Creating a Proper Person: Part 1

I’m Autistic.

Yes, I’ve written this so many times before but I need to write it again. You see, all of my life people have made it very clear to me that I’m not what I should be. I don’t act, behave and react as people think I should but what’s more important is that there’s something beyond the obvious verbs, something beyond the activities, that I don’t do in a correct manner. In a normal, human manner. There’s something about me that is wrong. Unrelatable. I’m a human being but not fulfulling this role completely. So what am I? Sub-human?

It’s true that I don’t know how to behave. A long time ago I had intuitive reactions and behaviors but they were punished, so I tried to learn how to be a proper person. I wrote lists with reminders and directions of how to walk, talk, dress and move my hands and face. I rehearsed my actions in my bedroom, in front of a big mirror, but no matter how much I rehearsed, I rarely nailed it on stage.

Interacting with other people has always been mostly like playing a part on a stage. There’s always a critic telling other people how I failed when the lights go off and I leave the room. Or even worse, sometimes people tell me straight to my face how I’m not really relatable at all as a human being to them. The few times I’ve managed to play the part of a human successfully, I got praise and thought that finally, I’ve cracked the code. It always made me terribly exhausted but I remember how on all of those occasions I thought to myself that yes, now I’ve reached my goal and have learned how to be a proper person. Astonished by how people believed what I said and seemed to like and respect the person I had created, I was floating in a sense of happiness. Now, I had managed to become a person that people could be kind to. I was real. The next day was always horrible, because the denial of my reality was always back and I was too exhausted to keep up the person I had to be and instead had meltdowns that made me want to run away from everything and never come back.

Reality is that most of the time I fail to be a proper person and these occasions, where I succeeded, are few. I remember the firs time clearly, because despite the fact that it was a long time ago I feel the feelings over and over. I was eleven years old and for some reason, I had made friends with a girl in school that was popular and considered cool. How this happened is a quite sad story but let’s leave that for now.

One Friday evening, there was a dance in school and we were there. This girl, T, was used to having boyfriends and because she talked to some of the boys in the year above us, so did I. Writing this is still painful because the memories of total confusion are so vivid, but it needs to be put into words. I need to face what happened because the words of one of the boys are still haunting me.

“Are you new in this school?” this boy in the year above us asked me that evening. I wasn’t new. I had been in this school ever since I started school years back, so I told him no. His question was one of the few things that night that didn’t confuse me. I knew that I had finally become a real person so now this group of people noticed me in a positive manner, because the person I had been up to that point wasn’t a complete person. That was a failure. This night, however, I was managing to follow my rehearsed manners and then I suddenly started to exist. This boy’s question confirmed everything I had figured about personhood. He didn’t ask this in the beginning of the evening, but quite late, when we had talked for a while and I had been playing my part successfully for hours. The timing of his question may sound like a minor detail, but it wasn’t. He didn’t ask me this when we first started talking together with my friend. He asked me if I was new when I had been playing my part for enough time to become a real person.

That night, another boy, who happened to be the most popular boy in school, apparently fell in love with me. Probably more felt like claiming me, but that’s another story. A few weeks later, he became my boyfriend but as expected I failed to be a proper person and it ended in a meltdown and years of tears because of everything I couldn’t be.

Considering how I’m feeling now when I have finally put this into words, I’m wondering if I will be able to finish the story that I need to write. The story that has been too deeply buried because of the confusion and shame it still makes me feel. I need to write it, because the robbing of autistic people’s personhood is an ongoing kind of violence that is harming me every time I’m confronted with it, which is every day.

I’ll end this first part here, burning with fever and shame.

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