All the Ways I’m Not Sheldon Cooper

Now, for some Godforsaken reason, when I come out as autistic to some people, they suddenly see this: 

(Insert Sheldon Cooper Pic Here) 

And they will NOT STOP COMPARING. 

Since I have to spell it out, point by point, I am going to. All questions will be rendered to Captain Obvious, standing over there. 

 

  • “You’re in my spot” – Sure, I have a “spot.” But I’m not entirely going to yell at people for sitting in it. 
  • Extreme Arrogance and Self-Superiority – “The Big Bang Theory” seems to equate autism with arrogance. I’m not arrogant. As a matter of fact, I have to be told on a regular basis that my voice and life matter.  
  • Reacting in the Worst Way – One of the hallmarks of Sheldon Cooper, and sitcom characters in general, is that they react to criticism in the most dramatic way possible.  
  • Empathy – Sheldon Cooper, in this aspect, is a false stereotype. Autistic people have empathy, and the fact that I have to tell you this well into the 21st Century vexes me to no end. In many online tests, and by people in the know, I have been told I am an empath. I may not express my empathy in “reading between the lines,” but I literally take on emotions of others. There is almost no boundary. I often hold back tears when someone else is crying. Anyway, I have also taught myself on such important things as facial expression and sarcasm – while Mr. Cooper sees no need to do the same, even when he really needs to. 
  • Sex/Gender – Sheldon Cooper is male. I am female. I and my fellow female autistics have been told by many professionals that we don’t exist. News flash, autism researchers: autistic women and girls exist! Autistic people of color exist, too!  
  • Savanthood – Apparently, Sheldon is a savant in physics. I have been told I am one in spelling and grammar. Not everyone is a savant, though. And not everyone is a physics savant. 
  • Physics Snob – Now, Sheldon is a physics snob. He looks down on other forms of science. I do not. 
  • Executive Function: Cooking – Can you imagine the high amount of money the group in general spend on takeout? I can cook, and pretty well, too. Sure, I have the occasional takeout, but I can fix quite a few meals, too. Even from scratch.  
  • Changes – I can deal with changes in relationships, hairstyles and even food, among other things. Sheldon cannot. 
  • Bathroom Schedule – I go when I need to. Sheldon needs a schedule. 
  • Diagnosis – I am officially diagnosed autistic (on paper). Sheldon is not diagnosed. At all.  

This is by no means an exhaustive list. So stop comparing me to him.

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How to Choose a Church if Autistic

CONTENT WARNING: Religion, Stigma, “Vaccine Blame” talk 

Many autistic people long for connection with things bigger than themselves. Worship tends to help those who believe in entities such as God.  

I’m going to present Christian examples, simply because that is what I know. Feel free to add your own tips and religious experiences.  

As always, correct me if I’m wrong.  

  1. Openness to Acceptance: Now, this is a hard one to start with, but there must be an acceptance of different kinds of people in the church. In Christianity’s core, Jesus’ mission (and Christians’ by choice of religion) is to “seek and save the lost.” By default, that means you ought to go looking to bring as many people, and as many different people, as you (and God with you) can. That includes the autistic.
  2. Education: Sometimes, a church and its parishioners can be turned toward acceptance by education. I know it’s hard, but educating people about the range and spectrum of autism may be necessary in the course of worship. 
  3. Vaccine Acceptance, Not Blame: Vaccines do not cause autism. End of story. And if they do not accept vaccines for any reason, then walk away. You will be exposing you and yours to debilitating, often deadly and preventable illnesses. 
  4. No Stigma/Shame: A common belief, especially in more legalistic places of worship, is that autism and mental illness are symptoms of moral failing, and that they must be corrected. In Christianity, this is a common theme among religious leaders, that God must be punishing a person with illness and disability. They are often wrong, since there are usually genetic components to these conditions.
  5. Acceptance/Encouragement of Healthy Practices: I once got encouragement from a fellow parishioner to take my required medicines to keep me healthy at church. This is actually good and proper. Medicines are often part of God’s plan to help with illnesses, disabilities and conditions, physical and mental. But, I digress. The point is, stay at a church that encourages good health practices in love.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. Feel free to add more.

