(Latest letter, November 24, 2014)
We spoke many months ago: http://www.askpapabear.com/letters/his-friend-asked-him-not-to-tell-his-family-about-being-furry. Anyways, there has been some things going on with me. I was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome at an early age, my symptoms are is that I can't take a person's sarcasm seriously and I tend to miss cues, I repeat words or phrases under my breath consistently (echolalia), I have a tendency to smile, and I mean, SMILE. Even if its something that is supposed to be sad or serious, even if its not funny. and I also have trouble interacting with regular people, furry or no. But the best part about it is that I can blend in with regular, "normal" people.
And lets just say in the fandom, people with Asperger's are NO exception. As much as people could possibly notice it IRL, I thought, well, I can remain anonymous on Twitter, and no one will EVER know the difference, unfortunately, after a mishap with a couple furs, they could tell instantaneously. Everyone has their own little quirks and stuff. But for some reason, I just have a problem being open about it, because I feel like people will give me special treatment or sugarcoat it when I do my little quirks, which, if you were to get to know me enough, you'd notice it. Anyone would. Even though there is an autism-awareness group on FA, I still feel like furs are ableist, and I can't really be open about it, otherwise they would reject and possibly exclude me or not want to hang out with me simply because of it, so I just hide it, trying my best to blend in with the "normal" furry crowd. Then again, furry isn't technically, "normal" now, is it? :|
So, its almost as if I'm trying hard to be sure that I don't mess up, but when I do, one of the best things about noticing my disability is that when I mess up, unintentionally or not, I do apologize and try my best to do better, and everyone makes mistakes regardless of age. But with me, its like one mistake and I have to be on alert to make sure I don't do it again, which is why I usually ask people, "What is the one thing that ticks you off the most?" or something along those lines.
I honestly have no care to join the autism part of the fandom if people are gonna subject me simply because I'm overly quirky and do things that most people wouldn't do.
So, what should I do? Should I keep it a secret and not tell anyone? Or tell someone in exchange for them giving me special treatment for something I can't control, regardless of how hard I try to stop it? Or... introduce myself, get to know them for awhile, and THEN be open about it? What should I do? :|
* * *
There are many people in the fandom with Asperger’s; a number of them have written in to this column. Papabear’s theory is that because people with Asperger’s and other forms of autism typically have a hard time dealing with “normal” society, they find refuge—and some sympathy and empathy—in the fandom.
You don’t say whether or not you are getting any treatment, but let’s assume you’ve gone that route already and understand the various treatments available to you (http://psychcentral.com/lib/treatment-for-aspergers-disorder/000878). As you probably know, then, a strategy that benefits Asperger’s sufferers is to establish life routines. Having a comforting feeling that you know what is expected of you each day and you know what will be happening for much of your waking hours can be very helpful and soothing. Also, avoiding distractions is important, and getting regular sleep (keep TVs, video games, and stereos out of your bedroom and reserve that space for rest only; otherwise, you will likely not get enough sleep). Finally, when facing a large task in life, instead of trying to imagine how to do the complete task all at once, break it down into digestible stages and tackle each small stage one at a time.
Furry environments can be very counterproductive to people with Asperger’s because they can be overstimulating. If you go to a furmeet or con, there will be all kinds of noise and distractions and vibrant activity happening all the time, which is almost a guarantee that you will have an adverse reaction that will kick in some of your troublesome symptoms.
Therefore, I recommend to you that you take your furriness in small doses. Try to meet furiends on a one-on-one basis in mellow environments, such as in your bedroom. When online, instead of entering a chat room, likewise just IM people one at a time. From there, you might slowly work your way up to small groups doing specific activities.
When you interact with your friends, you should, indeed, tell them you have Asperger’s, and if they don’t know what that entails, explain to them what they can expect. That way, if something happens, they aren’t surprised and don’t withdraw from you thinking you’re “weird.” If they have any intelligence at all, they will understand that your sometimes-frustrating behavior is a symptom of your condition, not a personality flaw.
The above goes not only for your involvement with furries, but with friends, family, and coworkers in general. When people understand what they are dealing with, they are much less likely to be shocked and come to the wrong conclusions, which should make your life easier to a certain extent.
Illustrations on "Ask Papabear" are by Dan the Bear. Check out this talented illustrator on FurAffinity or send him an email.