“Will your life be better if you tell people you have autism?”
This post is aimed at high functioning autistic and Aspergian adults, that are doing their best to live independently.
Should you tell people you have Asperger’s syndrome or high functioning autism? I would say yes.
Later in this article I will give my reasons why telling people has worked for me. But first a little background.
For those of us on the autistic spectrum, I often feel as though we are trapped between two worlds. We are not seen as being disabled enough to warrant the full time support required by those with more severe autistic symptoms. We are expected to go out into the world and somehow make a life for ourselves, competing for jobs, college courses and friends. We do our best despite the extra challenges we face.
Some of us actually do an OK job of living independently. We even get married and hold down a job. But within this category of independent autistic adults, there are those that can’t seem to escape the associated anxiety, depression, low self esteem and sensory problems.
The social challenges of the workplace can be overwhelming, making long term employment unthinkable for some. The lack of a stable income often adds to the persons low self esteem and anxiety, as they struggle to pay their bills.
Along with many other high functioning autistic adults, I always tended to run away from situations if I found the social rules impossible to fathom. It would just be to uncomfortable and intimidating to stay in that particular job, or relationship.
My solution? Be honest with people. Tell them why you struggle with social interaction, and need longer to understand information. You are still a good person doing a good job.
Over the past couple of years, I’ve had the growing realisation of how my “pretending to be normal” act was actually causing me more anxiety than when I was simply being myself. Once the big secret was out, and everybody knew about my autism, I suddenly had a lot less to worry about. The pressure of doing things “correctly” in social interactions went away. I just do my best, even if I have to apologise sometimes when I talk to much, or my words get stuck.
My low self esteem is gradually improving. I do not feel so “stupid” if I have to ask for instructions to be repeated in a way I can understand. The self imposed pressure to conform to neurotypical rules lessens day by day. I can still be a polite and courteous person. I just do it my own way, and feel happier as a result.
Now that everyone knows I have autism, means I have a pressure valve. I can quickly escape from an uncomfortable conversation without appearing rude or strange. My quirky nature is usually accepted by those around me with a smile. They know I’m a nice person. I just have my own way of doing things.
I’m not suggesting for a minute, that life is perfect now that everyone around me knows I have autism. I dare say that one or two people decided not to associate with me any more. But that’s up to them. Friends come and go for various reasons anyway. Generally people at work have been very accepting and accommodating. In fact, a colleague will often open up to me, and relate their own story of a close family member that has autism.
It’s not only at work I tell people about my condition. I tell people the people at the bank so they know to give me my account information slowly, and simply. I tell staff at the rail station, if I can’t figure out which train to get. I have also told all the friends and acquaintances that I’ve felt so uncomfortable with over the years. They now understand why I have always been so socially awkward. I almost feel as though I have been “confessing” for the past five years. but it feels good.
It is a little embarrassing at times, opening up to everybody, and I know it won’t suit everybody to do so, but for the time being, it feels like the right thing to do. Best of all, I’m gradually learning to be myself, and not the poor relation of a neuro typical person.
The benefits of telling people you have autism:
- Less pressure to be like everyone else.
- Being able to ask colleagues for help with a job if you are getting confused about what to do.
- Not feeling “stupid” if you have to ask to be given instructions or information more slowly, or even in a different way.
- Allowing people to like you for who you are and not who you were trying to be.
- Spreading awareness of autism is a good thing. It helps all people with a disability to break through the barriers.
So will you decide to tell people you have autism? Some people have symptoms that are too severe to hide.
But those of you living independently, battling with the big neuro typical world, are faced with the question:
Will your life be better if you tell people you have autism?
Thanks for reading