Mette Harrison
4 min readJul 5, 2022

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All The Bad Parts of Autism

How does a diagnosis of autism damage self-esteem? Well, I suddenly had to take a really good, hard look at all the things that had been niggling at me for years and that I’d tried to ignore or tell myself they didn’t matter or that *I* was the one who was better and that the way normal social people did it was inferior. I had to grapple with the things that had been preventing me from functioning in society in normal ways and that I’d just stepped back from. I’d been using being a stay-at-home mom for years as a way to insulate myself from all these problems.

What are the problems?

1. I can’t read people’s faces or body language very well at all. Being a writer (and a careful reader before that) has forced me to learn what the very basic gestures and expressions mean, but the nuances are often lost on me. Before my diagnosis I though that I was good at this, but it turns out I was just very anxious about it and trying so very, very hard.

2. I often interpret literally. Often I’m considered abrupt or rude because of the honest way I communicate. I don’t mean to be rude, but so much of social communication seems to demand mind-reading. And that only works well if your mind is like mine, which it usually isn’t.

3. The world is full of rules that no one follows. I can follow rules just fine. But even as a teen, I began to see that no one else followed the rules, and in fact, most of the time, if you point out that the rules specifically say x, people look at you funny because obviously that isn’t what is intended by that rule, or obviously no one does that. I don’t know how you are supposed to tell which rules to follow and I get extremely anxious about all the rules you’re supposed to figure out how to follow and not follow.

4. I’m abysmal at a whole host of things that other people handle with ease. Meeting the parents of my children’s SO. Planning social events like weddings, receptions, parties. I can do a list, but what I can’t do is figure out how to do the right small talk. I just want someone to tell me what I’m supposed to talk about. But also, I want to figure out why other people want to talk about those things. Does anyone? And if not, why do they talk about those things? Have I mentioned before I don’t get it?

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Mette Harrison

Autist, Ironman Worlds triathlete, Writer, Right-Brained