I normally avoid the term ‘high-functioning autism’ when talking about my condition. I don’t really understand what it means in practice. According to Wikipedia, it just means someone who has autism without an accompanying learning disability.
My main problem with the term (other than its relative meaninglessness) is its implications. To me, someone who is ‘high-functioning’ is someone who can cope well with what life throws at them; someone who could, at least on the surface, ‘pass’ for someone without the condition.
That doesn’t feel a great deal like me at the moment.
People keep telling me I’m coping well with the stress I’m under in my personal life. They don’t see me with the mask off.
They don’t see me having an hour-long meltdown because I’ve had to make a fairly standard telephone call.
They don’t realise that I haven’t had a hot meal in about a month, because I can’t get myself organised enough to wash dishes and prepare food. Or that I’ve never yet managed to clean my flat without assistance, even though I’ve been living alone for over a decade.
They don’t know that, every night when I get home from work, I shut down for at least two hours because I am so exhausted and overwhelmed by everything that all I can do is lie there, somewhere between sleeping and waking; tears pouring down my face because I am too tired to stop them.
They don’t hear my screams every time I am interrupted by the telephone ringing, because it disturbs my script and intrudes into what should be a place of safety. And they don’t see the bruises where I’ve attacked myself to make the intrusion go away.
To the outside world, I probably do seem to be coping. I generally manage to hide my emotions until I’m away from people. I maintain basic personal hygiene (although that’s sometimes its own struggle) and normally manage to engage with people to the extent necessary.
They can’t tell how isolated I really am; that there is no-one to reach out to when things become too much; that the isolation has affected me to such an extent that I’ve tried to kill myself three times this year.
I’m coming to the realisation that I need more help and support than I’m getting. I just don’t know who to ask, or if help would even be available.
Because the truth is that I’m not coping. At all.
Admitting it is a different matter entirely.