aspergers, autism, culture, education, health, ideas, living abroad, psychology, travel

Expecting the Impossible

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Learning Center Blues

Last year, I left my second teaching job in Vietnam not long after getting into a heated shouting match with a staff lady I’ll call Sonya. She tried gaslighting me saying my teaching was bad and ineffective. Sonya was being passive-aggressive and a workplace bully thinking I couldn’t read between the lines. This was at a learning center in Bien Hoa, a suburb of Saigon. Towards the end of her litany, she turned around saying I was a great teacher and the students loved me. She wanted to intimidate me making me second guess myself, and I wasn’t biting. This was after the secret was out that I had Asperger’s. Nobody was supposed to know except for my companion, Yael, who deduced it as her brother has it. Yael helped smooth things over after I was told kids complained I was shouting too much and that I was boring. They expected me to smile 24/7 and have more intonation. They didn’t like that I’d get impatient with students sometimes or that I was hypersensitive to high-pitched squealing noises kids made. The headteacher appeared sympathetic but then had my manager at the agency tell me not to bring Asperger’s up again.

No Control, No Redemption

It doesn’t come with an on/off switch. Ignoring the problem won’t make it go away, either. Denial isn’t a river in Africa. The altercation was my second run-in with Sonya. The other teachers concurred unanimously I was good at my job and that Sonya was out of line. I didn’t feel comfortable telling her about my condition, but it seemed I didn’t have much choice. So Sonya scolded me and saying, “Well, just act like a normal person. Stop having outbursts, meltdowns, or whatever you call them. Try not to be so serious and don’t let the noise bother you.” I was insulted when she made these remarks because it was clear she had no idea what she was dealing with. So I fired back and told her, “Well, just act like a man. Control your monthly cycles, woman. Stop menstruating, ovulating, or whatever you call it. Try not to urinate sitting down and don’t have any hot flashes.” That wasn’t the response she’d hoped for, but I was making a point. She was expecting the impossible from me. Therefore, I returned the favor. Not long after, I started seeking employment elsewhere. I ascertained this was a hostile working environment. I sure as hell didn’t appreciate them berating me like a child or trying to silence me.

What We Know and Don’t Know

Sadly, that wasn’t my first rodeo. This is one of the primary reasons I have limited contact with my two oldest siblings. They were in denial the whole time. My oldest brother thought I chose to be difficult and this was learned behavior. My sister shared the same opinion and got carefree criticizing my mother for coddling me. Sister knew better than anyone (including the doctors who gave me hyperactivity medication.) When I was hospitalized for depression, they both thought I was seeking attention. I remember confronting Sister not long after I received my official diagnosis and my mother suggesting she read about Asperger’s. She then said, “Wow! That sounds so much like Dustin; it’s unreal.” Then I couldn’t resist the urge shouting at her, “Yeah! I know! It’s amazing what you learn when you shut your fucking piehole and listen to your master when he speaks, isn’t it?” Mom scorned me for that, but it’s not like Sister didn’t have it coming, either. That was a cathartic release after years of pent-up frustration due to her intractable disposition. She’s bull-headed like our father. Sister thinks she’s an authority on things with which she has little to no experience. That’s one of the few times I recall her ever admitting she was wrong.

The Vaccine Dilemma

Not long after my diagnosis, the scare about vaccines emerged. That exacerbated everything to say the least. It started in 1998 when Dr. Andrew Wakefield falsified his research about MMR vaccines causing autism. Skeptics jumped on that like white on rice. Jenny McCarthy claimed she cured her autistic son. This part infuriates me most. Not only are there idiots in denial; now there’s charlatans who think it’s curable. Basically, what they’re both saying is that it’s some kind of burden to society. My friend, Nathan, who was lower-functioning had a father convinced holistic medicine would make it disappear. Here’s the thing. I don’t need to be cured. I’m not dying or contagious. It’s not degenerative, venereal, or anything of that sort. Nobody with whom I came in contact contracted it from me. Wakefield had his license revoked after it was unearthed he juked the stats and that he was on the payroll of a large insurance company. The latter alone was a conflict of interest that should have discredited him. Eventually, Jenny McCarthy’s son was discovered to have Landau-Kleffner Syndrome ruling out any possibility of her curing him. Sadly, the anti-vaxxer crowd won’t listen. Anyone who believes a former Playboy bunny over medical practitioners has issues. We all know what they say in Hollywood is the law of the land just like Tom Cruise is the world’s greatest expert on psychotherapy. I’m sure Brooke Shields would agree.

Same Language, Different Accent

Reasoning with the naysayers and anti-vaxxers is like nailing jello to a wall. You can present all the tangible evidence in the world, but it won’t register through their thick noggins. They’re too proud to put their egos aside and admit they may be wrong. That said, I distance myself from them as best as I can. I’m moving back to the West because I’m not going to live in a society where I feel I’m being monitored every day due to my personality quirks and they pressure me into be a cookie cutter person. I’ve been known to hit back twice as hard whenever I’m provoked such as the case with Sonya. Just because my brain isn’t hard-wired like that of the average NT doesn’t mean I’m stupid or defective. It’s like voicing a language. Most of my friends in Vietnam are from the UK. They speak British English while my vernacular is American English. There is no right or wrong way to enunciate the words just because our accents and slang differ. The same is true about folks on the autism spectrum versus NT’s. It’s not a disease; it’s an anomaly.

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