Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell….

Hello strange world. It’s funny that the strange guy is calling the world strange but then again, if you’re all strange and I’m normal? Anyways, before I break the universe some more it’s time to get this show on the road. No this blog post has nothing to do with the infamous campaign in the military to repress one’s sexuality to preserve hyper masculinity, this post pertains to something I’ve struggled with for years as someone with a disability. Now before we get started we need to discuss the two types of disabilities; Visible disabilities and, invisible disabilities. The two terms are relatively self explanatory. A visible disability is one where you can look at someone and it’s pretty obvious they have some sort of disability. They’re either in a wheelchair, have a deformity, it’s pretty obvious they have a visual impairment (presence of a cane or guide dog) or, they’re on the lower functioning end cognitively (I’m fully aware some people don’t like functioning labels but, there’s really a lack of a better phrase).  Then you have invisible disabilities. These are disabilities where you’d never know they exist just from looking at a person. These include any disorders that involve chronic fatigue like fibromyalgia, mild visual impairments that are still severe enough to render a person legally blind, seizure disorders or, people who are on the higher functioning end of any disability that results in cognitive impairments. 

With that being said, I’d like to say I have an invisible disability. It was pretty invisible when I was younger but, with years of behavioral therapy I learned to blend into neurotypical crowds as efficiently as possible. No one could ever tell just from looking at me that I am Autistic. I do a solid job of keeping most of my stimming in check so, I come off as just another guy. The only give away that there maybe something up is the lack of intonation in my voice and, my very slow yet deliberate pace of speech. For the most part though, no one would ever know which leads to a struggle I’ve dealt with for years. I don’t usually go around telling people I’m Autistic. No one bothers to ask so, why should I waste my time telling people? To tell you the truth, I often try to hide the fact that I’m Autistic and try as hard as I possibly can to come off as a neurotypical. Growing up I always wanted to be viewed as being like everyone else but most importantly, treated like everyone else. There have been occasions where people know from the get go that I’m Autistic mainly because my mother let them know so that they’d be prepared. This unfortunately results on certain occasions with people talking to me like I am stupid or, constantly asking if I understand or, need any help. Like, I did need help I’d fucking ask for it. If anyone with a disability needs help then they’re gonna ask unless they’re too embarrassed to.

Telling people I’m Autistic has on occasion lead to the infamous “oh but you don’t seem Autistic” or, I’ll tell people that I struggle with such and such on due to being on the spectrum and it’s followed by “oh but everyone struggles with that”. Like, the one time I do want to stand out and be different, y’all won’t let me. You seriously don’t understand how I struggle with something versus how you struggle with it. Me struggling with certain things is like a toddler trying to put their clothes on without any help. There was this one time where this girl was talking about her severely Autistic brother and I thought mentioning that I too was Autistic would be the perfect connecting moment but, that shit blew up in my face like when Bugs Bunny plugs up the barrel of Elmer Fudd’s shotgun. She went on this whole rant about how she hates when people self diagnose themselves and, it pretty much ended there. I get that her brother and others like him were all they ever knew of Autism but still, it just ruined being open about being on the spectrum. People only know Autism as the very first person they met who was on the spectrum.

This has also become something I struggle with when dating (you mean we get to hear about your love life again? Fuck yeah we’re gonna talk about my love life for the hundredth fucking time). I’ve been on very few dates beyond my relationship with a woman with Aspergers. Most of those dates have been with neurotypical women. One thing I still struggle with greatly is that it takes me a super long time to warm up to people unless I truly click with them right out of the gate. Unfortunately many people don’t have that sort of time. I feel that I can be a bit dry when I first meet people. The nerves I get from being on a date amplify this tenfold. I realize I only have a short window to make a good impression but, the chill funny person I am never truly comes out until I’ve really gotten comfortable with a someone. I’ve always wondered if I should tell people I’m Autistic and this is what I struggle with long before I meet them in person so that they know not to expect too much too soon but, I also fear being treated differently because they might go in expecting only what they may know or have seen of Autism not realizing that everyone is different. I’m not ashamed of who I am, I just unfortunately know how human nature works. At the same time I feel like I’m cheating myself by not telling perspective women because there’s that chance they walk away simply because I come off as dry and, not very exciting. I overthink it in situations like that and I wound up shooting myself in the foot.

I’ve also dealt with a similar situation during job interviews. I’m not entirely sure whether or not I should disclose my disability for fear of discrimination in the hiring process. Discrimination of people with disabilities is a pretty serious problem in the application process. Thankfully I’m employed by and, volunteered for several years for an organization where people with various disabilities make up a noticeable percentage of the work force so I never for a second felt like I couldn’t disclose my disability. At other positions I applied for I never brought it up knowing full well that I had some executive functioning difficulties that would require some accommodations from time to time. Like going on dates, I often come off as being a bit dry at times because I get super anxious during interviews due to the high stress and, pressure to perform well. At times I’ve considered mentioning before the interview that I am Autistic and that it takes time for me to warm up but, I’ve feared that could instantly put my chances in jeopardy because then they’ll instantly assume what I can and can’t do.

Letting people know I’m Autistic is something I don’t often do until I know I can trust that a person isn’t going to change how they perceive me. Again it’s not that I’m not proud of having a disability, it’s that people are quick to assume or, they think they know what you can and can’t do without asking or, giving you a chance. I think the biggest problem with this situation is that the sooner I disclose my disability to anyone for any reason in any scenario, I drastically shorten or even completely eliminate the window in which I’m able to have a chance to prove myself capable of either being a good employee, being a good friend or, being a good lover. We need to stop judging books by their covers unless that book happens to be called “I Wish My Kids Had Cancer: A Family Surviving The Autism Epidemic”, then you can judge the fuck out of that book. Fuck it lets burn those books of course, that would involve giving that author money which I refuse to do. If someone wants to find a pirated copy of that book then be my guest (We at the Epic Autistic do not condone or encourage piracy of any kind unless it involves authors who deserve no one’s money like this guy who thinks Autism is so fucking bad that he’d rather his kids have a disease with a higher death toll than the year 2016 even if it means that there’s the slightest chance of curing them even though remission isn’t as guaranteed as a quality life for someone on the spectrum). Anyways, we’ve got to stop judging a book by its cover. It maybe the greatest fucking book you have ever read.

Stay classy….

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