Autism Diagnosis as Scapegoat

One way to oversimplify what it means for me to be autistic is to say that I’m like a “misunderstanding machine”, by which I mean that I am prone to having misunderstandings with people, and this to a much greater degree (i.e. “clinically significant”) than is true for (so-called) normal people. These misunderstandings can take two basic forms, with mixtures common: in the first place, I am prone to misunderstanding others, but in the second place I am also prone to causing others to misunderstand me.

Now, however tempting it may be to reassure me here that “everybody has misunderstandings”, I must respectfully ask you to resist that temptation. One of the potential benefits to both of us of my ASD (autism) diagnosis is that it gives us a handy scapegoat that we can and should (in my opinion) use to mitigate and hopefully resolve these misunderstandings. Whenever such misunderstandings arise, instead of wasting time and energy spinning our wheels in the clay of “whose fault is it?” we can instead simply agree that “autism is a bitch” and focus more productively on resolving the misunderstanding.

I hope that’s useful! 🙂

Image by Hanna333 from Pixabay

I’m Sorry, but My Autism Makes You Seem Like a Moron: Why I Try Not to Stupidity-Shame

I don’t know what my IQ is, but even if it’s perfectly average I figure I’m smarter than half of all human beings. That’s a lot of relatively stupid people I have to cope with on a daily basis, but I try not to whine about it because I figure it serves me right because my own relative stupidity must be dealt with by all of the relatively intelligent people that compose the other half of the population and who have to cope with me on a daily basis.

In the end I guess it all balances out, which is why as a rule I don’t like to make people feel ashamed for being stupider than I am. What’s there to be ashamed of? Relative stupidity is all just part of the Human condition.

But it’s the exceptional rule that has no exceptions at all, and every now and again I will meet someone who really seems to be begging me for just a teaspoon of shame sauce, and in these occasions I like to have on hand a good zinger that can satisfy their craving.

My own version of this makes use of my ASD diagnosis, but the general format can be used with most any condition:

“I’m sorry, but my dyslexia makes you seem like a moron.”

“I beg your pardon, but my ADHD makes you seem kind of dim-witted.”

“Whoa, my hay fever is making you look ridiculous!”

You get the picture.

Hope that’s useful!



‘Doctor Shopping for Validation?’ — Response to an Invalidating Reader Comment

I’d like to respond here to a comment left on my previous post by an anonymous reader. He wrote just one simple question:

“Doctor shopping for validation?”

I don’t know about you, but when I first read this comment I found it quite invalidating, got triggered, and then proceeded to perseverate on it, vacillating between wanting to ignore/delete it entirely and writing some scathing and satirical rebuttal.

But neither of those responses align with my recent therapeutic commitment to strongly favor validation over invalidation in my interactions with others. However unpleasant may be this comment with its implicit accusation that I might actually and deliberately go from doctor to doctor, embracing those who confirm that I’m autistic and rejecting those who don’t, in the end this sort of feedback is a perfect opportunity for me to walk my validation talk.

So, here goes (please let me know what you think, if you like, in the comments below):

For starters, I guess I should have explained in that previous post that the therapist I’ve been seeing for the past two years is starting a private practice and so is leaving his employer — my health care provider.  He’s also taking a few months off so he can work on setting up his new practice and has recommended to me that I continue with this new guy.

So, to answer the basic question: no, I was not doctor shopping for validation. I needed a new therapist and this guy was recommended by my old one.

Also, although I do find his “borderline” theory about my own level of autistickishness invalidating and uncomfortable, in the end I must acknowledge that it’s really never been my primary objective to “be autistic”, whatever that might mean, but rather, to find my place in this world. To find sensible answers to questions such as “what is my purpose in life?” or “where do I fit in Society?” has been my primary objective for as long as I remember, and to this day it remains unanswered.

It is a publicly observable fact that I have never achieved any sort of stable, long-term success in the domains of school, work, friendship, romance/marriage, or fatherhood, and only a person who hasn’t actually observed those facts might claim otherwise.

