Life. It’s certainly never fails to throw us curve balls, or bouncers, or sometimes even mulligrubbers. I guess I’ve mixed up my ball sports there but never the less. the point is that life often doesn’t go to plan.
I’m a proud autistic man, and have only had the privilege of being able to out and own that for a relatively short period of time. I spent a lot of my life pretending to be normal. Pretending I was just like everybody else, even though I knew deep down I wasn’t. I am neurologically different, but I digress.
I never expected life to throw me the curve ball of an immediate family that refuses to speak to me.
I never expected to have the bouncer of losing contact with much of my family at the request of my immediate family.
I never expected the mulligrubber balls I have had with the death of my beloved Grandma this week.
I didn’t expect to be making a second drive from Melbourne to Sydney and back in a week.
I didn’t expect to be grieving my beloved Grandmother.
I most certainly did not expect to be in a situation of attending her funeral and being in the same room as my immediate family for the first time of significance in close to twenty years.
I’ve written in the past about the emotional dissonance that I as an autistic man experience. I’ve spoken about the utterly potent experience of empathy and emotion I feel and experience, even though I may not express this always in the most preferable ways. Yes I have indeed, been known to inappropriately let it all hang out, to have what is commonly known as a meltdown or a shutdown.
I am a strong advocate for Autistics being autistic, living as autistic, living true to that reality, not pretending, as they say, to be normal.
There are times, I believe, that, it is appropriate, if we can, to make the effort to pass. To make every effort to select the correct rules, to select the best social strategies and responses that will be seen as acceptable. Yes there are times to do this. And I am pretty sure that the coming situation of my Grandma’s funeral might just qualify as one of them.
I will do my very best, not to let it all hang out. To not respond to the bait that will likely be presented. To disengage from situations and interactions that start to move towards social and emotional difficulties. When placed in the situation of being in the same place at the same time as my parents and sisters I will attempt, try, and do my very very best to not let me emotional responses get the better of me, to not go into meltdown or shutdown situation but to pass as neurotypical. Or at least to pass enough to there not be a scene. To not be a ruinous interaction of other people’s grief and remembrance.
This will be difficult, but for my part, I will not be the catalyst for other people’s experiences being made less than they should or could be as they remember the wonderful woman my Grandmother was and the celebration of the wonderful life she lived.
The thing that I, and of course, many other autistics know, is that whilst at times we can pull this off, there is a hidden cost. To the uneducated or unknowing by standing neurotypical, this is not seen and not known. They probably in fact wonder why we can’t do this all the time.
The cost in fact is expensive. It is exacted from our very bodies.
After an event of passing or faking it. I will be utterly exhausted. Prone to emotional shortness and susceptible to meltdown for some days afterwards. I will be prone to depression and anxiety impacts far more so than normal. Yes the cost is an expensive one and it makes its presence felt and ensures it makes its withdrawal from our account.
I am a proud autistic man and I now live a life of pretending no more, but, for some special people, in some special situations I will make an exception. I hope and pray it will not cost too much and I will pull it off. My Grandmother deserves it.
Yes, indeed I have been thrown some unexpected balls in life, and not a few in the last few weeks.
This is one of those times when it is positively one of those times when it is patently not time to let it all hang out.