It seems that autistics aren’t always seen or heard. Autism can make us feel like we’re invisible. Has this ever happened to you? This might be the reason.
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Did anyone ever ask you if wanted a superpower then immediately say they’d want to be invisible?
It seems like when I was asked this question I didn’t see the purpose of being invisible. Now I realize it might be because I felt like I already was.
Welcome to Meet My Brain - A Field Guide to Autism. I’m your host The Autistic Woman.
As autistics we often feel unseen and unheard. So why not just stay home by ourselves?
Recently a friend told me again that I should be more social, should get out more. And yes, it would be nice to have people to do things with, especially if they’re autistic.
I imagined myself taking some kind of class, maybe a painting class. The next thought that popped into my mind supposedly to motivate me was “maybe no one will notice me.”
It was telling. I wondered if I go into situations hoping not to be seen and thinking “maybe no one will figure out how awkward I am, how difficult it is for me to socialize.”
Does any of this sound familiar?
There was a time I was attending a conference of about 50 people. The small room was set up with narrow tables crowded together in rows of 10. On each table, was a nice linen tablecloth, a few snacks and a pitcher of ice water and glasses.
I really wanted to impress my colleagues and I was determined to be the picture of grace and confidence. I squeezed past the people who were already seated in one row to get to an empty seat saying a polite, excuse me to each one as I went by.
I was focused on being polite and friendly. In that moment I wasn’t paying attention to my purse which got caught on the edge of a table cloth. The entire pitcher of ice water fell over drenching two police officers sitting there.
It definitely made an impression. There are no words that seem like enough in a situation like that. Horrifying is the best way to describe it.
For the rest of the conference I was known as the woman who drenched two people with ice water. That was a time I was very much seen.
Sometimes I’m invisible trying to order food at a fast-food restaurant. Or joining a conversation, or attempting to.
My idea of being outgoing is saying hello. I force myself to do it foolishly believing it will get easier.
“Hi how are you?” to a stranger and getting no response.
Do we autistics make ourselves invisible or do people just not want to see us? Or is it something else?
Let’s break it down:
One, we do make ourselves invisible or have at times like when we mask. We don’t let people see who we are. In my case I didn’t know I was masking and I imagine that’s true for most late-diagnosed adults. I thought you were supposed to behave a certain way so I did.
I thought that was the real me. At the same time, I didn’t want to let anyone see the parts of me that were less than perfect.
Two, when I’m out in public I’m hoping no one notices me. I feel like I have a giant sign painted on me that says “don’t look at me.” I’m not exactly sure why except that maybe I’d feel like I have to respond or start a conversation and I wouldn’t know how to handle that.
Three, people do ignore us. We are invisible to them for reasons we don’t understand.
I start assuming that I’m not approachable or I seem disinterested or I don’t seem pleasant. I don’t know if there’s something about me that people dislike enough that they don’t even want to be around me. Maybe I give off a “don’t talk to me” vibe.
Four, when we’re invisible there are no known or unknown expectations of us. The stress is less. We’re not living up to someone’s idea of who we should be and we probably couldn’t anyway.
Five, when we’re outside our comfort zone in public we might be in panic mode. That’s such an uncomfortable feeling that I would rather avoid it by not being seen.
Being invisible is not a superpower. Being visible might be. Being comfortable letting people see me is a work in progress.
I’m on Twitter @anautisticwoman or you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I love hearing from you, in fact, it’s one of the best parts of my day. Don’t hesitate to message me or send me an email. You can support the podcast on Patreon and by retweeting and sharing with friends. Subscribe to the podcast now ranked in the top 3% globally and give it the highest rating wherever you listen.
This has been Meet My Brain - A Field Guide to Autism. I’m the Autistic Woman. Slava Ukraine!