Friday, August 27, 2010

Autism and Loss of Identity

This is from personal experience. I cannot speak for everyone, but since it happened to me, it's reasonable to think it happens to others.

People with autism are typically very sensitive and can be very fragile. Certain sudden changes in life or environment can be very traumatic. They can result in psychological damage and be very hard to come back from or heal through. Very hard to "let go" of. Damages include PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder), depression and even loss of identity.

Loss of identity is a loss of self and self definition. When I was forced to walk away from a career I loved, it tore away an integral part of me. That career, for all purposes, was "me". Worse, it was a discrimination case, and before I left I was hounded, harassed, degraded, and devalued. My work was made worthless. Imagine having to make a dramatic choice. You can have your hand cut off, or have it beaten to a pulp with a meat tenderizer and then cut off. Your legal rights say you don't have to make that choice. But if you don't, the choice will be made for you. You have no power. That is what it feels like.

And this happens to people all the time, I recognize that. I happens to neurotypical people who've worked their jobs for 20 plus years. That can cause loss of identity too. The point I want you to know is that for someone with autism who depends on things in their life being so controlled and predictable, it's much easier to cross that threshold. It may not take something a neurotypical person would consider life altering at all. That's because perspectives and perceptions are different.

So how did my autism have that affect for my loss of identity? As you may know, autistics often have a special interest that they get engrossed in and stuck on. They may develop this into a special skill. I was tested at a Vocational Rehabilitation office for my work attributes. I've mentioned this before. Anyhow, I made exceptional scores in writing/journalism and protection/law enforcement.

These were already true interests of mine for years. I had worked for security companies and served with a Military Police Unit. I had always, since my youth, wanted to be a detective. When I became an Animal control officer, I actually achieved that to a degree. I investigated offenses involving animals. I was already a trivia nut on animals anyway. So it really was perfect for me. It was so much more than just my source of income.

When something is that much a part of someone, it's very traumatizing to rip it away. The same could be said for an autistic who's life is comic books. If they are that much a part of his life and he's that deeply involved, a fire burning them all could cause a loss of identity. What he knew that he related to himself is gone.

So I think that an autistic person may be at higher risk for such trauma and it may be necessary to understand that. Can we come back from it? Sure, depending on the person. But not everyone comes back at the same pace or to the same degree.

There are kids at risk right now in the school systems. The stories of those bullied even by their teachers. You've seen them in the newspapers. Psychological and sociological damage at that age can shape them forever. You may as well build them high up on a pedestal and then push them off. This is why there needs to be more education, awareness, and understanding. This is why I write.

No comments: