How does an autistic describe what it feels like to be autistic?

Subtitle: “A scratchy shirt collar label can cause me a meltdown.” – one of my responses

I’m always impressed when I see a major news magazine or a similar conduit to the masses speak about autism in a candid and less than ignorant fashion.

The attached article has links to videos which provide the reader/viewer with some interesting perspectives on what it’s like to be autistic.

For most of us autistics, it’s a day to day fluctuating experience. Some days almost anything can cause us anxiety or a meltdown, and on other days nothing seems to bother us.

The above is one of the reasons that putting qualifiers on autism is a bogus metric.

For the majority of us there is no “high functioning” or “low functioning” or anything in the middle. It fluctuates daily depending on lots of external stimuli, whether or not we were able to get a good night’s sleep, and whether or not there is some stressful situation in our lives that we are trying to navigate.

Normally when I read stories from other autistics or see videos like those included in the Forbes’ article attached, I can easily relate to all of them.

We now use the word “spectrum” when referring to autism, but most people use it incorrectly. That word actually refers to a cafeteria style of symptoms, and has nothing to do with a qualifying metric.

Some of us have severe Sensory Processing Disorder, and when we’re out in public, in a restaurant, or in a large store with lots of people, all of those sounds become overwhelming because our brains can’t filter the important noise from the ancillary noise. It’s probably one of the most painful experiences that we have to endure on a regular basis.

That particular aspect is quite profound with me, however sometimes I can blend in with non-autistic people and go about my business in a large store with lots of people.

But when I’m in a restaurant and that occurs, the clatter of dishes, the conversations at other tables increasing and decreasing in volume, the conversations switching between people that I’m seated with, I just can’t cope.

In fact, I normally use my addiction of cigarettes (STIM) to say, “I’m going out for a smoke…” only to get away from all of that chaos that my brain cannot process nor filter out.

One thing that I have overcome is the incessant barking of dogs in the night in my neighborhood. I live in Mexico and almost everyone has a dog as an adjunct security device.

Often in the late evening when I’m going to bed, all of the dogs in the neighborhood one by one start their evening conversation with each other, probably sharing their own personal experiences with their masters or their frustrations being kept behind gates.

That cackle of barks used to set me off, and once about five years ago I actually had a meltdown, went outside and started screaming obscenities at the dog on the other side of the concrete wall, hoping he would get the message and stop. It didn’t work, and I moved. 🙂

However, now in my current and permanent neighborhood I have a different perspective, and a method for handling that evening neighborhood conversation amongst my four legged neighbors.

Since I love dogs in general, and I have one myself, I now realize that they need to spend twenty or thirty minutes every night communicating with their friends on the other sides of walls.

I suspect that’s their method for releasing any anxiety they’ve experienced during the day, looking for a sounding board to vent to, and quite possibly their listeners and neighbors are sympathetic and attempting to console those that need consolation.

When I reached that point in my life a few years ago, being able to handle the nighttime chatter of my four legged neighbors, I felt such an exultation of success that it’s indescribable.

If I can figure out different methods for stores, restaurants, and other venues with large crowds, then maybe I could blend in a little easier and not need my escape of a smoke break. 🙂

If you’re autistic like me, I hope you find little tricks or psychological methods to help you cope just a little better and tricking your brain not to go haywire. 🙂

Forbes article: ‘Experience what it feels like to have autism

Author: David Moore Boulware

Me = [scientist, researcher, writer, photographer, autistic savant, alter ego (Leonard (the friendly vegetarian lizard from an alien oval planet)), ...]

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