Autism & Normality

There’s that thing people say.

“There’s no such thing as normal”

It is a quote so infuriating and demeaning to me. When people say that I feel that my entire lifetime of disability and discrimination is being discounted. I understand the meaning behind the phrase. Normality is seemingly a social construct, and every single person on this planet is different. I accept this as the truth. But difference and oddity mean two separate things. And what is odd is entirely subjective to each person. So why am I discussing this seemingly unquantifiable subject?

As my readers will know, I am diagnosed with Autistic Spectrum Disorder, it has effected me my whole life and I have been through countless trials and tribulations because of it. It was only when I was diagnosed at the age of twenty that I had even some idea of why I am the way I am. Autism is a condition that effects everyone differently, some of us are mute, some of us are socially awkward, some of us are strictly logical and rigid, some of us are all of that and more. I’m still discovering exactly which parts of myself are due to autism and what is due to outside factors. But as anyone who knows me will tell you, I am highly emotional, and that is the defining factor of my personality. But while I’m not overly logical or rigid in my ways, I’m more of a hot mess than anything else, certain things I do think of in a logical sense. For example when someone dies I don’t feel anything. Autistic people are famous for lacking empathy but that is a misconception, true we have a tendency to be blunt, but I can say as an autistic person I’m extremely empathetic to many different things. But death for me is a simple fact, a logical certainty. So why, with all the other concerns I my life, would I worry about it?

Another way my brain works logically is through classification and judgement. Autistic people are prone to seeing or creating patterns in things most people can’t. I can look at a seemingly tangled bush and pick out entire shapes and images within a few seconds. The same is true for people. I walk down the street and my brain subconsciously will be categorising passers by into a variety of determined factors. I’m not always aware of these factors, but when I focus on them I can figure out certain things, threats, attractiveness, disgust. Basic human instincts. This is something I imagine most people do, for their own safety and interest. But for me it is a very intense process. After all my brain is trying to determine everything that makes a person tick with just a glance. Human beings are so complicated and distilling their entire being down to a few categories is not only impossible but also immoral. I know that I shouldn’t do this, it’s messed up and short sighted. But this is largely subconscious and is ultimately a defence mechanism. I try my best to not be judgemental of people, I don’t know them and I know I can’t fully capture everything about them. Everyone is different.

But despite this, one category I find myself attributing to people is their level of normality. And by that I don’t mean being alternative, trust me, there are plenty of edgy types who are perfectly normal, they just might not see it that way. And there are plenty of people who may appear normal and fine from the outside but are actually deeply unusual. And once again there are outliers. I can assume something and be caught totally wrong about them. Normality, like autism, is a spectrum. So why does the phrase “there’s no such thing as normal” infuriate me so?

It’s a difficult to answer question but I think that when I am categorising these people it comes from a place of loneliness. I’ve never met anyone who can fully comprehend everything I say, do and think. I’ve never met anybody who fully “got” me. I went to a special needs school full of people with autism and even there I was bullied and treated as an outcast. So I think perhaps this all comes from my desire to be understood and recognised. I have family and friends who love me and I love them, but I still feel that they do not fully understand, not that they don’t try to. My categorising of people is ultimately a goal to find someone just as weird as I am. And I know there are people weirder than me, and people more normal than me. I can tell by looking at them, remember? This isn’t an “oh my life is terrible” post. I know that there are people whose struggles I will never understand. I am very privileged and lucky to have what I have in life. But there is a tiny niche that I fit into on the normality scale. And out of 8 billion people on earth, I’ve only ever found myself in that niche. And that is something that breaks me.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this look into my psyche, it’s been very much an exploration of my thoughts so it may seem jumbled. Now? I’m off to bed.

Peace, Love & Cowbells,

Oscar