If you’re a part of the autism community in some way, you’ve probably heard of high-functioning autism, or what used to be known as Asperger’s. Well, that’s technically what I have.
If you have no idea what I’m talking about, basically high-functioning autism means my “symptoms” don’t present as “severely,” meaning I can walk, talk, and do ok in the regular world.
Or, at least, that’s how the regular world sees me…
What high-functioning really means to me is higher stress.
Because I appear “normal” to the rest of the world. There is no way to tell by looking at me that I have a disability. I might seem a little awkward or weird, but not disabled.
That just forces me, and many like me, to put on a mask of normal behaviors, almost as though we are acting any time we are out in public or around anyone but our closest friends and accepting family (if you’re reading this, hopefully you know if you’re a part of that special group!).
In other words, when someone tells me I’m so high-functioning or they question why I have a service dog (spoiler alert: my diagnosis is not your business unless I choose to tell you, kthanxbye!), basically all that tells me is that I’m a great actor.
What that person doesn’t see is how hard I have to work to do what comes easily to most people, things like navigating a grocery store with the bright lights, vivid colors, and people; keeping my living space clean (there’s a reason why I haven’t posted pictures of my apartment to social media at the time this article was published!); or basically doing anything that isn’t just me and Monty sitting at home or being out in nature.
I am very proud of myself for what I have been able to do, not quite winning at life yet, but doing more than surviving for sure. It’s hard enough these days for a lot of people, not to mention throwing that disability in the mix.
So, the next time you see me or someone like me out with their service dog, needing extra help, or not acting “normal,” please remember that we might be struggling with more than you can see and all we really want is to be treated with respect, same as everyone else. If you can do that, you will truly make my day.
Thanks for reading!