For World Mental Health Day, I’d like to remind you that people like us deserve to be treated with dignity.
Because we’re not just those smart weird people you get a kick out of once in a while. We’re not Sheldon Cooper or Sonya Cross or Rain Man. We’re fully realized human beings, as complex and emotional as you.
We, in all our resplendent, awkward glory, are your peers.
I want you to look past our awkward exterior so you can hear what we have to say.
In a world where about 85% of people with autism lack gainful employment, 66% are having suicidal thoughts, and many of us don’t have a single friend to our names, being written off is a huge problem for us.
I know what it’s like. I experience it firsthand, all the time. I imagine classmates and even some Internet writers who know me being like “yeah, Gwen. She has a good idea once in a while, but God she’s weird.”
Sometimes we look like we don’t have feelings. Trust me, we do. We just aren’t good at expressing them. We don’t always know how we feel.
That doesn’t mean we’re not trying.
And I know we come across like we don’t know what’s going on. Sometimes we don’t. We get overstimulated so easily. I probably take in about 30% as much information as other people do before I get overloaded.
None of that means we’re not worth listening to.
People are surprised when I say something insightful. Some people look at me differently after that. But others just shrug it off like oh, she’s still Gwen. Still weird.
Sometimes I feel like one of those secondary characters inserted into a sitcom for comic relief. You know, the ones that the writers give a measured 10% smart lines to so it makes the 90% dumb lines even funnier.
We’re not stock characters.
We’re not robots either.
We’ve spent decades of our lives stretching our mental faculties to become self-aware, empathetic, productive members of society. We try so fucking hard you guys. If we’re behaving with the dignity we ask for from you, then we deserve your regard as an equal.
We do learn things intellectually rather than intuitively. But there’s value in that too.
I’ve put the social observations I’ve made over the years into my mental database. It’s become a special interest. Other people do that with science. Or movies. People with Asperger’s develop our own algorithms for figuring out how stuff works.
I guess we are a bit like computers.
But we’ve spent our whole lives working with the systems we’ve got.
Don’t you think we’ve developed a few useful programs by now?
There are a lot of people in the world. But if you’re impatient, you might miss out on getting to know someone interesting.
*Picture from McGill Publications