The phrase that I’ve heard about 90% of the time when I’ve told someone I have Asperger Syndrome is “but you don’t look/seem/act like you have Asperger’s!”. I know, of course I know, why do you think it took 13 years of my life for people to realise that I don’t function like everyone else? I decided to write this post now because I’ve been hearing a lot of that phrase since I joined college – the majority of my classmates are initially shocked to learn that I have a mild form of Autism.
It’s not that I’m not being myself at college though, I am, it’s just that I’ve spent my entire life learning how to copy other people’s body language, learning how to hold eye contact and learning what the social norms are, that when I’m in particular places like a school where I’m settled, it’s almost as if the Asperger’s goes away. It doesn’t though, parts of it still come out like not understanding/being slow with some jokes and being generally awkward with how I word things and hold myself, which some of my friends do notice. When I first joined college 2 months ago, I was extremely anxious the first few days, which a couple of people acknowledged when we were put into groups and subsequently became friends. I explained to them that I have Asperger Syndrome and they completely understood, but everyone else I didn’t need to explain it to, because by that point I had friends and I was okay going back to how I usually get by – copying everyone else.
The thing is, no one sees me 24/7. At college, the majority of the time my social energy tank is full and my “neurotypical mask” is on. When I get home from college I’m usually completely drained and spend the evening in my room relaxing. I go back into my Asperger’s shell – I become childlike and reliant on other people because I’m so exhausted from the 7 hour day at college. I only seem like I don’t have Asperger’s because I understand what social norms are and if I acted the way I do when I’m at home half the time, I wouldn’t be able to get by in the real world. I’ve learnt how to take care of myself and get by through copying other people, and now I can’t help but carry on doing that since I’ve been diagnosed – the way I see it is that it’s literally an automatic survival instinct. The world is still so neurotypical, with nothing being adapted to suit people with Autism, that this is the way I have to be in order to be able to function. So yeah, I know I don’t seem like I have Asperger’s, I will always seem like I don’t have Asperger’s because the world isn’t going to suddenly change to fit the needs of the neurodivergent.