Puzzled

I tend to avoid making rather personal posts on a regular basis, but this is different – I almost had a severe case of road rage just twenty (or so) minutes ago.

Now, for the record – and I really cannot stress this enough – I do not have “anger issues” in that sense. I used to have a bit of a “control problem,” where I’d fly off the handle pretty quickly if something got me very irritated very quickly. Used to. Not anymore. Okay? Okay.

Cool.

Anyway, here’s why:

Driving home from dropping off my brother, I was waiting at a traffic light to turn left. Meanwhile, cars were turning the left the other way and thus driving past me. Most are your average Main Line insecurity-mobiles – white Mercedes-Benz GL-class, white Lexus GX-class, white Cadillac ESV, and so on. One was actually dark red, though, and it was a Nissan Armada (which is, of course, just a boxier Lexus GX-class made by a different Japanese carmaker). On the front was a plate that nearly caused the episode of road rage in question.

A standard-enough 6×12″ (~15×30 cm) plate, I guess, but around the border were those insidious “autism awareness” puzzle pieces – and the slogan was easily ten times worse.

“Solve the Puzzle.”

Fuck you.

Seriously, fuck you. 

Fuck your wealthy, entitled lifestyle, fuck your 13 miles-to-the-gallon, fuck your insecurity, fuck your need to appear “caring” or “compassionate,” and most of all, fuck your willful ignorance.

Just…fuck you. Fuck off. Leave us alone, and fuck off.

Stick to what you know – be a trophy wife, be a “philanthropist,” be on the board of trustees of your child’s $45k/yr private school for all I care.

Just fucking STOP pretending to know what autism is.

Fuck. Off.

You aren’t a psychologist. You aren’t a psychiatrist. You aren’t a neuroscientist. You probably aren’t any kind of scientist.

Hell, if you were, you’d know that autism is anything but a “puzzle.”

Scenario: Let’s say you’re a pretentious and wealthy person, born with a silver spoon in your mouth (and possibly another up your arse, if you’re into that), and instilled with all the grace and refinement of your average White Knight™and/or Social Justice Warrior™.

Now, consider the scientifically proven fact that autism spectrum disorders (ASDs, for the sake of simplicity) are directly related to certain genetic deletions that can be observed in utero.

Obviously not all cases of autism are caused by such deletions, and – as the above-referenced article mentions – nor do these deletions necessarily indicate or preclude a diagnosis.

By this incredibly fucked-up logic, you may as well also join the (ideally non-existent) causes searching for a “cure” for Down Syndrome, Tay-Sachs, Sickle-Cell Anemia, Cystic Fibrosis, and even colour-blindness.

All are caused by genetic deletions and are observable in utero. If you think there’s a possibility of “curing” any of these, do the world a favour and take some actual fucking science classes.

We don’t need scientifically-illiterate people trying to “help” us. If we thought that was a decent idea, we’d go talk to Congress.

A decade or so ago, we hardly even had this sort of “awareness” movement looking for a “cure” – oh, you didn’t know GATTACA was fiction? Aw, poor sheltered baby. 😉

Must be nice in upper-class America. I hear you don’t even pay taxes! I mean, I don’t believe that because I don’t worship Chief Drone Captain Obama as a god, but y’know…I’ve heard.

Um. Anyway…

I am not a fucking puzzle. I will no longer tolerate this form of patronising and overtly discriminatory (read: ableist) treatment that has become so pervasive in our supposedly-enlightened culture and society.

I have had enough.

If you truly believe I’m less than human because my brain doesn’t work quite like yours, that’s fine – as long as you’re open to having that absurd viewpoint challenged. If not, you’re no better than your average Catholic, and that’s pretty fucking bad.

I’ll be the first to say that my brain doesn’t function the same way yours does (unless you have AS too, in which case it probably does, and thanks for reading my blog by the way). Believe me, this has been my life as long as I can accurately remember – I was never like other boys at school, and (surprise!) it’s not just because I liked other boys at school.

The point is that we aren’t totally fucking clueless as to why autism is a thing. We have science, you know. Granted, the “Awareness” movement hasn’t historically been a fan of science, but then again, most of the socially-regressive white-saviour benevolently-intolerant contingent are willfully ignorant of any advance that challenges their perceptions. Hence 9/11 “truthers,” anti-vaxxers, and flat-earthers exist.

This is the world in which we live – rife with science-deniers and (even worse) those who would sooner legislate ignorance than broaden their own knowledge.

I hope the far-right is happy.

— JB

If you have any of those stupid fucking “puzzle-piece” stickers, magnets, license plates, or anything in your possession – especially on your car – please do the entire ASD community a huge favour and throw them the fuck away. Thank you.

It’s Official.

This also began as a wall post, but it should probably be longer and better-formatted, so now it’s a blog post as well. 🙂

I got officially diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome today, in addition to GAD and ADHD-NOS, as well as dysthymia, a term I’ve not even heard before. The description fits, though. My parents and I were pleased to see the evaluation noted I exhibit many fewer physiological signs of depression than I said I used to, probably because I now have a job and a girlfriend and (soon) a car.

