Getting healed?! Further thoughts

A couple of years ago, back when I was an intern at a Christian bookshop, you may remember I had a customer who was dead set on asking God to cure me of Asperger’s. That’s right. I gently explained that it isn’t an illness, or a flaw, and that implying that there is something wrong with the way I am is actually pretty insulting. A crazy thought, I know, but I think I managed to get it across.

What first got me thinking back to this incident was the comments thread on an article I read about autism. People were going off on all sorts of tangents, and I don’t really remember what the article was about. The comment that got my attention was from someone who had a child on the severe end of the spectrum. They mentioned that their child was having a pretty tough time with autism, unable to communicate clearly, and in need of constant care. And their point was that when people talk about how autism is a key part of who they are that doesn’t need fixing, it is actually harmful to people like that child for whom it is nothing but a burden. Because they would have a better life without it.

Wow. That definitely got me questioning my perspective.

Which – in regards to myself – hasn’t changed. AS does mean I have frustrations that many people don’t have to deal with. But if I wasn’t autistic, I would be a different person.

It did, however, pose a question that had never occurred to me before. Autism isn’t actually one thing. It’s a wide spectrum of very different conditions. That much I know. When I explain to people I’m autistic, I’m aware that, to them, that could mean anything. So of course there are people who don’t know how to talk to me, and who are surprised when I don’t always need help. Then on the other end of the spectrum, you have people who constantly struggle in a world that doesn’t meet their needs at all, and who would change it if they could. Is it problematic to label so many different conditions with the same name?

But of course, it’s not even that simple, because whatever end of the spectrum someone falls on, there will be other – often external – factors contributing to their quality of life. A person with Asperger’s may have experienced so much loneliness and isolation growing up, that they would give anything to change. A severely autistic person, on the other hand, may have a pretty comfortable life with just the right support.

So it looks like my reflection on this issue is inconclusive, and I’m sorry if that’s unsatisfying. I also hope there was nothing patronising or condescending about anything I said. If so, I’m more than willing to edit this post. Mostly I just wanted to share a few thoughts I’d never had before, and see how other people feel about this. What are your opinions?

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Getting the bus

Public transport has played a major role throughout my life. In fact, given that I was born abroad, you could argue that without it I wouldn’t be where I am today. Literally. But just lately, it has been finding new ways to have a bit of a joke with me. So I thought I’d return the favour and write a blog post at its expense.

Since March 2018, I have been getting to grips with the bus. Having spent several years taking the train to uni, work experience, and my bookshop internship, I then got a job in a place that was only accessible by road. It still runs on wheels, I thought. How hard can it be?

After insisting to my parents I could get there unaccompanied on day 2 of my job, I then got onto the slower bus – the one I’d been advised NOT to take – and was late for work. Despite this, I was determined that this was just one slip up, and I definitely knew what I was doing now.

The following weeks disproved this. I didn’t realise I had to wave at the driver so I could get on. Or that I had to press a button to get off. I misinterpreted the ever-changing ETA* updates on the signs and gave up on many an incoming bus just because it temporarily disappeared from the sign. At this point, I thought: hey, it’s early days, this time next year, buses will feel just as straightforward as trains.

I’ll be honest – they don’t. Take last week, for example. My bus pass expired and I didn’t have enough cash. When I bought a regular return ticket, the driver was unable to print it, and said if I explained this to the driver on the way back, they’d understand. Come home time, the bus driver I saw refused to let me on without printed evidence. The irony was, this driver seemed unable to print tickets too.

When it’s not ambiguous rules, it’s the actual journey. Like when I sat down on a suspiciously wet, smelly seat. Or when I walked downstairs from the top of a double decker and overheard a bunch of teenagers saying “I would have laughed if she’d fallen over!”.

My most draining journey happened a few weeks ago, when 30 seconds after getting on, the heating broke down, and we were escorted onto another bus. The only downside to this bus was that it violently shook and made an ominous rumbling noise when accelerating, and so it was that we waited another 30 minutes on the A6 until another bus turned up. Choc full of people, with barely enough room to awkwardly stand backwards, not knowing what to hold onto.

By the end of the day, I’d had enough of my usual bus, and went for the slow bus instead. No problems there. But why it was covered with onions, I’ll never know.

Mercifully, it looks like I may be getting some respite from commuting – this coming Sunday, I will be lodging just a 15 minute walk away from work. Don’t get me wrong, I love leaving the house at 7.15 every morning to get two buses that are probably running late and full of screaming children. What’s not to love? I ask, sarcastically. But strangely, this has started to wear thin, so as I get re-accustomed to living away from home, watch this space!

 

 

*Estimated time of arrival