I’ve been reading a lot of posts lately about people saying that they’ve been told that they couldn’t have autism because they seemed too normal or well-adapted. I’ve been thinking about this in regards to my life. I’ve had lots of people tell me that they never would have guessed that I have autism. My response to this is usually something along the lines of I’m glad that my act is working.
I try very hard to appear normal. I think this is partly because I want people to see that people with autism aren’t all that different from themselves and partly because I’d rather keep my autistic side hidden away in a place only I can see and experience. Autism is like my hidden secret, my hidden world. It’s like when you want to keep all the chocolates to yourself so you hide them under the bed and only savor them when you know that no one else will know about it. I love my autism and doing autistic things because it’s natural. It’s freedom. And I don’t want that freedom changed by the world so I keep it to myself.
Now this may seem somewhat contradicting, but I am actually very open about my autism. It’s hard to be on my facebook and not see that I have autism. And I’ll tell people I have autism if the topic comes up. The secret hidden things though are the actual autistic behaviors that I exhibit.
Talking about them, such as on this blog, makes them almost less real and more like abstract concepts that we try to analyze and understand. However, seeing them makes them real and tangible and they become a problem to those around me. That’s why I try so hard to make my autism as abstract and distant as possible. The more distant my autism seems, the less people see my autism as a problem and the more autistic I can actually stay.
Hiding my most autistic traits is something that comes automatically to me. No one, not even my family, has seen my hands flap. No one has seen me so uncomfortable that I want to wriggle out of my body. People have seen me twist my hands or scratch myself or shift in my chair and a couple times certain people have seen me cry, but in general people have only seen what I deemed appropriate for them to see. They’ve seen what I felt was ok for them to see based on our relationship and their therapeutic role or work position.
Even if I were to try to show my hidden autistic traits to someone, it would be impossible to do so. I literally cannot do certain things in front of people. My body just wouldn’t allow itself to. Instead, I do the socially appropriate things and deal with the uncomfortableness of holding things in until I can be alone and get things out.
When I am alone, I can be whoever I want to be without worrying about whether it is the “right” thing to do or not. By hiding my autism from those who might try to squash it, I preserve the beauty of it. I love jumping for joy when I’m alone or smiling so much that I feel like my happiness will burst out of me or flapping my arms because I’m excited or simply glorying in the textures of the world around me. I even pretend sometimes to have conversations with people that I could never have in real life. I can work out my frustrations easily because there are no pressures to work them out in the way other people want me to.
And so, the act is not only to try to reduce stereotypes, but also to preserve the beauty that I see my autism to be.
So when someone says, “you seem so normal” or “I never would have guessed” or “wow, I’m surprised”, I secretly cheer inside because my act is working.
5 thoughts on “The Act of Normal”
I love what you are saying. There IS a joy to keeping your traits a secret.
I am smiling as I type this because there are so many memes posted by NTs that proclaim “Stand Out!” OR “Be Unique!” yet most people with Autism are just trying to fit in. I can’t remember anytime I was ever rewarded for being my true, unique autistic self.
You are the sanctuary for your autistic traits. Keeping them to yourself allows them to survive. If you shared them with others, they would hunt them to extinction. “You flap your hands? I know a good therapist that can help you stop that.” “You jump up and down when you are happy? Let’s see if we can control that.” The very people that post memes saying people should “Just Be Yourself!” would be the first to tell us in hushed tones to decrease our autistic behaviors because they draw too much attention. If we keep them private, we keep them safe.
Love your message.
Yeah, I think a lot of times people want us to be unique within their guidelines of normalcy. Sometimes it just seems easier to appear normal and then be autistic when you’re alone.
This made me happy, and sad, all at the same time.
I hate you live in a world that requires you to ALWAYS bend 95% of the way. I know that can be emotionally, psychologically, and physically draining.
But I love that you are so beautifully, and gracefully, bending anyway.
It’s like watching a beautiful ballerina.
You. Are. Incredible.
As always: such a great, positive, uplifting & inspiring post.
Thanks 🙂 Actually, the more I think about it, the more I think that I’m autistic all the time just somewhere far away. While everyone sees the act of normal, I can be in a place of comfort somewhere inside myself. It’s when I’m really in a situation mentally though that it gets harder and more uncomfortable. I feel like I’ve found a pretty good balance for myself. I only hope that it will get easier for others who struggle more than me with finding comfort in autism.
You are doing such, such a great job with this, too. **Hugs!**