Famous People On the Spectrum, HOLD ON WHAT?!

Most people who are reading this and don’t know any better would probably see this as some sort of twisted oxymoron and begin to question the validity of such a combination words because by our norms it is not always possible.Show of hands, how many people love Kill Bill? Okay I already see like 70% of the world raising their hands up. Okay, who thought Elle Driver was the most badass character you’ve seen in that movie? Didn’t you think the was hot yet devious in that nurse costume and how about that epic fight between her and the main character? Yeah she was definitely a badass, Daryl Hannah nailed that role perfectly and I couldn’t think of anyone else who could fill that role. Now what if I told you that Daryl Hannah recently admitted that she was diagnosed with Autism when she was younger and had lived most of her life without many people knowing about it? (On a side note, I am fully aware she was in Blade Runner as well, Kill Bill is just a bit more recent and has been seen by more people in this era).

Right now your mind is probably blown harder than someone who has unfortunately taken a bullet to the head. I should note for anyone who feels uneasy with this analogy that I do not condone violence of any sort, especially gun violence but unless someone can come up with a better analogy of how hard someone’s mind can get blown that is harder and less touchier than a bullet to the head then I’d like to hear it. Anyways your mind must be totally blown right now with that tidbit of information I just shared with you if you haven’t heard it already. But yes, she does have Autism and I bet right now those who don’t know any better about the condition are scratching their heads and asking how this is even remotely possible and are thinking based on various misconceptions that people on the spectrum can’t convey emotion the way society is supposed to or that they’re detached and that they can’t blend in the way society expects us to. Once you hear yourselves asking these questions and acting so flabbergasted that someone with this much talent and personality can be on the spectrum then you’ll probably understand why she never revealed this sooner and for those who are still a bit lost then I shall explain to you why I understand where she’s coming from and most importantly why she fell off the radar after her stellar performance in Kill Bill.

Lets start with why she didn’t reveal this sooner which will also hopefully tie in with why she fell off the radar a few years back. In a much earlier post I mentioned that I don’t always like telling people that I have Autism and it’s for a very legit reason. It’s because of these misconceptions usually based perpetuated by pop culture and the media. When people hear Autism they usually assume the worse or the extreme and they either expect someone who drools, flaps their arms, screams, has tantrums, or a savant (someone who is extremely intelligent beyond normal IQ ranges but suffers from a major social deficit as a result). No one ever thinks towards the middle, people who have some of the enhanced IQ characteristics and added of Autism but also has a better grasp of social cues, norms, and situations. Usually people like me and Daryl who through development eventually fall on to the higher end of the spectrum and have solid balance of skill sets. As I’ve also mentioned there have been numerous situations where I’ve told people that I am Autistic and this is constantly met with disbelief simply because I don’t fit the picture of Autism that has been painted in their head either by society or personal experiences with those end up with the extreme end of the disorder. In this scenario I usually end up with responses a long the lines of “Proove it” or “no you’re not” or “Really? But you don’t act Autistic” or “But you seem so normal”. Now I wouldn’t be surprised if she did reveal her diagnosis early on and people either didn’t believe her or they did and started to severely underestimate her. I highly doubt she would’ve gotten such prolific roles if people underestimated her just because of things they thought they knew about Autism.Being underestimated is a pretty painful feeling and if I were in her shoes when she first came into acting I’d keep it a secret as well.

I don’t blame people though for approaching Autism this way as those on the higher end of the spectrum are really rare because either they don’t like the attention or because they’ve simply gone undiagnosed because a lot of the telltale signs of being on the spectrum are far more subtle than someone on the lower end of the spectrum where it’s in your face like the light of day or your angry significant other in a heated argument. It is for this reason that I tend to stay relatively quiet about my diagnosis, especially with people I’ve just met. I don’t want people to paint the wrong picture of me in their head just because of things they think they know about Autism simply based on what they’ve read, what they’ve heard or what experiences they may have had with that ONE person they’ve met on the spectrum. This is a great place to remind people that Autism is a broad spectrum of disorder with not one person on the spectrum being the same as another. People with Autism are like snow flakes in the sense that one is never the same as the other. I run this analogy to the ground but it is the only one that can truly explain just how different people on the spectrum are from each other. If you’ve met one person with Autism then you’ve only met one person with Autism. Our experiences and how we develop are always different from one another.

