Autism Lifestyle

High-functioning autism: The weight of an invisible disability

Autism and functioning labels

I don’t talk about myself too much on the blog; it’s easier for me to talk about Charlie’s autism. Because the severity of Charlie’s autism is so much more visible and intense than my own, I often feel the need to suck it up and count my blessings that I’m lucky enough to be high-functioning. I know that people from the #actuallyautistic movement are cringing hearing me use functioning labels to describe my struggles. I think they’re useful.  

That said, the term “high-functioning” can be misleading. I can’t emphasize enough the weight of having a hidden disability. My struggles are often ignored because they’re not obvious. I’ve been told to “get my shit together” when struggling in a social or crowded environment. Just because I look like a regular 28-year-old woman doesn’t mean that I am, just because I can speak doesn’t mean that I can express myself, and just because I’m smart doesn’t mean I understand some simple social things. You don’t know what’s going on inside of me unless you ask me and I tell you. Read more on my opinion of functioning labels here

International Women’s Day

Today I stepped out of my comfort zone. I always thought that witnessing a live flash mob would be fun. I have a mom-blog so when I received an invitation to cover a “secret” flash-mob event, I was thrilled. Kids were welcome to attend and another mom-blogger and friend attended too. Not to mention, it was for a good cause, to celebrate International Women’s Day and empower women. The flash mob coincided with International Women’s Day and raised awareness for Whole Planet Foundation’s mission of using microcredit to empower female entrepreneurs in poverty-stricken areas around the world. What I didn’t realize was that it was going to be a very social, overcrowded, not-so-secret event…

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The flash-mob

The mob takes place in one of my favorite store, Whole Foods. As soon I get to the meeting point, I realize it’s going to be difficult for me. There are people everywhere. I’m shuffling back and forth on my feet because no matter how I position myself, I’m always in someone’s way. There are gregarious people talking all around me like an incessant buzzing in my ear. And then there are the unexpected noises: Jude’s piercing screams to get my attention, people dropping objects on the floor…  At this point, I’m completely overwhelmed. I want to cover my ears and run away but I know that would make things worse.

I kept a smile on my face for the most part and I pushed through. I don’t know what I looked like from the outside but inside I was a complete mess. The mob happened right on time and I even recorded the event live on Instagram, being bumped into by people left and right. It was fun, the dancers were great, and I loved the idea of the mob. The experience, though, was trying.

The after-party: Making small-talk

After the flash-mob was over it was time for the luncheon. I felt better at that time and was just looking forward to eating something and sitting down. I didn’t realize, though, that there would still be a extensive social aspect to it.

We’re now in a less crowded, less noisy area and the expectation seems to be that people are to get to know each other. People are forming groups and they get to know each other. Me? I’m sitting in the back of the room eating fruit and cookies, trying to keep Jude from being fussy. A few people approached me and I was barely able to make eye contact. I wasn’t able to hold a conversation and after a few minutes the noise became too much once again.

My friend, though, did great. She’s very good at chatting with people and making small talk. It’s a quality I wish I had. Anyway, I was exhausted and Jude was getting over-tired so I decided to leave early. I walked to the back of the room as to avoid having to walk by all the people again, and I approached the back door. The thing is, by opening that door, I set off a loud security alarm and drew sos much attention to myself. It was a mortifying moment and truly the cherry on top of a distressing event overall. 

This happened a few hours ago and I’m torn. I’m happy I did it. I feel good that I went at all, and I’m pleased too because it was for a great cause. I can feel proud that I pushed through. I’m upset with myself for getting overwhelmed and being so socially inept, and it wasn’t pleasant, but I didn’t let autism and my anxiety completely win the battle today.

 

To see more of my autism blog posts, click here

To see more of my mom blog posts, click here

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3 Comments

  • Reply
    CJ
    2018-03-09 at 4:15 AM

    I don’t want to diminish the experience from your perspective, I totally understand how overwhelmeded you were. From the outside you seemed okay, I don’t think anyone noticed. Last week I was at a party and I tripped on an oddly placed step and sent my plate of food and wine glass crashing to the floor. And me too. The entire place went quiet and everyone was asking if I was okay. I was mortified. I said I was fine, and tried to hide the fact that tears were streaming down my face from sheer embarassment and anxiety. Everyone went back to their conversations and the hostess and a friend helped me clean up. But at the end, no one cared but me. So RE: the alarm, I promise, no one was phased by it. I’m so sorry you had a tough day. Let’s have lunch tomorrow and relax?

  • Reply
    blaison
    2018-03-09 at 6:46 AM

    Bravo, c’est une victoire tout de même <3

  • Reply
    Sarah
    2018-03-09 at 1:17 PM

    Through all of the “mess” of yesterday, I would still definitely consider it a win in the books! I don’t have autism. On any level. But I still get super stressed at being around a lot of people. Especially in situations where people expect me to be sociable. Just the other night we went out to dinner for my sister’s birthday. Just as we were getting ready to leave, I turned beat red and started sweating profusely. Which obviously makes my anxiety worse. Just know that I’m super proud of you! Just getting in the car and going was a big deal, and you deserve a ton of credit for that.

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