patronized in a whole new way …
Now to report on something that has changed in my life experience. For several years now, with my graying hair and evident age I have been “patted on the head” metaphorically, being called “honey”, “sweetie”, “dear” and other endearments by complete strangers, usually younger women. It makes me want to bite somebody, just to show I am maybe not such a “sweetie” after all. Of course there is a world of thoughts and ideas, fantasies and speculation, and another world that often doesn’t intersect in what one would actually do. Fantasy can be a comfort some time. I have adjusted to the endearments and tend to simply ignore them. It is just proof that they don’t know me very well… right? Are they attempting to show good will and friendliness? hmmmm.
But I have noticed something new since I have discovered I am autistic. I am open about my autism and make light off and on of some of my struggles. I have this blog, which I share with the public in hope of helping others who are not yet diagnosed to find the peace of understanding themselves and others in knowing how autism affected them in youth and in their daily living. I willingly answer any questions I get from others when they learn I am autistic. One way to overcome stigma is to educate others.
On learning I am autistic, there are some folks who seem to immediately assume I am therefore incompetent to make decisions, to perform certain functions, to have any sort of judgement or understanding of things in this world which I have long been familiar with.
I am so old that my high school class just celebrated its 50th anniversary of graduation. There have been reunions before, and I have not participated.
Most of my memories of high school are of being mocked, bullied, socially isolated, and other non- successful social interactions.
I really had no desire to revisit those memories or to interact with those individuals who inflicted them.
When the announcement was made of the 50th anniversary celebration, there was also a form forwarded to fill out, asking class members to share what life has brought them in the past 50 years and to keep others informed.
I had filled out these forms before for the 10th, 25th anniversary etc. .
This time instead of the usual progress report, I asked that the link to my blog be included.
The reaction was interesting. ” Oh my what a blog, how brave of you to share your struggles, I am so proud of you.” This from somebody who I never had any interactions with at school and have no personal relationship with at all!
Then the question, not once but twice. “are you sure you want to do this?”
Implied was the idea that I would be ashamed to share this information about my autism with my former classmates, or that somehow I would damage myself or my personal image among my peers. It would be made public! Oh NO!
Yes, I assured them that I did indeed intend for my public blog to be publicly shared with all of the persons on the classmates list. I want as many people to be aware of un-diagnosed autism in the older generations as possible. I see this as an opportunity to share the benefits of diagnosis. Knowing I am autistic has been healing in a way that no other event of my life has come close to.
I am getting metaphorical and verbal ” pats on the head” and “aren’t you special” treatment now from others I am interacting with. I tend to just leave these comments alone, too, and attribute their reactions simply to attempts to be kind and to their ignorance of autism in general.
It is interesting that even though I was a social pariah in many ways before I learned I am autistic, I was not automatically treated as though I was also incompetent in general. This assumption of stupidity or lack of judgement does not sit well with me, it is a new experience and tends to make me feel crabby when it happens. So far I see it as well meaning ignorance. Perhaps that is better than the active hostility and aggression I experienced throughout most of my life.
The label of being autistic seems to have changed people’s perceptions and added an automatic layer of disdain or contempt for my ability to think. Yes, stigma!
Just shows there is need for not only autism awareness and education as to what autism actually ‘is’ in its many forms, but also need for acceptance. Hoping to open and win minds one person at a time.
Tomorrow I will be asking my GP for a referral to another autism specialist. Anxiety building. Subject /topic for a new blog page soon.