Now that I’ve gotten that brutally long explanation out of the way it’s time to get back to the topic at hand. Lets get to topic number two which will tie into topic number one and will hopefully make sense of everything. One of the major reasons why she wouldn’t reveal her Autism diagnosis and also the reason why she disappeared for quite some time is the fear of excess attention. Now those who follow the lives of celebrities know the amount of attention they have to deal with on a daily basis. Not a minute goes by without someone trying to take a picture of them or someone asking for an autograph or the paparazzi trying to get shots of them for various magazine and tabloids and all that wonderful crap. That type of attention is extremely overwhelming for anyone but for someone on the spectrum that type of attention is an overload that we simply can’t handle. I hate excess amounts of attention a lot. I’ll let you in on a little secret, I hate my birthday. Once again everyone’s mind is blown and everyone is asking “why one would hate their birthday? You get presents, you get to party with people, you become the center of attention”. HOLD THAT THOUGH AND REPEAT THE LAST ONE TO ME AGAIN! “You become the center of attention?” YEAH THAT ONE!!!!!!!!!!!! I love being able to acknowledge that I’m blessed with another year of life and being able to reflect on the previous year of life and unfortunately acknowledge the fact that I’m only getting older and being treated to nice dinners at my parents expense and getting showered with birthday money. What I don’t like however is the barrage of attention I get on that day. I do everything I can to avoid people on my birthday but that attention is impossible to escape. It’s the one day of the year where my parents hunt me and ask how their birthday boy is and it’s unfortunately the day where relatives who finally remembered that I exist blow my phone up to say happy birthday and did I mention I hate talking on the phone outside of a work environment? I am not a phone person and outside of work being on the phone with someone requires too much mental energy. On top of that if you’re in college you have the thousands of people who were reminded of your birthday on facebook come and swarm you and say happy birthday to you everywhere you go. By the end of the day I’m so overloaded from all the attention that I just want to decompress but then I can’t because guess what? A shit ton of relatives who remembered I exist just got out of work and now they want to blow my phone up too. It’s that I don’t like the people or the love, I do but it’s so overwhelming. The over load amounts to someone putting air into a balloon. Too much pressure and it’ll explode.

This birthday tangent/analogy is there to describe the pain of excess attention. Imagine me in Hollywood and you’ll understand I don’t plan on being an actor anytime soon. Imagine going from being a nobody to being the person people drool over and want to harass over and over and over. I never knew who Daryl Hannah was prior to Kill Bill and after a performance like that it’s expected that studios will flag her down for more roles. Soon her popularity would’ve sky rocketed and eventually she will always be under white hot light. No one wants tat attention and someone who is shy and reserved definitely doesn’t want that attention. Crowds and excessive attention is an introverts worse nightmare. Now imagine her riding the fame wave that was Kill Bill and then on top of that she tells people that she has Autism. Not only would people bombard her with questions and put her on a pedestal that she clearly doesn’t want to be on but to add on to the stress, Autism Awareness organizations will surely hunt her down to be a spokes person or some kind of poster child. Doctors will also hunt her down to ask any question that could further their research. With that type of attention she’d never get solitude again. There would never be a moment where no one would call her your email her or send her fan mail.

Now all of these are an honor and usually means you did something right but the fact that all of these come coupled with excess amounts of attention that one who overloads easily can’t handle easily. Now imagine her nine years ago saying she had Autism with what people knew back then vs. what they know now or even revealing that in the 80s. As I mentioned earlier, no one would’ve believed her because of how talented and high functioning she is not to mention she’d run the risk of becoming another picture of the disorder painted in to society’s head. Autism was never truly portrayed as a spectrum much back then and I myself never understood it as a spectrum of disorders so neither of us would’ve understood that people on the spectrum come in all flavors. To this day not many people still understand that people on the spectrum come in different flavors. Also those who work with those on the spectrum will notice that women on the spectrum are incredibly rare and often go undiagnosed. Also at the time of Daryl’s diagnosis there was very little knowledge of the disorder so most would’ve assumed she was crazy or needed to be institutionalized and medicated so there is a heavy stigma attached based solely on past experiences.

What all of this amounts to is that it’s not easy to be different in society because there is still a culture of ignorance that lingers. There’s still a lot we need to learn about Autism and there is still a lot that society needs to be educated on regarding the disorder. Proper education and most importantly acceptance will make it easier for people to embrace being different in the long run. There are most likely more famous people who reside on the spectrum that are waiting for the right time to reveal that they are on the spectrum. A time where people will not only be more accepting but a time where all the stereotypes will be done away with and people will be able to not only be respectful when asking questions but they’ll most importantly give people the space they need. I should also take this time to note that the creator of Pokémon has Aspergers (no longer acceptable as a diagnosis in what ever the hell book psychologists fill up with all the acceptable psychological disorders). Satoshi Tajiri birthed Pokémon from his age old hobby of collecting insects. This is simply a reminder that people on the spectrum are all around you and are in places you’d never expect them to be, even in Hollywood. I’ll end with this, Autism comes in all flavors each with hundreds of thousands of variations so never approach the disorder as being one set of traits. If you go into things with the mindset I have just given you, you will see Autism in a light you never thought existed and by then you realize that us people on the spectrum aren’t all as intimidating or complex as society makes is out to be. Stay classy people….

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