Part 120: Not My Superpower

Hello, and welcome back to The Autistic Writer. I hope you’ve all had as good a week as possible. My week has been characterised by an uplift in my mood. As the week has gone on, I’ve noticed myself becoming increasingly cheerful and talkative. I kind of expected an uplift post-December; as I’ve mentioned before, the Christmas and New Year period feels to me like an obstacle to be overcome, and once we’re in January it’s like a gentle downward slope to spring. It helps that daylight gets a couple of minutes longer each day. One day this week, I set off to go to work, and noticed a subtle hint of dawn in the sky. It’s nice. This uplift in my mood has occurred despite some stressful stuff happening…

The first stressor is only minor, and somewhat funny. Regular readers will know about my ongoing back problem, which stems from a herniated disc in my spine that led to a pretty traumatic stay in hospital a couple of years ago. The pain has alternately improved and worsened over time, and I find my mobility becoming restricted during flare-ups of pain. It could well be that the reduced mobility played a part in the stressful-but-funny incident Thursday evening…

I was having my usual evening shower. I have a shower-over-bath set-up, with a shower curtain running the length of the tub. As I was getting clean, my feet just slipped from under me. It was probably less than half a second from my feet slipping to my ass hitting the acrylic, but that moment lasted a lifetime as I understood what was happening, and that it was going to hurt. Instinctively, my hands flew outward; one flailing at tiles, the other clutching the curtain. Somehow, I knew I should just let myself relax, and go with the fall, but I still dragged the shower curtain and its pole down with me, along with bottles of various cleaning substances. I hit the tub with a sound like a bomb going off. Then I sat there, panting, waiting for the agony to hit my spine. I must have looked pathetic, all soaped up, on my ass, half-draped in a tangled curtain, the pole at forty-five degrees, and the oblivious shower head still pounding me with hot water. The pain didn’t come, but the damage to my pride was incalculable. “Really?” I said, to no one at all. “Really?” Since then, my back has stiffened up a bit, but I can’t have done any real damage. A friend joked that maybe the impact had knocked my disc back into place, but that sort of luck doesn’t happen to me. What is certain, though, is that I generally have awful physical coordination. I am terribly clumsy, and regularly bang my head, accidentally knock things over, trip over my own feet, etc, etc. Autistic readers will, I’m sure, recognise this as common in autistic people. It’s one of the downsides of being autistic, and one of those things that makes a mockery of the myth that autism is a superpower. More on this, shortly.

The second, and more serious stressor that I’m currently dealing with is buying my new home. After eighteen months of trying, I have now identified my next home, the mortgage is agreed, and conveyancing is in progress. It’s the conveyancing that is pissing me off, primarily. I was warned in advance that this particular conveyancing firm is, shall we say, lacking in quality. I made my decision to go with them due to financial considerations. My communication with the handlers has been by messaging on their client interface website. This is a convenient method for me, as I detest phone calls at the best of times because – as many autistic people will identify with – phone calls make me extremely uncomfortable. However, the method stops being so great when the people at their end seem unable to compose clear, concise and transparent messages. Honestly, their communications have been so vague and unhelpful at times, it infuriates me. The only detailed and clear message I’ve received from them came after I posted a negative review on Trustpilot, which was immediately flagged and escalated to a manager. It shouldn’t really take steps like that to get basic customer service right, should it? Despite all this, I’m excited about owning my own home again. I just can’t wait to be in there, but once the sale completes, there will be some work that needs to be done on the property before I can move in. Budget is an issue; my funds are limited, and I can, unfortunately, see a scenario in which I will be paying both the mortgage on the new house and rent on my current flat while I wait for the work to be completed. That is going to hurt more than landing on my ass in the shower. Onto autism and neurodivergence stuff…

Some time ago, I wrote about how I suspected that ADD (attention deficit disorder) was probably part of my neurodivergence. There were some lingering doubts, but to be honest, those doubts probably had a lot to do with imposter syndrome and denial. Being in denial about aspects of myself because I’ve internalised discriminatory social narratives is something I’m trying to wean myself off, but, as David Bowie once sang, it ain’t easy. After my last week in the workplace, during which I’ve paid close attention to how I function and consciously tried to avoid explaining things away, I can no longer deny the ADD. I need to embrace it in the way I’ve embraced autism. I also need to stop explaining away my dyslexia as typos (more to it than that), and stop pretending my numerical challenges are about missing some school when I was younger. Sometimes, I am flabbergasted that my elements of neurodivergence were not spotted in my childhood. I think it might be because of a kind of halo effect. As a child, I was very verbal and literate, and could always express myself rather eloquently. This gave people the impression that I was highly intelligent for a child. And this created the halo that led people to think I had high levels of ability in lots of areas I actually found rather difficult. People will believe what they will believe. In adulthood, I’ve sometimes been labelled as an underachiever who never realised his potential. These observations have been made by people who have absolutely no idea how hard I was working just to fit in. Well, you know what? Fuck em.

