I was just diagnosed with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) in December of 2022, a few weeks before my 58th birthday. I wrote about what caused me to seek this diagnosis here. I’m rather new at this stuff, and I’ll be blogging quite a bit about various aspects of it as I go along, reading and learning and wondering what this means for me, as I suspect that quite a few other people are experiencing a similar thing.
Check out my autism category for a list of relevant blog posts, and never forget that 1) I’m just one person, writing about my personal experiences with a thing I only just learned I had. 2) No two people on the spectrum are alike. 3) I am not a medical or mental health professional. 4) I’m not attempting to write a one size fits all autism advice column.
Lately I have been doing a lot of research on autism in an attempt to figure out who I am now that I have this newfound diagnosis. I’ve been reading books and blogs, watching movies and Youtube videos, and listening to podcasts on the subject. A lot of them resonate with me.
With each new insight, I’m gaining understanding about things from my past that used to confuse me quite a bit. Not a day has gone by since my diagnosis that hasn’t come with at least one puzzle piece falling into place for me. It frustrates me that I didn’t get these insights when I was younger and could have adjusted more easily. At the same time, I’m also learning about autistic traits that I definitely do not have, and that causes me to count my blessings. (That’s a subject for another post, if I can figure out a way to tactfully broach it.)
So far on this journey, one of the many sources of insight that I am most grateful for is Orion Kelly’s YouTube page. I watch so many of his videos lately that I’m embarrassed to say that I can’t recall which one served up this pearl of wisdom, but it has been percolating in my mind ever since. I’m paraphrasing here, but he said something along the lines of, “Autistic people equate the truth with being kind, whereas neurotypical people equate lying with being kind.”
Oh, my holy hell. Wow. Puzzle pieces are falling into place left, right, and center with that one! That pretty much explains the bulk of my misunderstandings with others for the past 50 years. I should have that tattooed on my forearm so I can remind myself of it on a daily basis.
- This explains why I am so hurt when I discover I have been lied to, because I don’t find lying to be kind at all.
- It explains why I hurt people without intending to, because when I tell them the “kind” truth, they are shocked and offended that I didn’t, at the very least, keep my mouth shut instead.
- It explains why, when I’m asked for an opinion and I actually give it, people get upset, because they didn’t really want my opinion. What they were looking for was validation in the form of lies. (But I’m sorry. Those shorts really do make you look fat.)
- It explains why I stir up controversy by kindly telling people not to bake Christmas sweets for me as I’m trying to lose weight. I think it’s kinder to tell people that and save them a lot of time and money. But apparently neurotypicals feel its kinder to accept the sweets year after year after year and say thank you to the baker, and then either throw the sweets away or pass on the gift of poor health to someone else.
- It explains why I don’t keep things that I don’t like or need just because someone has given them to me, only to find out that they’re really upset to discover that their gift is not cluttering up my house. They interpret the thing’s absence as some sort of personal attack.
- It explains why I get so frustrated with people who hem and haw and don’t just tell people what they desperately need them to hear. (That’s the plot line of every single movie on earth. I want to scream, “Just tell him!”)
- And most of all, it explains why I get so irritated, especially at work, when people are willing to put up with an inefficient or incompetent status quo rather than implementing solutions. People would much rather avoid ruffling feathers than introduce change, even if the change would be a vast improvement.
Just thinking about these things has me agitated. Even though I now see where I go off the neurotypical rails, I don’t think I’m capable of making any adjustments because of it. I genuinely feel like a horrible person when I lie to people. It wounds my soul to do so. What you see is what you get. At least now I kind of see why people don’t like what they get from me. I doubt I’ll ever be able to relate to the reasons they take a different path than I would or could, though.
Many people have told me that they admire the fact that I’m a “straight shooter”. But I’m starting to realize that many of those same people have taken advantage of this honestly streak in me. This is something that has always happened to me at work. People will come to me with complaints, knowing that I’ll speak up about the issue, so they themselves don’t have to stick their necks out. It’s as if they use me as some sort of a justice-seeking human shield. I shield them, but they don’t have my back when I am the object of someone’s wrath as a consequence.
I will always have a lower opinion of someone who displays a lack of integrity. It feels as though that’s hardwired in me. Just as I would never intentionally thrust my hand into an open flame, it would feel unnatural to me to obfuscate. Because of this, I expect the same from others. But I rarely get it.
That, and the truth is much easier for me to keep track of. I lack the capacity to remember lies so that I can appear consistent. The truth does not require a filing system in your head. You can just figure out what the truth is again if the situation comes up more than once. In that way, the truth really does set you free.
Ironically, it’s my very lack of obfuscation that causes people to be confused. And then their confusion confuses me. It never occurs to me that people may assume I’m being insincere. That’s probably because neurotypicals are insincere all the time because they think that’s kind, so it’s only natural that they might think everyone is equally “kind”.
I think I’m going to start experimenting with giving advanced warning for my communication style. For example, when someone asks my opinion, perhaps I can ask if they really want it, because my autistic tendency is to actually give it. If they don’t really want my opinion and they manage to admit as much, then I’m perfectly content to keep my mouth shut. Sadly, they’ll probably use that moment to kindly lie. (And by the way, my opinions aren’t always harsh or negative. They just lack subtlety and are therefore unwelcome.)
Even after I read my warning label to you, you don’t want to retract your request for my opinion? Well, then, you asked for it. QUI TACET CONSENTIRE VIDETUR is one of my mottos. “He who remains silent appears to consent.”
Sometimes I think the ouroboros should be my spirit animal. Like a snake devouring its tail, I seem to be trapped in a communication cycle that, however well-meaning it may be, tends to circle back around to bite me right in the, er . . . tail.
Like the way my neurodivergent mind works? Then you’ll enjoy my book! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5