This one isn’t about me.
Today I listened to my dear friend cry, but I was smiling.
I couldn’t express the full extent of my understanding of her experiences she retold over the phone: I could predict them. I was chuffed I had analysed the problem correctly and now my brain was on the search for a solution in the background as she spoke.
The problem is exactly the reason why I write- to raise awareness of the existence of brown autistics. Yes we exist under a blanket of ‘genius’ or ‘gamer’, ‘just unsociable’. For females, it’s a life of being forced to conform, to be ‘proper’, stop asking questions, stop being awkward, abrupt, rude, moody, difficult, bossy.
For the males, the brown parents bow down and accept the autistic tendencies and therefore they don’t see any other way of being. The are just fed their interests and closed them off as just being boys. The need for emotion intelligence is alien. As long as they are good spirited, there really is no need to accept or teach the diversity.
And this was the issue. In the 10 years I knew my friend I seen her husband as being extremely technical, a geek in his own gaming world and no more. I didn’t see much more because his wife was so giving and accommodating. She was blind in her love and hope. Hope for companionship and emotional and social interaction. I was nowhere near beginning my own journey of discovery either. But now that I undeniably accept my own and my sons’ autism, with the curses and blessings, I totally see exactly what she experiences! She experiences an adult version of my teen, who would have grown with no accountability or self awareness. Thankfully I highlight my son’s differences, teach him to love himself with his limitations and enable him to own his autism. What I also do is actively teach him his sister’s point of view or spell out her feelings, and help translate the world around him.
I genuinely didn’t know what to do to make her feel better other than listen, acknowledge her experiences, tell her she is trying her best and it’s not her fault. This didn’t come out years ago because she had the energy and hope but now her mask was falling off.
Normally, it’s us neurodiverse ones who suffer the neurotypical world, but today I seen the other perspective. The only way I can help is by helping her understand the autistic brain, which is unique person to person, so even that is limited.
The biggest issue is his denial of neurodiversity. How do you get a person who doesn’t even acknowledge mental health or states because of his deep rooted misbeliefs stemming from subcontinental culture, to even discuss autism?
We are failing as a community so seriously and dangerously to acknowledge how diverse the spectrum is. For Asians an autistic is only the one who cannot speak and has learning difficulties with obvious behaviour problems. What about the other end of the spectrum? How can I complain about Asians who shun depression when I still struggle educators to shift their mindset about my own offspring.
I don’t want my future daughter in law to cry in despair like my friend did today. All she asked for is empathy, human touch, emotional connection. Unfortunately for her, her spouse isn’t wired like that. Being an Asian wife, she feels she can’t even take a break (yes in 2020) for fear of being blamed because he doesn’t do anything wrong. It would be understood that she is out to ruin her marriage because she takes a stand (oh do I know that feeling).
This experience she gave me highlighted how the world is so different for high end spectrum Asian men than women. (I know this is true for all cultures but more so for Eastern.) I bet if was born a boy, my mother wouldn’t have blamed me so much for my strangeness, apparent rudeness or angry outbursts and meltdowns. My gaming and screen addictions would be normal, my inability to be flexible would be accommodated. Imagine if I stayed in that state all my married life (and I obviously did have my difficulties and meltdowns, but they weren’t tolerated), I wonder if it would have lasted as long as it did.