I haven’t posted in a while because my left arm is in a cast. Apparently I broke a small wrist bone when I fell. So it’s sort of hard to type. I have an elaborate setup to manage, but I’ve been prioritizing other projects. But I’m going to try to manage an update or two every week until I get the cast off in a month.
I Might as Well Write About the Injury Then
Not so fast, bold text. Things wrong with bones are not exactly topical and I don’t really have much to say by way of analyzing my clumsiness.
But the Doctor Actually Took My Pain Seriously This Time
Well yeah, I could talk about that I guess.
Doctors make lots of important decisions based on using the body language of the patient to get at their internal state. They want you to be grimacing, wincing and stuff like that. Bad things happen if they catch you faking, even if you’re just faking so you look like you really feel.
*I only have an expressive face when I’m doing it on purpose.
*I’ve sort been trained not to flinch, because lots of tactile input that was socially obligatory like holding hands or tapping on the shoulder or “this little piggy” really really hurt when I was a kid. Not to mention all the practice I got holding still while getting poked. I won all those no flinching games as a kid.
Oh No! I’m About to Define Terminology!
Automatic: A reaction that I didn’t have to learn and would be hard to stop doing. Basically a reflex or natural gesture that works. This is facial expressions and flinching for most people, and tone of voice and eye contact and all those things that I’m bad at and are the basis of western civilization right? You’re not supposed to have to do them on purpose.
*Very few things are automatic for me. I had to learn to smile. I had to learn to have a happy or sad voice. I had to learn to grimace in pain.
*I did not have to learn to flinch or pull away from pain. My reflexes largely work. I might even find them harder than average to overcome, but I can like anybody else.
Habit: Like automatic but can be learned by doing it over and over. It’s what you usually do so you dont’ have to think, but you do have to do.
*I’m now in the habit of speaking with a tone of voice and using facial expressions, even though they are not automatic.
*But I’m only in the habit of using faces for expressing emotions and social content to other people not for emoting when alone or responding to pain.
*I’m now not in the habit of flinching away from pain, or rather I’m in the habit of suppressing that automatic reaction. I have to remember to flinch and its usually a bit delayed. Similarly I often say “ow” quite late, but that’s mostly language production delay.
Natural: If I do the action it doesn’t feel wrong or fake to me. I can only enjoy sympathy for a natural expression. Some things are not automatic but are natural if I learn them. Some things that are automatic feel unnatural to suppress. Sometimes habits can become more natural when I feel I understand the purpose and narrative content of them better.
*Some kinds of facial expressions and tones of voice feel natural to me in some situations. Those tend to be the ones I use. I’m glad to have learned them. They feel like parts of me that I had to learn instead of was born with. But sometimes I’m ashamed because I first learned them for manipulative attention seeking reasons. So I’ll be embarrassed to use them around people or in situations where I feel judged.
*Those expressions tend to be exaggerated and childish adding to my embarrassment. See Immaturity 1. Age appropriate expressions and tones feel unnatural.
*It feels unnatural to avoid happy stimming (arm flapping or jumping up and down etc.) when happy but it doesn’t feel unnatural to avoid flinching.
All combinations are possible:
*But almost all automatic actions feel natural at least for me. The ones that don’t are rare but horrifying.
Anyway You Can Imagine How I Have a Hard Time Getting Doctors to Take Me Seriously
This makes me afraid to go to doctors until I’m scared or really upset. This makes me frequently paranoid that a doctor is missing something even when things are benign. Even when I know things are serious I’m afraid doctors won’t believe me. I’m afraid to show reaction that might be questioned so my expressiveness goes even farther down making the initial problem worse.
As I understand it, even normal people have the problem with doctors sometimes and complain about it. But imagine how much worse it can be when nobody who doesn’t know me well can read me.
Last summer, I spent several hours with chest pain bad enough that it was hard to walk before I convinced myself to go to the hospital. I was more afraid of it being a muscle cramp and being looked down on than I was of dying of a heart attack. It turned out I had Pleurisy, but the doctors took the heart possibility pretty seriously and sort of chewed me out for waiting so long. I resolved to do something about this problem.
Acting Out Myself
I got it right this time by acting. I’m a pretty good actor within the range of what’s natural for me. I can method act; I don’t have to be in the situation; I just have to imagine the situation. I can act out different habits. The logic of a character can overcome a habit if the justification is compelling. If I dissociate just right I can treat emotional temperament as a sort of situation and play somebody more irritable, more confident or more depressed.
I can act out things that are unnatural to me like Neurotypical adult body language or a fake accent, but its less fluid and less convincing and doesn’t feel as emotionally real. (I can often get around this playing table top role playing games, but not to fool a doctor.)
But I didn’t need to look neurotypical, I just needed to look in pain. The hard part was realizing that. It took a clarity I’ve only recently had about my own Autism to not feel ashamed of faking to tell the truth. It also took that clarity to realize the non-deception would work.
But now I think I’ve figured out doctors.
But Here’s the Politically Controversial Part
I don’t think that most of the Autism community would blame me for doing any of this. But they would probably defend it as a necessary evil, but not healthy or genuine. They’d say I shouldn’t have to.
Indeed I probably shouldn’t have to but I think it’s perfectly healthy. I believe that everything natural to be is me not just everything automatic. (Of course if I’m roleplaying a situation I’m not in or order to get treated like I’m in it, that’s lying, but the point is this time I was roleplaying the situation I was in. I was only playing different habits and temperament.) I am everybody I can learn to be; that’s just growing. I shouldn’t have to grow to get what I need, but if I can it’s a good idea.
This is totally not to say that everybody can fix this problem this way. If normal pain behavior is unnatural to you then this won’t work. In my case, sounding like an adult is unnatural to me, but I still wan’t to be treated like one. In these cases there is no substitute for standing up and demanding rights. But fighting is harder and it’s worth prioritizing the fights that are most frequently unavoidable.
Disclaimer to Any Strawpersons I May Have Offended
It’s possible that the disapproval I sense from the autistic community toward anything that could be seen as passing extending to decry stuff like this is actually just the embodiment of my insecurity that wherever I go, people will disapprove of me for something. If so, awesome! Somebody please tell me that so I can be less insecure. I’m not suggestion anybody is being dogmatic; if this is obviously good, cool! I’m sorry I didn’t realize it was obvious. I never know what is obvious.
And if people actually have the opinion I’m attributing to them I’m still not actually making a serious accusation. Being forced to pass is really bad when it’s bad. Overgeneralizing is totally understandable in these circumstances, sometimes even worth it. But I think in this case, flexibility is worth it.
That’s Enough for Today
I’m going to talk more about acting and naturalness later. I think my superpowers are as topical as my disabilities and neutral differences. Especially if they’re superpowers that can be taught. So I’ll come back to this general topic again some day. Squid out.