Would I be Anxious in an Autistic World?
Just as I’ve heard some trans individuals remark that they wouldn’t feel the need for surgery if the world wasn’t gendered in binary terms, I feel that if I didn’t live in a neurotypical world I might not suffer with the mental health conditions I do.
The world has been created for neurotypical humans. Neurotypical means non-autistic/ADHD/atypical. It’s an extremely stressful world for autistic people. When I quit drinking, I discovered I needed medication to keep me stable. I am currently taking Prozac for depression and Pregabalin for anxiety. For twelve years I believe I subconsciously self-medicated with alcohol. When that was stripped away, I was left low and riddled with anxiety. I lost my relationship and gained a lot of perspective about who I was and what I needed in order for my life to feel fulfilled. Everything I thought I’d wanted was forgotten.
When I drank, I fit into the neurotypical world. I wanted to get married and have babies and cohabit and spend time with strangers. I no longer want these things. I need solace. I feel awkward around strangers. Not just a bit uncomfortable. Profoundly wrong. I cannot tolerate it. I cannot cohabit, I can’t fit my life around another person enough to be in a relationship. And babies? I can barely take care of myself. I don’t get through a week without multiple meltdowns. Imagine throwing a baby into that mix. I have grown enough to know what my life needs.
Now I don’t drink, I don’t fit here. It’s painful. I need medication to cope (and still I don’t cope well). I do believe that were I living in a world full of autistic people, I wouldn’t suffer depression and anxiety. Well, the anxiety more than anything. It’s terrible, this constant fear and worry. Inexplicably prevalent in every second of my life. I live in constant fear because the world is so unpredictable and everyone else seems to follow a script I don’t have. Misunderstandings happen most days. Communication difficulties are constant. I’m expected to know what people are feeling by the look on their face. I can’t do that. I have had so many failed friendships and relationships because I was expected to just know there was a problem. If you don’t tell me, I won’t know, no matter how obvious it might be to you. There are some longterm friendships I have lost and still feel broken about today, seven years on. I still don’t know what went wrong. I’ll never get closure and my heart will always break when I think of them.
So, if the world didn’t have these expectations of me. If there wasn’t an invisible script that I am not privy to. If there were no social norms and I could be my true, authentic self. I would not need my meds. I wouldn’t suffer the anxiety I do. The depression and sadness. The addictions, the pain.
Imagine if you had to fit yourself into my world, twenty-four seven. Imagine the exhaustion of routines and structure and obsessions and literal thinking and telling everyone what you were feeling all the time. Would you be depressed and anxious? Would you need to hide away in your bed, safe from a world of frightening people?
No, I might not be anxious in an autistic world. But perhaps I would. I guess I’ll never know. I wish we could tear down some of the social expectations and accept people for who they are. We’re not quite there yet.