Faking neurotypical

It’s been another tough week in Purple land. High levels of anxiety and a general feeling of wrongness led to the inevitable meltdown on Thursday afternoon. I felt like I’d failed, like all the work I’ve put into ‘winning at life’ hasn’t worked and regardless of the effort I ended up sobbing, shouting and out of control.

So I arranged an appointment with someone at my local adult autism service to discuss what happened. Something he said struck a cord and has given me something to think about. He asked whether I was putting pressure on myself to pretend to be neurotypical. Whether perhaps this was making things harder for me. Perhaps I should just say screw it, and be my colourful autistic self, in all my glory.

In an ideal world I think he’s absolutely right. On my blog I’m out, real, totally honest about who I am and what my experience of life is like. In the real world I’m faking it, with varying degrees of success.

The problem is that I care very deeply about what other people think of me. It hurts when people judge me for being different. It’s painful when I leave a conversation feeling like I need to apologise for myself. I talk too much, I interrupt people, I have a compulsive need to share all the information I have about whatever is being discussed. I so want to be likeable but these traits don’t help.

The other issue is that I’m a Mother now, it’s not just me being judged. I don’t want my children to be rejected because their Mum is the odd one who talks to much about inappropriate things and has meltdowns in public. I don’t want them to miss out because of me.

So I’m left trying to fit a round shape into a square box. Watching how other people interact and trying to imitate it, trying to be someone who I’m not. It’s hard work, and I always feel like I’m on my guard lest I slip and ruin the impression I’m trying so hard to make.

What’s the answer? Honestly I’m not sure. If who I am isn’t good enough do I have to sign myself up to a lifetime of faking neurotypical? What about the impact that has on my mental health, the inevitable meltdowns from all the effort? Or do I avoid people at all costs, lock myself away, so I can’t inflict myself on other people and disturb their peace, and then end up feeling lonely and isolated.

Perhaps I’ve been trying too hard. Having only received my diagnosis last June it will take time to figure out what works for me and my family. I need to take smaller steps, perhaps less is more for me socially.