That’s not to say that I haven’t had significant periods of success. After struggling through my first 12 years of Public Education, and then one very rocky year off for some desperate “soul searching”, I underwent a profound transformation in my understanding of how to self-accommodate in an academic setting, went to college and had a very successful undergraduate career during which I won a scholarship award and completed the requirements for a Bachelor’s Degree in Natural Sciences and Mathematics. In the decades following college, I had one job that lasted 5 years, and several that have lasted somewhere from 3 to 24 months. I’ve been in romantic relationships with women who toughed it out with me for 5 years, 3 years, and most recently 9 years before they just couldn’t take any more of me as a boyfriend/husband. I have one active friendship with a woman who’s been my friend for over 30 years, and only two people in my family seem committed to hating me for the long haul. With everyone else in my family we’ve always managed to resolve our differences.

But these islands of success are surrounded by a great deal of turbulent water. As one general, high-level measure of that turbulence, consider first that over the course of my life, listed in very roughly chronological order with the number of employers who have paid me to do that kind of work following in parentheses, I have had the following kinds of jobs for varying lengths of time and levels of pay:

  1. birthday party magician (3),
  2. greeting card salesman (1),
  3. yard worker/landscaper (5),
  4. golf caddy (1),
  5. snow shoveler (5),
  6. deli sandwich maker (1),
  7. kitchen helper (2),
  8. janitor (2),
  9. car parking attendant (1),
  10. delivery driver (2),
  11. house painter (5),
  12. math/physics tutor (2),
  13. chauffeur (3),
  14. factory worker (1),
  15. school teacher (2),
  16. carpet cleaner (2),
  17. news writer (1),
  18. waiter (1),
  19. ad copy writer (1),
  20. car salesman (1),
  21. multi-level marketer (3),
  22. software developer (10),
  23. telemarketer (1),
  24. stand-up comic (5), and
  25. IT production support analyst (3).

So that’s 25 kinds of work that I’ve done over the course of my life and 64 different employers who have paid me to do it. Since I’m 55 years old and I did my first paid birthday party magic show at about the age of 10, that works out to about 64/45 = 1.42 employer changes per year over the course of my “career”. I don’t know how that number compares with others (you can let me know below in the comments if you’d like), but I doubt anyone would consider it a strong indicator of job stability.

I could provide you with other kinds of measures, like my net worth, the number of times I’ve been fired, how many people never want to see or speak to me again, but because employment is so important to every other aspect of life, I think the fact that I’ve changed jobs nearly one and half times per year for 45 years says enough for now.

Considering just my erratic job history I’m pretty sure even my harshest critics would agree that there’s “something wrong” with me, whatever the cause. They might not believe that I’m actually autistic, or if they do, they might not believe my autism to be especially relevant; they might believe me to be merely lazy or an asshole or an idiot, or some combination thereof; but I don’t think anybody who knows me well enough to have a meaningful opinion on the matter doubts the basic premise that I am some in some important sense a social misfit.

And it is the resolution of this one indisputable problem that is my number one priority, as it has been for as long as I can remember.

Sometimes I like to comfort myself by thinking that my real purpose in life is simply to find my real purpose in life, but to be honest, that seems like a cheap trick.

No, I actually want to find my real real purpose in life, and although I do currently and sincerely believe that my “being autistic” has something very important to do with that purpose, to the point where it makes me feel invalidated and uncomfortable when someone, especially someone like my new therapist questions whether or how much I really “am autistic”, at the end of the day, it’s the facts of the matter that actually matter, and so if I’m not really, as such a matter of fact, autistic, then screw it, I want to know the Truth, and perhaps this new therapist has glimpsed it.

As it turned out, I had a great session with him on Friday afternoon and the subject of my “borderline” autism arose only briefly when he brought it up and even then I chose not to dwell on it or get sidetracked by how I felt about it. The fact is, it honestly seemed to me that we had more interesting matters to discuss.






