For November 2018, I’m exploring different things people have said to me, then the internal thoughts those remarks stirred.
“Yes, you’re autistic…”
“…but you’re so high function.”
“…but my rheumatoid arthritis is worse.”
“…but it’s only barely, right?”
So what is “only barely” autistic?
What is “high function,” in your mind?
Am I the autistic person who doesn’t need any accommodations, help, or empathy to get by? Am I the autistic person who’s supposed to suck it up, since in your eyes, I make it by fine?
That’s what I hear when you talk to me this way. I hear a broom and a rug. I hear the reasoning you use to continue treating me like I’m neurotypical, like there’s no room for my autism to be there.
I don’t make it by fine anymore.
I never did, really.
I just knew if I didn’t play-pretend I was okay, there would be hell to pay, even more than I already endured in school.
I am depressed and anxious and scared. This didn’t happen overnight. It’s evolved slowly, swathed me; it’s been an ocean of micro-aggressions, like the ones you practice now.
Symptoms of neglect don’t turn off.
Just like my signs of autism don’t turn off…
my autism won’t kill me though, the way the mental illnesses do. I’m quite happy to be autistic. That’s why I talk about it, write about it.
What keeps me going is imagining a space where my autism thrives, and my depression and anxiety subside.
What keeps me going is a world of people reading this, not to nitpick and further criticize, but to understand.
I leave my thoughts here because if one heart opens, that heals me. Restores what you drain.
It’s near impossible for me to visualize my happy space when you try to wipe my autism away as if it were nothing; it’s difficult to climb out of this hole, until I picture the readers who want autistic people to be authentic and happy, who come here to listen.
And that brings me to the most frustrating dilemma I face when you browbeat me:
Why do you hold a measuring stick to my autism and your conditions, x to y?
Is this, again, to marginalize my experience?
Stories aren’t meant to be races. To be ways we find out who is the one who struggles more. I’ve been through a lot, and I wouldn’t fathom reducing someone else’s story with mine.
Every story brings another crack of light, of truth, into the world; so why stunt that?
Stories connect us, bind us, strengthen us. Stories build empathy, when we’re practicing thinking-feeling exchanges, open listening and love.
I think you’re trying to shrink my autism into something you don’t have to consider. I am a story you return to the shelves.
You beat my experiences down, down, into an inferior place, a tiny munched up state that remains insignificant compared to you. This is how you assert authority, control.
You try to gaslight my autism out of me.
I still hear you deciding, for me, what kind of impact my autism has had on my life. I hear it echo in the dark, when I wake up from the daily nightmares.
Do you also decide, for younger generations, what kind of impact the collapsing economy has on their life?
Do you look down on us, who live in a world entirely different from yours?
That would at least make your behavior consistent.
You went to school uphill both ways. Look at you: shaping the world to your liking. You think you control our memories, our perceptions, our emotions. So yours is a story that you will continue to use to overshadow mine, when for me, it’s never been a competition.
Kourtnie has an MFA in Creative Writing from CSU Fresno and a BA in English from CSU Fullerton. When she isn't writing or making art, she's moonlighting as a professor at community colleges. Read her writing at Kourtnie.net or Wattpad.com/user/KourtnieNet.