My Relationship with the Mask

Masking autism is nothing new to me. There is a public persona, and there is a private persona.  

It’s not to say that nobody wears a mask at some point. I believe everyone wears a mask to hide their pain. The autistic person’s mask, on the other hand, is much more encouraged to be put on because their private persona is literally vilified. They are taught that their private, and therefore true, persona is a weirdo, a freak, and has no place in this world. 

I’m no stranger to this treatment. Even my sweet nephew called me a freak in anger at one time. People throughout my school years taunted me, teased me, mocked me, and finally excluded me. Even people I thought were my friends. In truth, I spent the last day of school walking home. Alone.  

This is why I developed a mask…too late for high school, though. A mask worthy of the so-called compliment “But you don’t look autistic!” A mask made of body fat, smiles and social graces which has caused people not to think I am autistic. Finally, I was accepted, but not happy. I was polite; but I was not real.  

The mask has saved me from countless taunting and exclusion from my peers, for the most part. It has made me a few friends. Until my late thirties my mask was worn firmly on my face, to the point that I did not know where I ended and the mask began. It was as if my mask had taken over and become my skin. 

But the mask has worn out its welcome. It has gotten some sort of sand or gravel behind it and is hurting my face.  

So, by starting this blog, and healing through therapy and support, I have slowly peeled the mask off, along with some layers of dead skin, to heal and develop the thick skin I was supposed to have years ago. I need to get real. I need to heal.  

I am now working on integrating the public and private personae. I have not arrived at the point where I can take the mask of fully yet, but I am getting there. One day, I’ll finally be able to be myself, fully. I will not need a mask anymore.  

Who Defines the “Mildness” of Autism?

I have a confession to make: I used to say I have “mild” autism. It was never “mild” to me, though. I mean, sure, it might be “mild” and invisible to the neurotypicals, but you never know the struggle it is to come up with the right word so as not to be blasted or ostracized for being weird. You don’t know which strange sight, sound or smell will throw me off. You don’t even know how hard it can be for me to communicate for me, either. But you don’t consider me, do you? Autism is one of the few conditions defined by how the non-sufferer (for lack of a better word) experiences it.

Why is that? Why is it that autism is defined by the non-autistic? Is race defined by the privileged? Has anyone even considered that autistic people experience everything differently? That we have a viewpoint that might be valuable? Or are you too busy classifying our viewpoints as worthless simply because we don’t communicate them the way you want us to?

Quickshots – June 15, 2018

Don’t worry – I’ve been working on a few things.

  1. Sarah Jessica Parker admitted “Sex and the City” would be more diverse if made today – I have a few ideas surrounding the casting. Let the arguments begin!
  2. After much “Big Bang Theory” viewing, I have concluded that Sheldon Cooper might just very well be autistic – but as long as the showrunners don’t name autism, they can get away with cruelly mocking autism (am I right, Chuck Lorre and Bill Prady?).
  3. Sometimes, your desire to stay well informed will clash with your need to stay sane.

The Extent of My Autism Accommodations: A Very Short Article.

REGULAR AID:

Disability Income: Roughly $1050 a month. That’s it. (Good thing my mother helps me with her income.)
Medicare with Extra Help: Keeps my medicine payments down to $25. (See below.)

SERVICES I MUST PAY FOR:

Medicines to keep me from dying: $25.
Psychological Therapy: $40. Per appointment. I don’t get this. If I want to eat, I must sacrifice this.

*

Basically, all I get is Basic Disability Income and Extra Help from the Medicare people. That’s it. I pay for everything else to some extent. Any other services are out of my reach financially. Therefore, any other services are useless to me. Any service is useless if you can’t get it.