It’s hard work being autistic in this neurotypical world. Some of the difficulties that ride piggyback on autism, along with the other disabling elements of my neurodivergence, really make a lie of that myth of autism being a superpower. The phrase autism is my superpower is sometimes credited to Greta Thunberg. However, in her famous quote, she didn’t actually say that. Here’s what she really said…

A meme showing a photo of Greta Thunberg holding a blank placard. The meme text added to the placard reads: I have Asperger's, and that means I'm sometimes a bit different from the norm.  And, given the right circumstances, being different is a superpower."

It’s hard to argue in principle against the idea that being different, in the right circumstances, can be hugely beneficial. And as far as autism goes, we know that autistic people often have very beneficial differences from non-autistic people in how we think. For example, we tend to think more logically, rely less on heuristics, and have a keen sense of justice. So, you can kind of see what Greta was getting at. But of course, her words and meaning have been twisted beyond recognition, to the extent that if you google the misquote, autism is my superpower, you get this…

A screenshot clipped from a google search of the phrase autism is my superpower.  The google result shows a plethora of merchandsie such as t-shirts using the phrase autism is my superpower.

Yes, you guessed it… merchandise. Because, as I have explained several times on this blog, there is a worldwide, multi-billion dollar industry milking autism and autistic people for all they can. This industry makes money by exploiting public fear of autism. But Darren, I hear you cry, how can calling autism a superpower have anything to do with fear of autism? Well, you have to think about who this merchandise is aimed at. Largely, it’s the families, especially parents and grandparents, of autistic children, and they are reacting against that fear of autism. This is where the warrior mums and dads emerge. But the thing is, autism is not a superpower. Like I said above, it’s hard being autistic in a non-autistic world: A world in which people classed as world experts on autism publish works that portray autistic people as deficient and subhuman. A world in which autistic people are often bullied, tormented, and abused for the crime of being a little different. A world in which autistic children are often put through “therapy” which is so traumatic that in adulthood they suffer from PTSD and sometimes take their own lives. A world in which parents who find out their children are autistic are sometimes encouraged to grieve, as if having an autistic child is like suffering the death of that child. This is just the tip of the iceberg of suffering autistic people are exposed to. I could go on and on (in fact, I do – just look back through my blog posts).

The idea that autism is a superpower has now lodged itself in the public consciousness, where it jostles for space with the autistic people are deficient narrative. How does public opinion resolve the superpower/deficient cognitive dissonance? By applying a nod and a wink to the superpower claim. This means the uninformed will either assume autistic people are Rain Man types, who have virtually superhuman savant abilities but are almost unable to function at a level considered human, or are more generally deficient but deserve a pat on the head and an “Aww, so cute, autism is her superpower,” for trying. Often, the uninformed public will hold the most polarised views on autistic people. I’ve been told by one Twitter user that if I can blog, I can’t possibly be autistic. This person seemingly believes that an autistic person cannot have the ability to express complex thoughts in language…

A screenshot from Twitter, showing a my tweet from July 2022, and a reply from user @QinghuaLi6.  My tweet reads: Before I received my autism diagnosis, I suffered a prolonged mental health crisis, and was (yet again) diagnosed with depression and anxiety, but it was actually autistic burnout. Anyone else go through that process? (I might blog about this.)

The reply reads: If you can blog, that means you are not autism from my point of view.
You are just living your life in your unique way.
As long as you are happy, you're a wonderful human being!"

Love yourself unconditionally as Source does.

Peace & love !

Don’t be fooled by all the fluffy peace and love nonsense in that tweet. This person’s insistence that an autistic person must be too deficient to express themselves in language is an act of hate, intended to consolidate the myth that autistic people are deficient or subhuman.

Let me make myself clear: Autism is not a superpower. Being autistic does come with huge benefits, but also huge drawbacks. Most of the drawbacks are inflicted upon us. This is why I see autism as a disability in the context of the social model of disability. The constant social recycling of autism myths such as autism being a superpower, or autistic people being deficient, is a key cog in the motor of the social model of disability. It is also a boot, of which we autistic people find ourselves beneath the heel.

Before I finish, here’s something related to last week’s blog…

I will never put this blog behind a paywall. I want anyone, anywhere, to be able to access this content at any time. There are costs incurred running this website, however. So if you like what I’m trying to do here, please feel free to show your support with a small contribution via buymeacoffee.com.

A meme showing the blue flag "marked safe from notifier used on social media.  This one reads "marked safe from falling on my ass in the shower today."


That’s all for this week. Until next time, take care.

Darren

You can find The Autistic Writer on all your favourite social media channels


Why Do I Write This Blog?

When I first found out I was autistic, I was a middle-aged adult and I knew nothing about autism.  I quickly learned that there was a serious shortage of information and resources for adults in my situation.  With this blog, I aim to inform about autism and autism-related issues as I learn, hopefully helping people who are on a similar journey of discovery.  Like anyone who writes a blog, I want to reach as many readers as possible; if you like what I’m doing, please share it with your friends and followers.  I will never hide this blog behind a paywall, but running the website does incur costs. If you would like to support, feel free to make a small contribution at BuyMeACoffee.Com.

You might also be interested in David Scothern’s blog, Mortgage Advisor on FIRE, which covers a range of topics including mental health issues and financial independence.


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