Image Credit: Pexels on Pixabay

The Autism-Expert Spectrum

I’ve started seeing a new therapist. He’s a Clinical Psychologist, PhD, and although his advertised expertise is in helping people with sleep disorders, chronic pain, and mood and anxiety disorders, apparently his own sister is autistic, and he has a long-standing personal and professional interest in autism, as manifested in his professional training and especially the various autism-related research articles he’s co-authored and published in a variety of peer-reviewed professional journals.

So after interviewing me for 45 minutes last Friday afternoon, this kind gentleman informed me that in his opinion, with regard to my location on the so-called “autism spectrum”, he’s inclined to see me as being near some hypothetical “borderline” (his word), which I understood then and still take to mean that I’m somehow not actually autistic (perhaps like his sister is autistic), but am perhaps, say, merely autistic-ish.

And even though I rather like autistickish[1] to describe myself — hence the name of this blog — somehow I still felt wounded or invalidated by this man’s (initial) assessment of me. It felt like an insult of some sort. In the session I tried not to seem wounded or insulted, and definitely didn’t try to defend myself against the slight, but in the days since I have been somewhat preoccupied with this incident. My mind keeps returning to it, replaying it. I keep trying to figure out what I will say to him about it in our next session. I definitely feel a significant urge to defend myself, which is a key component of the “ultimately self-defeating” lifelong habit #2 that I wrote about in my recent post Validate Unto Others….

Basically, I feel somehow invalidated by him, and now I feel the urge to reciprocate his invalidation. I’ve considered various approaches to this. I might criticize his apparent assumption that a 45 minute interview is long enough to reach some sort of conclusion. In comparison, my initial ASD diagnosis came only at the end of a full day of psychometric tests and interviews, and has since been corroborated by a psychiatrist at a prominent university autism clinic who trains medical students in autism related topics and who has been interviewing me almost monthly for a year and a half.

I might ask him whether he’s afraid that fully endorsing my ASD diagnosis might one day lead to his being accused of fraud by an insurance company. If he is worried about that then the conflict of interest between his wish to help me and his wish to protect himself from ruthless insurance companies could be affecting his judgment.

At the moment my favorite approach would be to postulate first a spectrum of autism expertise that ranges, say, from “has seen a few episodes of The Good Doctor” to the collective of the World’s 100 leading autism researchers; along with a hypothetical “borderline” that separates the real autism experts and everyone else; and then ask him how close he thinks he is to that borderline.

Yeah, that’s the old me. As I explained the other day, I’m committed to changing this habit, which implies that I should really be trying to figure how to validate him in some way.

But at the moment I’m at a loss for how to do that. Let’s call it a “work in progress”.

Suggestions welcome!

[1]I think the k is required in the spelling to clarify that the c in the suffix is hard and not soft as it is in words like mysticism, criticism, ostracism, etc.

Image Credit: hschmider on Pixabay.

My Excuses Made Me Do It

I have lots of excuses, but nobody likes them. In fact, as a rule, the more someone seems to need my excuses, the less he or she will like them.

I find that weird. If I feel upset by someone’s poor behavior or bad judgement, it always makes me feel better if I know their excuses:


“I’m sorry! It’s just that he smells so nice and makes more money than you do. Also, he’s better looking, and makes me feel special.”

“Oh…anything else?”

“He’s a good cook.”


“And he doesn’t make excuses. He takes responsibility for himself. I find that appealing in a man. In fact, I find that appealing in pretty much everybody.”

“I see. Thanks for explaining that. I feel better now about your leaving me for my best friend. In my defense, I don’t actually “make” excuses either. I mean, I have my excuses, but I don’t make them. They’re just there…a built in part of the world, influencing my behavior, pushing me to do some things, blocking me from others. There’s a lot of them. They’re everywhere.”

“Now you’re just making excuses for your excuses.”

“What can I say, the world is complicated.”

“No, you’re complicated.”

“Yeah, I get that from my mom. We can’t choose our parents, can we?”

