My German barber, Herr Kutz, has shown real interest in the range of developmental disorders within the autistic spectrum, since my diagnosis. Their level of severity is as variable, too. ‘They are recognisable, though’, he concluded, ‘within definable boundaries unlike the myriad of differences among everyone else outside of the spectrum.’ Wow, he speaks my language.
And so, the conversation moved to how variable is the level of independence shown by individuals within and without the spectrum. ‘A great deal of it is not just one’s ability to be independent but one’s desire to be independent – then there’s the definition of what counts for independence’ He said. A moot point here in Scotland, as the Independence Referendum approaches rapidly.
The final straw that had left me too affected by stress to maintain my hard-won independence was put onto me by deliberate and unfair treatment within my workplace, and in the intervening period I’ve met many people sharing similar experience. The outcome for me eventually was to explain a lifetime of coping with stress to achieve fairly simple tasks. But achieve them I did and being robbed of that ability, albeit temporarily, is, for me unforgiveable. It was ‘normal’ for numerous people to stand by and watch, out of fear that to speak out would invite the same treatment for them.
We’re seeing the results of such behaviour over decades throughout the UK, just now, and consternation at the way we have all been let down by those we entrust with our protection. We have all been let down at every level because it is normal to keep quiet and to allow ‘it’ to continue. The few who speak out can expect to be the ones to be punished and rejected until the revelations become saleable news items, and then they may be praised for their bravery and tenacity.
There’s the real independence debate. The clarity of the pertinent facts makes this a far more pressing debate on independence than a division of nations that will cut deep for years to come, while the bossies seek to become ever bigger fish in a smaller pond. The money that the Independence Referendum is costing could be used to ensure that our elected leaders and public services deliver as they’re meant to, within agreed protocols that are actually followed, then we can be sure they actually earn the respect they assume as taken for granted.
So how does this all link together? Well, following my diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome I attended a nine week course to learn about autism and how it might manifest in my life. In the beginning, after the initial relief, it was a shocking and distressing revelation to me, not least in realising how much I’d endured in trying to do ‘normal’. Mixing that with my strong sense of justice and speaking out against wrongdoing – a common trait of my condition – I found it hard to accept that this means I have a disability but worse was yet to come. I learned that however strong the desire to stay away from people – especially the many who’ve sought to hurt me – I cannot go through life without encountering people. I have to face interaction for real – not just passing off an ability to cope.
I came to understand that independence is very much a personal state of being. I’ve often expected people would ‘do the right thing’ but that is too open to interpretation and people will seek out an interpretation to justify doing what they, alone want however it is described. That has led to real disappointment in people I thought I could respect previously. The reality is that to achieve independence you have to be prepared to be independent. You must be prepared to walk away from what is disagreeable to you and doing so will mean walking away from much that is agreeable to you. I was prepared to go away from everyone, but saw that wasn’t possible realistically; I would always have to deal with someone, somewhere at some point.
But we need our support systems. We can be proud of what we are and who we are, only if we stand up for what is good, true and fair without proviso. Achieve a balance of that in your life and you can truly claim to be independent, wherever you may find yourself. Well I’m here in Scotland, in Glasgow where it is said that ‘People Make Glasgow’ and do they ever? I’m glad I hung around and sought out help to survive people. It required people to achieve this and a lot of new learning. I am learning about myself more than ever and value what I have to be proud of and proud of standing up for what I value. That has been a threat to those who would be exposed and I now understand their treatment of me. But the cat is out of the bag, now, and cats are known for their many lives. The rest is now down to me – ow.