(Un)Disclosing Autism in the Workplaceby AspieKid, aspiekid.net
October 21st 2012
I was bullied a lot during several periods of my childhood. I had no idea why. I never did anything to any of those people. None of them had anything to prove to me. Many of them didn’t even know me. And I used to wonder and worry about it so much. It was like they were intentionally trying to ruin my childhood. Childhood is such an important time in a person’s life, and mine was mostly destroyed by people who had less interest in living their own lives than ruining mine. I often wonder how I would have turned out if I had been allowed to have a happy and peaceful childhood. I’ll never know.
And it wasn’t just the bullies. Everyone in my life seemed to be in on the conspiracy. My parents forced me to go to school, under the pretext that I was getting an education there. But I never felt like I learned much in such an environment. My teachers thought I was weird and looked the other way when kids picked on me, even when they became physically violent with me. Nobody cared. I was on my own. And if I ever fought back, then I was the one accused of being the violent person. I had no one I could turn to and nobody, not even my parents, seemed to care or even believe me. It caused a lot of confusion and mental anguish.
As an adult, I often think back to those times, trying to somehow understand it all. Why did it happen? What did those kids get out of doing all that stuff to me? Are they in better positions in life because they bullied me when we were all kids? I still don’t get it. But I understand society better now than I did when I was a kid and I think it is partly because of societal competition. People pick on the most vulnerable, so they can legitimize their position in the social hierarchy. I never understood why we need a social hierarchy at all. Societal competition is a product of the neurotypical world. I never wanted anything to do with it.
Workplaces are just like schools. Everybody competes to make it to the top. I never watch TV, but my brother tells me about a show called Survivor. Have you heard of it? I know nothing about it. But it sounds exactly the way most schools and workplaces seem to me. I don’t feel like autistics are a problem in society at all. I feel like it is the cutthroat dog-eat-dog neurotypical part of society that is the real problem. As a matter of fact, I honestly believe that neurotypical behavior will some day drive the human species to extinction. Not to generalize too much, because I have had some great neurotypical friends. But unfortunately the nice neurotypicals do not represent the majority, at least not in the United States where I live. The workplace setting seems no better than the schools where people were free to bully me with impunity. Most people delude themselves into thinking they have matured and grown up, but most of them are no more mature than they were when they were 8. Who are they trying to fool?
I found a way to make it through all of that somehow. I figured out how to find my own little corner in most workplaces where I can be productive and earn a little income. I see all of the competition in the workplaces and I am careful to stay out of it. I don’t want to revisit the events of my childhood, especially not now that it is my career. Decades after all of that happened to me, I still live with the confusion from it. I still know that there are people out there who committed crimes against me who will never be brought to justice. I know what it is like to be a Jew growing up in a society of Nazis. The people who say that competition is somehow good for society are, quite frankly, insane. Societies collapse because of competition. Societies thrive when there is cooperation. As long as we insist on having this highly competitive society, then I will insist that I be left out of it.
A few months ago, only a couple of miles from where I live, a guy walked into a movie theater and started shooting people. He hasn’t been cooperating with the investigators and has refused to discuss his motive. But we do know that he was in a PhD program at one of the most competitive universities in the United States, had failed an important exam and dropped out of the program. Is this what competition does to people? When our society forces people to prove they are better than others and puts their career, their means of survival on the line if they fail, isn’t society partly to blame for these events? And one irresponsible and unprofessional journalist, whose disgraced name is not worth mentioning here, had the nerve to suggest that the shooter must have been autistic. Even after such a tragedy, a neurotypical journalist had the nerve to exploit the shooting in order to wage more war against autistics. Hatred prevails. The war never ends.
I don’t want to be a part of that war anymore. I don’t want to be one of the people on Survivor. Anything I say in a workplace can and will be used against me. So I exercise my right to remain silent. After a statement is made, there is no way to take it back. The cat is out of the bag at that point. Rumors spread. People gain each other’s trust only to stab each other in the back. I’ve seen it happen many times. People in my industry talk to each other. They pass information from recruiter to recruiter. How could I ever deal with the fallout from telling coworkers or a boss that I am on the autism spectrum? I would have no way to control it. And everyone is looking for a way to climb on top of each other so they can get ahead. Some of them will destroy your life just to prove they can do it. I don’t need any more of that. I don’t want to give people ammunition they can use against me. I would rather be left out of the societal war. So I remain a closet autistic in the workplace.
Autism acceptance is up to neurotypicals. It is not something that autistics should have to beg for. Neurotypical behavior and attitudes have to change. Not the other way around.
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