Tag Archives: invisible disabilities

And They Just Keep Coming

Insights, that is. After two or three years reading everything you can find about Asperger’s, and digging up the forgotten aspects of your life as you read, you’d think you know every relevant fact about your relationship with the spectrum. Then you realize, having it shoved in your face by a new source, that an essential part of yourself is so blatantly Aspergian you wonder how you could have overlooked it. Just didn’t make the connection because it didn’t seem that significant? A rampant case of denial?

I didn’t have any negative emotional reactions to discovering that I was on the spectrum. In fact, it was a relief to learn that there were valid reasons for the many ways in which I don’t function according to society’s expectations, so denial is pretty out of character. Most of my Asperger’s traits are more or less invisible, while this one, if you’d known me for a long time, would be clearly visible. But that’s the catch. There’s no one who’s known me for more than a few years, and the evidence is so spread out over the decades that you’d not only have to have known me for all that time, you’d almost have to be an aspie yourself to have noticed it.

So the insights keep coming, though I think some facets of my early life, the ones that would have been identifiers if diagnostic measures had been available at the time, are unrecoverable. It’s been a long time, and memories fade. I also believe that in some areas, I simply didn’t form memories. That made taking the online tests more difficult and added to the length of time it took to persuade myself that I was going about the process of self-diagnosis honestly. How can you answer  questions for which you have no answers? That might be something to take into account if any of those tests are ever revised. Allow for “I don’t know.” Because there’s a lot I don’t know, and I sometimes wish I did.

I’m about halfway through Neurotribes and wish I’d read it much earlier.

Another Face in the Crowd — Face Blindness

My mornings are spent scouring a dozen or so news sites, so I see the same faces over and over again. I’m mildly face blind, so it can take a while for me to associate a face with a name and with the reasons that person is in the news. But one particular face that’s getting a lot of coverage lately has proven almost impossible for me to recognize. Some of the photos show him with bleached blond hair, which alerts me, but others don’t, and I have to read the headline to find out who it is.

I realized just today that he has a face which would probably called handsome by many people. For me, handsome or not, it’s a face that just fades into the crowd, so similar in its features to millions of other men that he might as well not exist. I’m sure I’d learn to recognize him if I knew him personally and had reason to meet him many times. But the first two or three times, he would still be a complete stranger.

Which brings up a point that I’ve never seen discussed: most humans, within particular ethnicities, look very similar to each other. The human face only has a few features, and only a few ways in which those features can arrange themselves. The majority of people you meet in your life aren’t really that different from each other in their looks. What distinguishes them is your ability to discriminate between them on a rather fine basis. For anyone with face blindness, the degree of its severity will determine how well you are able to make those distinctions.

One of the interesting things about actresses (or female actors, to be more politically correct) is how alike most of them appear to me, almost as if there was a template for how actresses should look. To a lesser degree, the same thing is true of male actors.

Watching movies has always been an exercise in frustration because of my inability to keep track of all the characters. The actors (male and female) who appeal to me have one or more features that stand out enough to be recognizable even with changes of makeup and hair style. Unconsciously, I’ve also used voices as another way to keep the actors straight.

Humans like to believe that they are truly individual and unique. It’s a comforting delusion; they are similar not only in looks, but in how they think and behave. Much of society functions on the basis that those similarities are largely predictable and reliable. For anyone who is face blind, that similarity is a lifelong challenge to deal with.

Questions and More Questions

I probably shouldn’t use “meltdown” for how I’m feeling, right now, and all too often, but that really is how it feels when my brain can’t cope with the invisibility of things that are perfectly visible (and obvious) to me. The thing is that I do see things that most people overlook. A lot of that is a form of pattern recognition, and it can take a lot of strange forms that send me off chasing for more information.

I don’t intend to get into politics, but here’s an example from yesterday’s news. I imagine everyone who follows the staggering path of our new “president” is aware that on Saturday, he held a love-in for himself in Florida. And during his speech he talked about the terror attack in Sweden that was apparently going on even as he spoke. Of course the lie hit the news and the internet immediately.

Whoah! Hold on there, folks. Here’s what he actually said:

“When you look at what’s happening in Germany, when you look at what’s happening last night in Sweden — Sweden! Who would believe this? Sweden!”

“They took in large numbers, they’re having problems like they never like they never thought possible,”

Do you see “terror attack” anywhere. I don’t. He merely implied it, and everyone fell for it. As I’m sure he knew they would. I’ve seen any number of posts, articles, tweets, etc., talking about the Swedish terror attack lie, but I haven’t seen one single bit of evidence that anyone realized that’s not what he said. Am I being nitpicky? Not if you can understand that it’s an example of how easily people can be led to believe in something that didn’t happen. I guarantee that anyone you ask will remember Trump saying there was a terror attack going on in Sweden.

So that’s the kind of thing that constantly gets stuck in my craw and gives me mental meltdowns.

Here’s another, much more relevant to anyone on the spectrum. It isn’t something I was looking for; the bits and pieces just accumulated until they formed a pattern and a question. So — why is it that when I Google “autism comorbidities” all I get is information about medical and psychiatric disorders? Because what I’ve noticed over the years is that a lot of the problems people on the spectrum are dealing with are very different. A few years back when I was immersed in my autism learning curve, traits like face blindness, poor executive functioning, auditory and other sensitivities weren’t included in any list of comorbidities.

As far as I’ve been able to discover, they still aren’t. What do they have in common? They’re all pretty much invisible, and problems with them are easily attributed to other causes. Hmm. Could this possibly have anything to do with why, of all people on the spectrum, aspies are the least visible? Why they struggle with mild to severe disabilities that are never diagnosed as part of their aspieness? Why they are so easily brushed off as attention-seeking or just plain fakes?

You gotta wonder. I’d love to know if anyone with an “official” diagnosis was asked about those invisibles. Prove me wrong, or let’s explore it further.