Thirty Years As an Alien


 

Stuck on a blue planet

(Note: The following is excerpted from a short piece I wrote for the Autism Women’s Network. April is almost here, and it’s Autism Awareness Month. Since some estimates place 1 in 100 Americans on the autism spectrum now, I’m willing to bet many of my readers have a friend or family member in those numbers. If nothing else, during the month of April, read more about autism in its many forms. Many are familiar with autism in children; but, the truth is, it doesn’t magically go away once a child turns 18. Adults on the spectrum need support and care just as children do.)

“The aliens will not be able to go home.”

“The aliens are here to stay.”

~from District 9

Imagine spending your entire life as an alien among humans. You’ve been taught to assimilate as best you can, to imitate your hosts’ social norms and customs, even to speak their language fluently. But you still know something isn’t quite right. Their ways are strange to you, and yours to them. You have no way of putting this into words other than “it feels wrong” or “I’m just different.”
 
That has been my life with autism. Only within the last year did I know I was autistic at all (Asperger syndrome, to be precise.) Thanks to a caring, dedicated autism specialist and a group of researchers did I find out at all. Before, people flung alphabet soup labels at me, hoping one would stick: ADD, depression, bipolar disorder, social phobia, extreme introversion, or, if they were feeling less clinical, “weird.” None of them ever did, and I retreated further and further into fantasy worlds and my inner mind, hoping to escape them and their seemingly insane world with all its expectations.
 
Now that I know for sure, and I’m already an adult, things make more sense. I can look back and have those “a-ha” moments. Why I lost so many jobs. Why school seemed so painfully boring. Why I could remember entire scripts of movies but never my neighbors’ faces. They all have explanations now. The first step towards conquering an obstacle is identifying it, and I’ve boldly taken that first step.
 
Things on Planet Earth are still a challenge. I have to function in this world, and because I’m so independent, I have to work and pay my bills. I don’t want to live off others’ kindness, and I certainly don’t want to be seen as disabled. I look at my differences as a gift, not a curse. Maybe one day soon I can use my new insights to help other girls and women on the spectrum to discover their true natures, and to see that they don’t have to be like everyone else to be successful and strong.
 
Just let me know when and if my planet’s mothership ever comes back to get me, why don’t you?

Greetings from Joberg

Author’s Note: I’ll be writing some more of these short pieces about life on the spectrum throughout April. Hope not to bore my readers with them. Anything I can do to increase visibility for the autism community? Know someone I can profile? Send any ideas my way!

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~ by Howlin' Mad Heather on March 30, 2011.

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