Empathy in Autists

This year has been quite the rollercoaster, and I am glad more than ever that its ending on a good note so far. However, now that I am settled in my situation, I am slowly realizing that I need to start caring more about others and being thankful for the support they provide me rather than be the center of attention, something that I have been for quite some time.

As we known a commonly known myth of autistics is that we lack empathy. I, along with other autists do not believe that. Sometimes we come across as we don’t grieve or care about things that may be a striking moment such as someone passing. When in reality, it just doesn’t come to our brain at the moment until weeks or sometimes months after the fact that it happened that we just randomly burst in tears.

The same sentiment can be said for feeling horrific about something that an autistic individual has done. I can remember my first manic episode 21 years ago this month, just as plain as day when I was so out of control and in the local emergency room in restraints waiting for a bed at an individualized psychiatric facility. I remember being out of control, then the over an hour ambulance ride to the facility not saying a word, I had the combination or reality mixed with anxiety. However, getting in the facility a few days and over the weekend of which my parents were more supportive by bringing me fast food each visit and visiting at every opportunity. The moment of feeling sorry for what I did wasn’t until I was sitting in the day room of the psych unit and when the hunting channel was turned on the unit TV. It reminded me of the weekends my dad and I would spend watching those shows and how much I disappointed him that I immediately burst into tears of remorse that the other patients were instructed to change the channel.

Several hospitalizations and several years later when my near and dear grandparents left us nine months apart for the longest time, I held it in. Even though I was warned on multiple occasions by my supports that because they were so close it was likely they would pass in close range, and that they did.  I just did what I did and it didn’t seem like it would phase me until last year when I went and sat outside on the deck of my former home. The chimes were playing and it was a nice fall day, and also the birthday of my late grandfather, I immediately burst in tears until a support shown up for his scheduled visit.

I had then learned that autistics don’t empathize and sometimes it can have bad detriments both mentally and socially. I have been reading up on a lot of criminal activity of which the suspects had a diagnosis on the spectrum because they lacked empathy about the hurt or crime they did cause and the feeling of no remorse. I can honestly say there was points when I was in relapse earlier this year when I was told that if I did not wake up and smell the coffee, that because of my lack of empathy and care that I would end up a less desirable environment and later I would feel that empathy, then it would be too late.

I am thankful each and every morning for the advances of modern medicine and all the reminding tools that are provided to us so we do not fall off regimen. But I am in a way glad that I did have the time to live at my parents for some time so that I could straighten myself and see how if I continued down the tragic path I was going where I would end up and because of my lack of empathy or feeling for how people feel about the things hypothetically that I would have done  that I might not even be here writing this article.

Empathy is possible to be a skill that can be learned. It takes time and patience and understanding, as I needed that move away for some time to learn how others felt when I was in that frame of mind and not thinking clearly as many of the criminalized individuals with a diagnosis on the autism spectrum. While it was likely I wouldn’t get to that point, I would have likely ended up in a very undesirable environment with several freedoms removed from me.

Stop and think about others friends, and you’ll be a much brighter person!

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