Imagine there are spiders on your face

Imagine there are spiders crawling around on your face. But you’re not allowed to try to get them off. Each time you do swipe at your face or make any other attempt at removing the spiders, other people react by getting angry, upset, punishing you, or otherwise reacting negatively. If you consistently remove every spider that crawls onto your face, you’re shunned from society completely. You can’t just remove all of them and be done with it once and for all, either – new ones will arrive a few moments after you’ve removed the existing spiders. So you have to make a choice between human connection and keeping spiders off your face. The human connection is always a bit weird, though, because other people don’t seem to have spiders on their faces, and there’s no apparent reason why you’re not allowed to remove them. If you ask why, people get angry and shun you.

When you’re alone, the spiders calm down. Sometimes when you’ve been alone for a while, they stop moving completely. You have the option of removing the spiders now that there are no other people around to see it. But in this allegory world, there are no mirrors. The closest thing are shiny surfaces that let you see a blurry, distorted image of yourself. So you have to grope blindly to remove the spiders. This can be quite unpleasant if they skitter away from your hands, if they’ve built a web that your fingers get tangled in, etc. Sometimes, because you’ve been restraining the urge to grope at your face all day, you forget that you even have the option of removing them, so you just let them be. Maybe, because ignoring them becomes your life’s work, you even forget their presence, and so you get really confused when you get an eye infection because one was stupid enough to crawl into your eye and slowly drown in tears, or you throw up for seemingly no reason when one dies in your mouth. Doctors don’t seem to be able to see the spiders or guess that they’re there. Infact, the spiders are apparently invisible to anyone that you try to talk to about them. So conversation about them can be quite confusing.

That’s what being autistic in a neurotypical world feels like to me.


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