June 24, 2021

The disparity of autism

By rosieweldon

My life is a life of extremes, and quite honestly heart-breaking extremes. When it comes to education and work, I can get by with reasonable adjustments because both of those environments can adapt to my needs. University gave me a disability mentor to help me communicate and ask for adjustments from lecturers. My boss created a job role specifically around my needs.

I can balance accounts but can’t balance a baking tray without burning myself. I can find a break in data but can’t find the right gap to cross a road. I can write an email analysing numbers but can’t tell a waiter I want orange juice.

I need day-to-day help the most basic things. When I’m studying and working, I feel like an adult. I feel confident in my abilities and capable of adding value to a situation. Outside of work I feel useless and a burden. Someone who needs constant help to do the little things.

It’s almost like my own brain can’t put the two together. The two versions of able and unable. Capable and incapable. It is so hard to switch from feeling like I can do something to being unable to just function as an adult. I can’t just do stuff. And I never will be able to. Basic human needs like cooking I just can’t do. A stranger talking to me might as well speak another language for all it means to me. If you send me an email about accounts I’ll understand it but ask me where the car park is and I will stare at you blankly. It doesn’t mean anything to me, I don’t get it. Though walk away and give me five minutes, I might just realise what you said.

Writing emails, I’m an adult. Face to face I’m a deer in the headlights. A child unable. Useless.

This is all made so much worse when people hold up the first, and say it proves I can do the second. To say I can write emails on accounts so I can function is frustrating beyond belief. I know it doesn’t make sense. It is a disparity I have to live with every day. Being simultaneously capable of things others can’t do (understanding accounts), yet incapable of things any functioning adult can do.

It is no wonder autistic people, myself included, struggle with self-worth. How am I ever going to find peace with the fact I can’t do basic stuff but can do some more complicated things? Would I trade my academic ability for functioning ability? Yes, in a heartbeat. I hate needing people to just get from one day to the next. I’d give anything to just not need people for the basic things. The things other people can just do.

To see the look in people’s eyes when you say you can’t do it. They don’t understand, not really. The accountant that can’t cook. The accountant that can’t get themselves to sleep without a whole thing around it. The accountant that can’t talk to people or go pick the kids up from school. The accountant that can’t actually do anything helpful.

Sometimes I wonder if it would be easier to just struggle with everything. To be unable to work so I would get more support day to day without judgement. Without calls of, ‘but you can do that so why can’t you do this?’

I will always need help with basic day to day things. Being an accountant doesn’t change that. Having a degree, doesn’t change that. I wish it did. My degree or job don’t stop the meltdowns. They don’t stop the sensory overload. They don’t make my brain capable of processing verbal information.

I detest that I am so capable in some areas and so fundamentally incapable in so many basic ones.

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