I am not like you

Once upon a time I wanted to write a post about conflicting desires. Specifically, about my desire to fit in and pass for normal, but also my desire for people to recognize and remember that I’m different. I have a note on it sitting in my list of possible blog topics to write about.

My desires, however, are getting less and less contradictory as time goes on. Oh, sure, I can get tired of my constant status as outsider, of the fact that I never really feel like I’m part of a group… but “outsider” is increasingly part of my identity, and I have found that sometimes I am more a part of a group than I perhaps had thought.

However, it’s the second of those desires that I’m actually wanting to talk about there. The desire for people to just bloody remember that I’m different, that I’m not like them. I won’t act like them, I won’t think like them, and I will sometimes flub up because socializing is expletive hard and I do my best but sometimes my best just isn’t expletive good enough.

Earlier today (the today of writing this, who knows when I’ll actually post it) I wrote this on an online aspergers group:

I’ve found that as an adult, the expectations on me to understand socializing are much higher [than they were when I was young], and the consequences for making a mistake are also higher. People will often assume malice when I make a mistake as well – that I must have intended to be rude. The better I pass for normal the majority of the time, the worse it is when I flub something up.

This seems to be the way that it works. I make no secret of the fact that I’m on the autism spectrum. People who know me generally know this particular piece of information about me. Yet sometimes people, people I’m close to, forget. I know this because I’m been told as much quite directly. Someone pushes me to do a thing I cannot do, and will say “I forgot that you’re different” when I get all “what the hell?” on them.

I do make social mistakes. Sometimes I hurt people. Not because I want to, but because I’m not very good at navigating the treacherous social waters. When it comes to social waters, I’m not very far above kiddie pool level. And it does seem to happen that way. Assumptions of malice, I mean. When I muck up, I want to know about it. I’m happy to apologize and do what I can do make it better. I try, I really do.

But the assumptions of malice wear me down. Reading intent into a mistake, it gets tiresome. It gets frustrating, and I get downright angry about it. Even worse is the assumption of malice in self-preservation. Like that time someone assumed all sorts of intent when I wouldn’t look at her, when in reality I just couldn’t handle that much visual stimulation. It happens. I don’t like looking at people at the best of times. I’ll let you look at me even though it makes me uncomfortable, so maybe let me not look at you, ok?

Mostly, I wish people would stop thinking they know why I’m sometimes so odd. A mistake is just a mistake. Looking away is just a direction. And please remember that I’m not like you.

I want to find a way to make it easier for people to remember that. I want to do it without actually making more mistakes. The effort I spend to handle myself and not make those hurtful mistakes is something I intend to continue. However, I think this is part of why I want to just keep on stimming. It’s why I want it to be ok to be odd, when those things are just differences. I don’t want to blend in anymore. I want people to notice that I’m different. I want this not just because I want people to be a little more understanding at my inevitable mistakes, but also because I want people to see *me.* Really me. Not some other me that pretends to be like them, or a fake me that is totally typical, but me. Autistic me. A me that makes twitches and stims and sometimes loses body parts and doesn’t want to look at you and is passionate about my interests and yes, sometimes makes mistakes.

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7 Comments

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7 responses to “I am not like you

  1. Ross

    I totally understand and sympathise with this.
    When I am around people, any people even close family and friends, I ‘put on a face’. I’ve practised several faces in the mirror over the years due to constant criticism, mostly from my own father whilst he was still alive, about my lack of facial expressions and how I never look like I’m interested or enjoying myself.

    As time passed, I taught myself ‘scripts’ if you will, so when I’m around people I fall into a character. I talk about only certain subjects (not my special interests or I’d likely bore them as I’ve been told in the past), I feign a laugh at jokes I don’t understand, I play the part of who they seem to need me to be. But that’s exhausting, and it prevents me ever being who I really am without all of the preamble I use to try and make other people comfortable. It also make others more prone to criticise the smallest of errors on my part, because they don’t remember/realise/care about all the effort I’m already putting in just to pass as being close to like everybody else.

    It’s hurtful when people constantly criticise your efforts, without ever making the effort to be more like you themselves. I mean, not once have my friends or family spoken to me whilst looking in the opposite direction to my face. Not once have they sat with a blank look on their faces instead of constantly displaying some form of emotion all over it. Not once have they tried to speak solely about my special interests for hours on end. But if, heaven forbid, I sit down and don’t put a massive grin on my face then clearly I’m not enjoying their company and I could have “at least made an effort”…

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  4. Angie

    I love your story and can completely relate; as a matter of fact I’ve been thinking exactly the same thing these past weeks! I’ve learned to love myself for the way I am, I am my own anchor, I have my own life. I won’t be calling myself apie, but will go back to loving my personality. I’m shy and quirky, and I love myself for that.

  5. I too struggle with this as I have found the price of a social mistake to be far higher than it was when I was a kid. I rarely mean harm to anyone when I say or do anything. Yet it still comes across that way sometimes and I’ll have no idea what I did or said to offend a given individual or group of individuals.

    I have also struggled with the ‘do I want to be treated as normal or do I want to be accepted as being an outsider.’ For a long time I wanted to just be just like everyone else. As I have gotten older, I realized that 1) this isn’t going to happen because I’m not like everyone else and 2) it doesn’t have to happen because I don’t want to force myself to be like everyone else. I have struggled for years with this. Only recently have I accepted that I’m not sick in the traditional sense but I’m just different. I still take medications to reduce the feelings of anxiety, excessive paranoia, and occasional unhealthy anger.

    Thank you for your blogging. It makes a difference for people.

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