Hi. I'm an adult with autism.
I magically become invisible at Xmas. Did you know that? My autism is magically erased. Come the chime of midnight 24th all adults are magically cured - until December 27th. Then we magically appear again.
I could forgive this erasure if the same charities managed somehow to realise that New Year might be as stressful for adults with autism as Xmas is for children. But no. No. Then the thoughts turn to how children will deal with all the fireworks at midnight. Nery a thought is given for the half of the 1% who are over 18 at this time of year.
I am genuinely baffled. Because if you think Xmas gets easier the second you turn 18, you're sorely mistaken. Some of us have children - yes, that genetically perpetuated link comes from somewhere - and some of us don't. But it's as if we don't. Don't have children and don't have parents. Children and parents who expect things of us. Things we can't be. Things some of us try to be and fail and in the failing feel desolate and alone.
I am on a group on Facebook populated by adult women with Aspergers. You should see that group right now. If you work with or for people with autism you should be in that group already but I'm gonna take a wild punt and say you're not. Because if you were, you'd be changing your happy little messages about how to help little Johnny through Xmas to include big Johnny too. Since it's a private group I can't speak for everyone else. I can only speak for me. I don't like Xmas.
Why don't I like Xmas?
Imagine you have no control over your facial expressions whilst being eagerly watched for your reaction as you open every present.
Imagine having a processing delay and having to come up with some genuine sounding nicety abut that thing you just opened that has you genuinely wondering if the person sending it has ever even met you.
Imagine getting distracted by the texture of the wrapping paper or the print while all the 'adults' look at you like you're a child. Because you are.
Imagine being routine driven and every routine you have going out the window.
Imagine being quite careful about who you interact with socialially because of energy and people taking it from you then being forced to interact with people that are so irrational that when you get it momentarily wrong will forever remember that moment and refer to it 'jokingly' for every year in the future til you die.
Imagine not understanding the social niceties of the 'last potato' and who should have it and taking people at face value when they say they don't want it.
That last one? That's actually the worst. Because actually, every Xmas day is full of those moments. Moments when there is unspoken tradition. Moments when there is unspoken hierarchy. Moments of unspoken in jokes.
And you know none of them.
This is why today, my husband and I spent most of the day alone playing on the Xbox. It might look and sound sad to you. But actually despite only spending two hours with my mother in law - I count this day as a win. A win because those two tense hours went well. Because I didn't accidentally say anything insulting or wrong. But don't worry. There's still tomorrow when she'll come for dinner. Plenty of time yet for the inevitable discussion to come up as to whether my husband needs helps in the kitchen (he doesn't, he's majorly territorial and wouldn't let me in there if I begged, and if you've ever seen an aspie with timing issues in the kitchen, let me tell you it's not a pretty sight), for her to comment on my weight and me to bite down on explaining the intracies of what EDS does to your body and how it is the gift that keeps on giving, time for me to accidentally misread when she wants to talk and when she doesn't and annoy her by making her miss the bit of the show she really wanted to watch, eat the wrong amount of food or offer food in the wrong order, and finally insult her by misreading her signals as wanting to go home, try and make the right noises to allow her to and watch her face fall as she thinks she's a burden I just want to be rid of.
The thing is, she's not a burden. That's the truly awful thing. I want the company. I'm looking forward to the company. All I'm saying is, it's a mine field. One I could use help with.
But it doesn't matter. It really doesn't. Because I'm an adult with autism and I'm invisible at Xmas.
Oh how I wish it were so.