– Yes, I am different from most people, because I perceive the world differently and more intensively. I can prepare something, I can be careful in certain situations, I can use special techniques, but I will never change my sensitivity, I will never adjust it, I will never get rid of it, says diagnosed photographer Joanna Musiał. with autism spectrum. And he adds: – However, I do not agree with the painful narration on this subject.
To change the perception of ASD, he describes neuro-typical girls and women.
What is the spectrum of autism?
I will tell you such a story. During my studies, I participated in rehearsals, and interviews were an element of the lessons. I did not understand that the discussion was the formula of these lessons, that this conversation was a technique for drawing important conclusions from our heads. So weeks passed, and I didn’t talk much, and when I was asked why I was sad, I didn’t know what it was about. It seemed like I was under attack, so I automatically replied, “I’m not!”
It sounded shameful when I heard that I was arrogant. Then again in the car I said, “I don’t think so.”
I had no ill intentions and did not want to make such an accusation, but the verdict was confusing. I often have inappropriate facial expressions for the situation, so I smiled broadly, which seemed even more “proud.” The situation has become awkward for everyone. I did not want to lead to this situation, I felt lost. And there have been many such moments in my life
Did you feel something was wrong?
As a child, I knew something was wrong. Today I can call the problem: I do not accept people intuitively, I am often overwhelmed with them, I do not see myself as a team, I do not understand social conventions, I say what I think, I have my own rhythm and way of working.
As I grew older and entered adulthood, I felt so overwhelmed that relationships with people at school or university were defined by certain rules, beyond that, at work, even as a freelancer, or in personal relationships – no more. So I re-created the patterns of behavior I observed in others, and that rarely works.
Problems were growing, so I asked for help from specialists. At the age of 19, I began going to psychotherapy, being treated by a psychiatrist, and taking medication. Border was suspected, but treatment was unsatisfactory until I was finally diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) before I was 30 years old. I took a deep breath.
Because you finally know what to do?
It was important to realize that I was not suffering from any illness. The autism spectrum is a different brain specificity and developmental process. Science calls it a different neurotype, and people with autism call it neuro-typical. So I had to accept – yes, I’m different from most people, because I perceive the world differently and more intensively. I can solve something, I can be careful in certain situations, I can use specific techniques, but I will never change my different sensitivity, I will never adjust it, I will never get rid of it. Because I’m like that.
When I heard the diagnosis, I finally began to understand what mechanisms I was exposed to. For example, I could predict that if I was going to an event that was important to me, I shouldn’t come too early. The number of people, small conversations, but also bright lights, noise, or intense odors can easily overwhelm me and, in extreme cases, cause panic attacks. Knowing my abilities, I was able to act rationally: I could then go back and meet people who were important to me and disappear when I felt I had enough. And then take care of yourself the next day at home, quietly and alone.
Are people with autism lonely?
People on the autism spectrum need intimacy and friends like everyone else. I like people, they interest me, I like to observe them, but I also need to spend a lot of time with myself, and then I restore and restore my balance.
I think your diagnosis was important for your relatives as well. It was probably easier to understand your reactions when they found out you had ASD – why did you disappear, don’t want to meet, keep quiet.
That’s right. Especially since it’s a so-called thing melting (piece – editor’s note), I start to cry or stop talking because I just can’t. Then people think that something concrete has happened and that they have a duty to react. In the meantime, I do not need. I have to cut myself and be alone to restore my balance. Then I do not want anyone to touch or talk to me, it is an additional burden.
When do you regain control?
Different, but sometimes after a quarter of an hour a smile appears and I can return to normal activities. People find it confusing.
However, if you understand that this disorder is not related to grief or suffering, but is simply an emotional overload and emotional bombardment, the variability of people with ASD is not so surprising. I must say that I am far from the story – you hate ASD, it is a method that works in the world.
Sometimes ASD limits you and sometimes it opens you up to something.
People with ASD I know share deep and very close interests, which is one of the diagnostic criteria. For me, photography is the ability to look, read and search for hours. I pay so much attention to the subject that I waste time and forget to eat and drink. I have a good memory, I look at the details, I can analyze deeply – it works.
It is sometimes said that people with ASD are not empathetic, and in my experience the opposite is true. Being open to another person is very powerful, taking away his stress, anger or pain, as well as his excitement or enthusiasm. When I’m in a group of people, I overcome their emotions. I’m confused with them – there’s a term for that – syntonia.
Most of the time I can’t name or control these feelings, but I take them in my body, for example, with a pinch in my stomach, with a strong tension of all the muscles.
Your latest project is a series about women with autism – “You don’t look autistic.”
Thanks to this very personal project, I met more than a dozen girls and women with whom I had a lot in common. Imagine that we live in different cities, have completely different interests, different jobs, but when we see each other, we just understand.
I know why one is silent and the other continues to talk. I am not ashamed to ask questions if I do not understand the purpose or more of a behavior, I get a clear and reasonable answer. In addition, I discover that there are more of us. Dozens of women contacted me after I announced that I was looking for female characters for the photos published by the Girls in Spectrum Foundation.
The youngest participant of the project, Matylda, is 9 years old. ASD awareness is a great opportunity for him. He can escape many traps with his parents.
I think a girl is culturally required – she must be beautiful, caring and calm. He should be good in social relations and not be angry. If he is calm and has a lot of fun alone, does homework for hours, or draws, he sets an example for others. The silent boy is already asking legitimate questions.
Therefore, the drama of teenage girls with ASD is to disguise real reactions, to suppress tension. Dozens of them are often diagnosed too late or not at all, so they miss the chance to get to know themselves, accept themselves, and choose the individual path that works best for them. I’m talking about all aspects of life – from building relationships to professionalism to self-realization.
That’s why I want to inspire you in “You Don’t Look Autistic” – show stories that end happily. I show strong, creative people who do amazing things – one is a respected writer, the other is a doctor. The protagonists include mothers, people leading large ensembles and independent artists. Scenarios are endless.