I’m 21 and left college in December because I just cannot handle it, and I have no plans to go back. I was failing anyway, oops. But I get the impression I’m not all that different from lots of Aspies in that I may not be good in an academic environment, but my intelligence scores are well above average. I work as a computer repair technician and logistics/customer service kinda deal for a major retail chain, and have gotten nothing but praise and even thank-yous after only three months working here! It’s satisfying to have finally found something I’m good at, but goodness it’s stressful. I’m not about to invoke the ADA in getting them to exempt me from being customer-facing, since I’m technically not supposed to be anyway, but that’s not a big deal.

I’m just wondering about a lot of stuff, since despite having lived with AS all my life, I find I’m actually a little out-of-touch with the “Aspie experience,” or what you will.

I wonder where I’ll go from here. I don’t feel as though anything has changed, at all, since really nothing has changed, but I can’t help feeling like I’m somehow going to be treated differently from now on. Perhaps better. We’ll see.

Aspie McAsperger Goes to Work

What follows actually began as a comment on the Facebook page Asperger’s Awareness Community, but as you can see, quickly spiraled and rambled into, uh, this. So I wrote/talked too much. What else is new?

I work for Geek Squad, which is good because I am a computer technician and have been my last two or three jobs (one was a summer stint, dunno if you’d count that). I’ve never been fired or even really “written up,” but I have a bit of a tardiness problem. Pretty sure that’s traffic and not AS, though. But if it’s ok, I hope you have time for a little story…

I am extraordinarily lucky to have very understanding co-workers and a laid-back boss. All that matters is that customers are satisfied, profit is good (and exists), and we are following 100% of the rules. It’s a very structured and detail-oriented (but not unbearably strict) work environment, which I really like, and also happen to prefer.

But the only reason my co-workers even KNOW I have AS is because I had a complete emotional meltdown one day after a very rude woman said something to her wife with clear intentions of me hearing; essentially implying I didn’t know what I was doing because I’m an Aspie. For the record, they were demanding (not asking) that I do something we don’t actually do, so I said I can’t open up their computer without charging for labor. It took til I went back to the area customers don’t see and sat down for the panic to set in, and worst of all, my shift was only halfway over.

Instead of being confused or unsympathetic, my co-workers who noticed were actually very understanding, telling me their own retail horror stories and experiences that helped them be more thick-skinned. My boss is Jamaican, complete with long dreadlocks, and told me the Jamaican philosophy is “you can say whatever you want to me, but if you touch me, we got a problem.” He also told me about a girl who worked here years ago who was also very timid and easily upset at first, but is now in the Navy.

For the record, I’m pretty young; I’m actually only 20 (21 in a week!!) and my co-workers are all around 30 with one exception. My youngest co-worker is my age and also happens to be a friend of mine I knew before I worked here. His best friend is an Aspie, so he not only knows all about it but also can tell me what to avoid here!

Now everybody is very sensitive to my triggers. I hope it doesn’t get to be too much, since I’m actually pretty bold and daring sometimes. For instance, I have no problem whatsoever dealing with customers who are polite and respectful. Problem is we don’t get many of those. Your guess is as good as mine.

Normally, I’m in the back hiding from customers! Not really, though…I do shipping and logistical stuff, and also call and/or e-mail people when their device(s) are fixed in-store or come back from the service center. Oh and I work on Macs and whatever other computers are back there. I’m technically a “dual-zone agent”. Luckily, shipping is a great thing for someone like me. It’s predictable, it’s repetitive in just the right way, and it’s satisfying because it’s important and I know I’m making things run more smoothly. If our turnaround time goes down, then our district manager is happy and Corporate is happy, which makes us happy because we stop being told our numbers “aren’t bad, really, but they could be better.”

I dropped out of college because I couldn’t handle it in any way, social or academic and anything in between. I was terrified I’d be unemployable because of EVERYTHING wrong with me (did I mention speech impediment, stutter, extreme anxiety and panic disorder, clinical depression, and ADHD? oops now I did) but it turns out I just need to do something I enjoy without having to deal with people, ideally ever.

I actually was (and most of the time, am) terrified of phones ringing. I’m not sure if it’s the prospect of having to talk to people, or if it’s literally the sound itself, but I really don’t like it. I jump and/or flinch and my heart skips a beat and I totally lose focus on whatever I was doing. Not good. Lately I’ve been getting better, though. I can call people with almost no issues now! I still stutter, probably, and I’m terrible at answering questions quickly and confidently, but then again I’m not particularly good at doing anything confidently…

I do shipping, I do logistics, I take preventative measures to help stop the store from losing money (I’ve saved us about $1000 in expenses thus far, but it’s hard to describe how and why because unless you work for Best Buy you might not get it) and I call people. I also do data backups, fix Macs, and work on the units in for software repair (virus removals and the like). Basically anything that goes on in the back, I cover! I’m obviously not the only one (though this weekend I was!) but I am technically THE shipping/receiving person and lately have gotten very efficient and expedient! Oh also, as an Aspie I have a great head for numbers (explains the consistent Fs in math, no?) and so remembering a service order number like 982302582…and three others simultaneously…is not hard. I can associate the number with the name of the person, I can pull out paperwork (or file it away) with ease, and I keep things super organized. My boss especially appreciates the organizing, since one of the first things he said to me on my first day of work was “I’m really OCD.” Or “I’m really anal.” Seriously. All the boxes have to be stacked a certain way, with the tape lined up just so, and they must be stacked perfectly, one on top of another. And the stapler should always be right HERE and the phone must be HERE and so on and so forth. I know his meticulous organization seems excessive to some people, but it’s totally normal to me! XD

If I can’t find the damn packing tape, it irks me…it’s like people stealing my stuff…except not really, but kind of actually though.

