rules they use to identify you have broken down somewhere. It is however more difficult to give someone who is unable to empathize or relate to you on an emotional level the same sort of leeway. It is not a choice to not feel empathy. Just as it is not a choice to not be able to differentiate faces.

You’re a monster

Constantly being made to feel that you deserve to feel you are a bad person because you don’t love someone and are not willing to lie to them and tell them you do, makes one feel like less of a benefit and more of a hazard. This is the real rub here. It does not matter that you know you’re not a bad person. It’s that people will inevitably come to the conclusion that you should feel like a bad person that hurts.

made to feel that you deserve to feel you are a bad person because you don’t love someone and are not willing to lie to them and tell them you do, makes one feel like less of a benefit and more of a hazard. This is the real rub here. It does not matter that you know you’re not a bad person. It’s the fact that people will inevitably come to the conclusion that you should feel like a bad person.

“There are special doctors who can help you”; Nope. Tens of thousands of dollars have been spent trying to adjust my brain and the reality is that I have long ago reached the point of diminishing returns. Hundreds of hours of therapy have, however, resulted in me having a strong aversion to therapy, mind altering drugs, etc. Telling me that you are willing to act as though you value my presence if I only but go to the special doctor who you are very sure can ‘fix’ me, is not doing me any favors. It’s simply not something I am willing to put myself through no matter how convinced you are by all the podcasts you’ve heard that I can be cured. For me it fails the cost benefit analysis.

Finally, having someone tell you how much they “love” you;
This is a particularly terrible thing for me because ‘love’ is held up to you as the sort of thing a ‘good’ person feels toward someone they value. Invariably the person telling you they “love” you thinks they are doing you a favour when in reality they are a constant reminder that you are broken and therefore not good. The other thing is that you know as much as they say they love you it won’t change a thing when they come to the conclusion that you are more of a hazard.

Out you go

I wrote this because I constantly feel trapped by my inability to really express to people what’s going on in my brain. I’m very stressed by the ever growing number of people who think ill of me because of something I have said or done or perhaps just because I have come off looking singular. Recently, someone I know and like has come out as being on the spectrum and I thought that perhaps I should too.

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