I do get tired of this pernicious myth that autistic individuals are cold and unemotional.

First published in August 2020.

Twitter – @AnnMemmott

First off, when people talk about the autistic spectrum it is not just a straight line you can grade someone on. It is more like a pick and mix selection, except we don’t get to pick.

How often do you cry? Let’s see. I broke down in tears last night watching a sodding cartoon. I didn’t when having to research torture methods used against refugees, with pictures and videos, earlier in the day. Why? Because things build up. It is not that we aren’t emotional though.

I can only ever speak from personal experience. I would never dream of saying “this is what autism is”, because it is so varied and people have different traits. There is no one size fits all.

I do get tired of this pernicious myth that autistic individuals – and, again, this is a term some use, some don’t – are cold and unemotional. Just because we express emotions in a different way, it doesn’t mean we don’t have any.

As for the ‘What are you afraid of?’ question... Damn, everything, but I deal with it. I risk assess everything and I am hyper aware of my surroundings. Stick me in a situation where there is immediate risk and I am great, because what I normally worry about is right in front of me.

When there isn’t pressure on, though, I will be assessing the chances of global threats. Are my wife and daughter safe driving to the supermarket? Will that double glazed window suddenly explode inwards for no apparent reason? You name it, I have probably thought about it.

Do I necessarily show that fear? Of course not, because it is so bloody overwhelming at times, as with emotions, that the only way I can deal with it is by shutting down and coming across as cold and logical. That’s the issue here for me.

I am not ‘unemotional’. I laugh, a lot, I cry, a lot, and few people will ever see it beyond my wife and some very close friends, because over the years I have gotten better at burying it. When my emotions do come out, woah boy, because they have built up.

Part of my issue is I don’t understand them. Forget being autistic for a second. I was brought up to believe that men didn’t cry. You were scared? “Man up.” You didn’t, then you were taught to “toughen up”, or at the very least duck if you were fast enough to avoid the fist.

So, if the researchers want to know “what I am feeling right now”...

Angry, that you think you can pigeon hole people based on a few questions and treat them like Spock.

Hurt, that people still see me as some kind of freak when all it takes is a little understanding.

I couldn’t do what I do if I showed emotion at every hideous and messed up thing that I see. I couldn’t have been a journalist, in the days when I was in the situations I was, if I got over emotional and fearful at every situation. Stop treating us as if we are computers.

Oh... and as an addendum, if you don’t think I can be emotional because I am autistic you should see me right at the moment. I have got the wind howling outside, I am working on difficult stuff and I have just read a Twitter thread saying I am the f**king Borg.

Believe me, I am emotional.🔷

[This piece was first published as a Twitter thread and turned into the above article on 26 August 2020 with the purpose of reaching a larger audience. It has been minorly edited and corrected, and published with the author’s consent. | The author of the tweets writes in a personal capacity.]

(Cover: Pxhere.)

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