Image Credit: yourstagedrama on Pixabay

Validate Unto Others…

If you’re interested in the general topic of (in)validation, I recommend What is… Invalidation by blogger Ashley L. Peterson, a.k.a. ashleyleia. Here I mainly want to declare my commitment moving forward to strongly favor validation over invalidation in my interactions with other people. In the last couple of years, thanks to lots of therapy, self-observation, and introspection, I have come to recognize two lifelong habits that I have and which I can see now have been ultimately self-defeating:

  1. I have a compulsion to correct people whenever they say or do something that I think is either factually incorrect, self-harming, or wrong in some way (morally, legally, etc.). I have come to see that despite my best intentions, this kind of other-corrective behavior is usually experienced as invalidating, annoying, hurtful, etc., that it is mostly ineffective, often counter productive, and is essentially an invitation for the other person to invalidate me in return, and is generally corrosive to the relationship.
  2. Whenever someone invalidates me in some way, I tend to respond first by feeling hurt, rejected, anxious, etc. and then I often try to defend myself by invalidating the person who invalidated me, often by getting angry at the person. This in particular has been highly destructive to all kinds of relationships, especially those with romantic partners, bosses, and work colleagues.

Yup. That’s about the size of it for now. Not quite sure how any of that might be useful for you, but I’m putting it out there just in case.

Let me know what you think! 🙂

Image Credit: niekverlaan on Pixabay

So, You’ve Just Been Diagnosed: Please Learn from My Mistake!

I first learned that I have an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) back in 2016 at the age of 53. At first I was skeptical, but I eventually came to see that my doubts were mostly grounded in my own ignorance regarding autism, and somewhat grounded in the fact that many autistic people have huge challenges that make my own seem quite trivial in comparison. That doesn’t mean that I don’t have an ASD, or that my autistic neurology doesn’t create significant challenges for me, but it does mean that I’ll probably never be the subject of any Oscar-winning movies.

For the record, I am also visually impaired, but I don’t need my books written in Braille. My eyeglasses work just fine.

In any case, the last two years of my life have been intense and overwhelming — not just for me but for my family as well — and in retrospect I think a lot of that chaos arose from a single assumption I’d made early on and which turned out to be false: that my medical diagnosis was some sort of credential that automatically entitled me to things like sympathy and respect from others.

I called it my “license to weird”. It was a joke, of course, but only partly so. In my mind I really thought I could just go around telling people that I was autistic and they would automatically know what that meant, accept it as true and subsequently adjust their perception of me in some sort of favorable direction. Maybe they would find me more likable, or maybe more understandable. Maybe they would find my irritability and frustration less irritating and frustrating.

Well, in the past two years I have learned the hard way that this is definitely not the case. Although folks differ widely in their responses, the general principles seem to be that almost nobody understands autism, lots of people flatly refuse to accept the diagnosis as correct or relevant, and telling people that I have an ASD is possibly even more likely to harm my reputation than to improve it.

At it turns out, my ASD diagnosis is really nothing like a “licence to weird”.

I hope that’s helpful!

Image Credit: succo on Pixabay

How to Christmas More Effectively

I’ve never been especially good at Christmas, but I think purely by accident this year I stumbled upon a really effective way to go about it and I can hardly wait to do it again next year! It goes something like this:

  1. Start by pretending that Christmas doesn’t actually exist. This is surprisingly easy for most of the year. Just don’t think or talk about it as much as you can. Don’t try to “get ready” or buy gifts for people in advance. If the topic comes up in conversation blurt out “Oh crap, I just remembered that I have an urgent and very private matter I must attend to immediately,” and then run off like your going to “deal with it”.
  2. As Christmas day draws near it will gradually get more and more difficult to ignore it. When that happens it’s actually better to “go with the flow” and act like you’re really good at it and really looking forward to the big day. Be careful not to lie outright and tell people that you’ve bought some gifts for people, but if anybody asks you can put a sneaky look on your face like you’ve been building a secret gift-cache all along and that the intended recipients are going to feel just thrilled when they see what they’re getting.
  3. During this immediate pre-Christmas phase, you may receive invitations to visit relatives, friends, etc. on either Christmas itself, or maybe Christmas Eve. ALWAYS ACCEPT THESE INVITATIONS CHEERFULLY AND WITH GUSTO. Be sure to ask if there’s anything you can bring. All this enthusiasm is crucial because you don’t want give anybody reason to doubt what happens next.
  4. The day before Christmas — so-called “Christmas Eve” — suddenly fall into a deep depression. Now, if you’re like me, you won’t have to fake this because the very thought of having to spend hours and hours making small talk and probably even arguing with other human beings while having exactly zero gifts to offer them while they’re all exchanging gifts with each other and probably offering gifts to me as well tends to hit me like rhinoceros tranquilizer. For example, Christmas morning this year I had a very hard time crawling out of bed and the thought of talking to or seeing anyone that day left me quite speechless and blind (in a manner of speaking).
  5. Allow your depression to block you from calling or otherwise reaching out to anybody, but when they eventually contact you, be sure to respond but sound lethargic and gloomy when you talk. Explain that you’ve never understood Christmas or how to do it right and that you feel overwhelmed and depressed and just need to be alone. If they ask if you have thoughts of harming yourself reassure them that you don’t and that you’ll feel better once the whole Christmas thing has blown over.
  6. After hanging up, rejoice in your release from your Christmas hassles and spend the day studying Spanish, or doing whatever else you’re into.

Hope that’s useful! 🙂

Disclaimer: although in the above I try to use humor to address what I see as the very real problem of Christmas, the sober fact is that depression and especially suicide are no joke, so if you think you are having a psychiatric crisis and especially if you have thoughts of harming yourself please seek medical attention immediately. You may wish to start with the Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can call them at any time 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255 to speak with a counselor.

Image Credit: Pixabay

How to Vaporize an Ocean of Sympathy

We’ve all been there. You’re struggling with some insurmountable difficulty, other people see you struggling and suddenly you’re overwhelmed with the outpouring of sympathy. It seems to be coming from everywhere and everybody. Everyone that becomes aware of your predicament wants to help out — perhaps with hug, an earnest look, some good advice — God bless’em. In extreme cases they may try to give you canned goods or antibiotics, but before you know it you’re overwhelmed. You’re drowning in a sea of pathos and you just want to feel solid ground under your feet so you can continue your struggle in isolation and despair.

If only there were some easy way to transform that pesky flood of goodwill into a large puff of vapor that would float gently up and away into the sky, thus leaving you free to obsess about your real problem.

Well, guess what? Turns out there is a way to do exactly that. It’s called ingratitude and it really must be if not the fastest then certainly one of the fastest and most effective ways to encourage — dare I say coerce? — even the most fanatical otherwise-would-be sympathizer to buzz off and sympathize with someone, er, more grateful for it.

As it turns out, sympathy is what economists refer to as a “scarce resource”, and folks (all of us) have to make tough choices about how and when and to whom they’re going to allocate that resource. In making those hard decisions one highly favored piece of information they use is whether and how much gratitude is felt and expressed by the sympathy recipient. A total lack of gratitude — a.k.a. ingratitude — is widely interpreted as a cue to go away and sympathize with someone else.

So, there you have it. No longer need you feel overwhelmed by the sympathy others may express when they observe your struggles. Whenever it all gets to be too much, all you need do is express some ingratitude and believe me they will get the message. If they don’t get the message, then it’s probably because you’re holding back in some way. Maybe you’re being too polite. Maybe you don’t want to hurt their feelings. Maybe you don’t want to seem, er, ungrateful?

Hope that’s useful! 🙂

Image Credit: Pixabay

On Disability and the Economics of Sympathy

This appears to be some sort of psychological law:

One can hope for sympathy to the extent that it seems inexpensive and expect antipathy to the extent that it promises to lower the apparent cost of sympathy.

Hope that’s useful!


Image Credit: Pixabay