Is “Normal” Different for Those with Autism?
Is there a “normal”? Where does that word come from, and how come it has such power?
Statements other people throw at you, such as “That’s not normal.” or “You’re not normal.”, can set you on a downward spiral into a life of isolation and addiction.
Behaviors or habits that divert from the social norm in even the smallest way are now labeled “not normal” and a disorder. The freedom to be unique, eccentric, or just different is almost gone. All the new diagnoses leave little room for you to be you and me to be me.
These days, if you’re different, you have a disorder, and there is a label for you. You get put in a box, and that is now who you are, what you can do, and how you can be expected to behave. My labels are “recovering alcoholic” and “autistic”, not to mention “depressed”, “anxious” and “bi-polar”. For the purposes of this article, I’ll stick with “autistic”. Of all my labels, “autistic” is most truly outside the code of normal.
I looked up the definition of “normal” at http://www.freedictionarydefinitions.com: “conforming to a standard; usual, typical, or expected (of a person) free from physical or mental disorders.”
Well, if we are considered normal when we conform to a usual, typical, or expected standard, we are dependent on “the instruction book of normal” for each community we try to belong to.
And whatever “Book of Normal” people go by, it is usually downloaded at birth and doesn’t exist in hard copy.
Of course, plenty of books discuss social intelligence and provide behavioral guides, and we are welcome to read them and improve.
Still, there is nothing like the original download that gives you the ticket into society and allows you to be one of the normal people, one of the team, one of the group, and one with friends – right from the get-go.
To have that wonderful feeling of being loved and belonging with people who care about you…to have the book, the ticket. Oh, I so wanted that! Instead, I just knew I didn’t belong…anywhere!
Most people have a normal way of behaving, an intuitive way of moving in society, making friends and finding groups to belong to.
The challenges come when you’re not normal, like me, and you don’t have the download, the ticket, and there is nowhere to get one. You feel doomed to be considered different…forever!
You can walk around looking like a question mark, and no one feels motivated to speak with you. Regardless of the reason for gathering, the people you meet will have an untold and often accepted code of behavior that is their guideline for “normal”.
Outside those lines, you are just weird, on a scale from a little different, a little strange…to just plain weird.
However, hang in there. There is hope! I know!
After having been judged and labeled once, I found that there was no restitution or recall on my character. I had made my impression, and even decades later, I still had my label and was treated accordingly.
I have found that few people exhibit the compassion to give you a ticket into their social arena. Few people are interested in giving you space to show your love or to demonstrate that you have healed the reasons that made you who you were…back then!
After people have made up their mind about what they think of you, their most comfortable position is often to keep what they once thought of you alive and stick with that.
Consequently (and here’s that good news I promised), the work is ours to do.
- We can succumb to the norm of normal behaviors, where we don’t fit, and see our Self as only governed by our old labels. We then work desperately to become “one of them” and fail miserably – because we don’t own a copy of the book…
- …or we can say, “Screw it,” and blame “those people” and their evil-ness for our misery and isolation, thus staying stuck in who we are and who we have always been…
- …or! Yes! There is a third choice. We can negotiate our behaviors while staying true to our Self. We can take 100% responsibility for our lives and stop blaming. We can come alive!
We can become willing to take an honest look at our situation, take stock in what we can change, what we want to change, and what we are not willing to change.
We can change within our own standards and without losing our Self.
Imagine if you had the self-esteem, the self-worth, and the self-compassion to put your Self first and judge the world by your standards.
If people do not feel “right” to you, take a closer look. It may not be about you! They may just not be “your people”.
However, be honest about it and go a little deeper. Maybe there is something in your behaviors you could change.
And, if so, become willing to look, not so much for what’s “normal”, but for what’s comfortable…to you!
Who do you like to be around? Who do you want in your life to learn from and help you grow?
How willing are you to take responsibility for your situation and recognize that maybe, just maybe, you have something to do with your own isolation, addictions, anxiety, or depression?
When we work on our Self first, and give our Self a chance to settle into who we want to be, what we want to stand for, and how we want to show up in the world, we can look at what we like about the world, and recognize that we have choices.
We do not need to beg for friendship or belonging. With a healthy sense of Self, we will find our Self in situations that are fertile ground for growing new friendships, discovering new groups of people to join, and finding a new sense of belonging.
Just do you own work first.
We may not have the “Book of Normal” downloaded, and we may come off a little different, but that does not have to be a life sentence of “not normal”!
We can feel the wonderful feeling of being loved. We can feel the comfort of belonging. We can feel okay in our own skin. It’s possible! I know!
I know it’s possible! I have arrived at a place in my life where I am comfortable being me, have a few good friends and belong to a group that holds me as an equal. I have arrived…at a life of Ease and Comfort!
And you can too…be comfortable being you!
If you have any questions about how that is possible, contact me! It’s possible!
To learn more about Eva, go to www.EvaAngvert.com
Call. 510.825.7574 or email me at Eva@EvaAngvert.com