But I can’t deal with customers. Oh goodness no. Please, anything but customer service.

The only way my job could be better is if I had my very own office with a door I could close (but not lock, because that’s kind of rude) and a phone that could make outgoing calls ONLY (is there such a thing?!) but that’s not happening because it’s a silly idea and Best Buy isn’t quite laid out like that…nice thought though…

Sine Wave Reality

Sometimes, I wish it was even remotely acceptable to say “Sorry, my autism is acting up.”

See, that’s not really a thing. At all. It doesn’t flare up or die down, it doesn’t spread to other body parts, and it certainly doesn’t go into remission. It’s just always there.

But I view Asperger’s Syndrome, as well as autism and ASDs in general, as subtractive conditions, as opposed to additive ones. Granted, “additive conditions” are more commonly referred to as “beneficial genetic mutations” or simply “evolutionary traits.” It stands to reason, though, that a kid with polydactyly who has a fully formed and functional “extra pinky” on each hand might be able to do things on piano or violin or guitar that most people cannot. But most conditions, especially those on the autism spectrum, do not add tangible benefits so much as they subtract from what is generally accepted to be neuro-typical brain function.

Indeed, most (possibly all) currently diagnosable mental conditions are subtractive in nature. After all, you’re likely not to notice something is there until it’s missing. Did you wake up this morning and think “wow, I feel healthy?” Probably not, but if you were in fact ill, you’d almost certainly think “wow, I feel like shit.”

Asperger’s Syndrome, or AS, like everything the general public doesn’t understand one bit, manifests itself differently in every person* who has it. Some are very withdrawn (my friend Ivan**) while others make extra effort to live behind a hugely extroverted, often larger-than-life façade in attempts to “blend in” (this girl I knew in college).

In my case, it comes and goes. Some days, it’s more noticeable than others. Since AS is like a non-removable filter for emotions right before they are displayed, the degree to which mine is apparent is influenced by the same kinds of things that generally impact or affect all peoples’ moods:

  • amount of sleep I got / have been getting recently
  • hunger
  • hydration
  • stuff I’m worrying about
  • how people treat me
  • proximity of cat(s)

So pretty much, if I have a decent amount of energy, I’ll be able to make it pretty far.

It took my boss and co-workers nearly two months to learn I have autism, although they found out (from me) by accident when I had an emotional breakdown after an extremely rude lesbian couple said “this Aspie doesn’t know what he’s doing.” Context: I had told them that I can’t simply unscrew their laptop and remove the battery in a consultation (because that is labor, and a consultation is free). They were demanding from the moment they walked in (“Can you help us? Please fix this. It’s our only computer and it’s extremely important!”) but right off the bat I knew I didn’t owe them jack shit. Extremely important? Only computer? No warranty, coverage, or support plan to speak of?! Fuck off and go learn how to set a better example for your two young children so that people will be more willing to let queers adopt legally.

Other times, nothing fazes me at all. Sure, things anger me, but surprisingly little upsets me. You can call me a bunch of gay slurs, but I won’t have a breakdown. I’ll get more and more angry, which is admittedly a problem in itself, but I’m not actually gay, so go fuck yourself. But everybody has something they’re sensitive about. It’s not necessarily something immutable about their identity, either. Obviously, you should never use the “n” word around a black person anybody, but I’ve known plenty of blacks who joked about not being able to see them at night unless they smile and stuff like that. I worked with a guy once who was confined to a wheelchair for some sort of physical developmental defect, and he made “cripple” jokes fairly often, probably because he found our sometimes visible discomfort very amusing. I’d probably do the same thing, to be honest…

But you should never, ever make light of something about which the person is very upset or depressed. If your black friend is worried about being harshly profiled, the correct response is not “haha let’s see what they think if I’m also wearing a dark hoodie and sweats!” A Marine who lost his leg(s) in Afghanistan is not a good choice for Lt. Dan jokes. And so on.

But it’s a double-edged sword. If my AS were not as visible as it happens to be at times, people might not even believe I have it, as was the case with a longtime friend of mine when I told her. And on the flip side, when I do feel a bit more encumbered than usual, I seem to notice more and more instances of people simply not being sensitive to my various triggers.

It’s a sine wave, and I’ll explain what the hell I mean by that sometime in the future.

* I object to the use of the term “patient” in this context. It’s not an illness or a disease!

** Referenced with permission! Ivan will soon write his own blog detailing his own unique experiences.