Posted in Identity

High Functioning Guilt: Why Having Too Much Makes Some Autistics Struggle MORE

In general, the puzzle piece symbol is offensive to Autistics because it focuses on the image of someone being “broken” when people are never broken.  I’ve got an alternative take on the puzzle that I’d like to run past you.  I think this image is more appropriate for all types of “divergence.”

Envision this: every human being gets a puzzle, at conception (or birth for those of you who insist it comes later).  Each puzzle is slightly different, of course, because all of us are different people, but we all get a puzzle.  Some of us get 100-piece puzzles, others 1,000-piece, but everyone gets a puzzle.

Here’s the problem for people like me who got a big puzzle.

Clearly those who get the 100-piece puzzle have to work a lot less  on the puzzle than those given a 1,000 piece puzzle.  The more pieces, though, the more gifts we have, however, it is also therefore harder to finish the puzzle.

Some of us get advantages in the puzzle game and others, disadvantages.

The wealthy may get more pieces of the puzzle in place before they even start working on it.  They may be so privileged they get an image of the finished product to guide them.

White people have more pieces in place than People of Color.

Christians have a lot of pieces in place, too, as do heterosexuals and so on.

But we don’t all just get a puzzle to solve.  Some of us get “bonus” pieces.   Some of us get pieces that don’t actually go in our puzzle.  Some are missing pieces.  Some probably got pieces that the dog chewed on and yet you still have to make it fit somehow.  Some of us get Ravensburger puzzle pieces and others, those cheap dollar-store puzzle pieces, or a combination.

The way the world works, though, the more puzzle pieces you have, the more gifts you are perceived to have.  You have so much, so why are you complaining?

But it isn’t the number of pieces that matters; it’s the number of pieces you can actually use that count.

Being “high-functioning” and yet Disabled (Neurodiversity activists never use “high-functioning”, but I use it only to make this point) is like having a ridiculous number of pieces in your box.  Sure, you’ve got some rich, complex puzzle that you’re going to build, but everyone sees you as having more pieces than average.  You need help to do everyday things, but if you ask for that help, you’re judged because you have so much.  No one notices (or cares) that some of your pieces don’t fit, and others might be missing.  They just see the big puzzle in front of you.


[Image: White, blonde-brunette woman wearing a trench coat and a red knit hat, looks down, as if she’s sad, on the winter street at night. Festive lights in green, yellow, and white light up the shop window, but she seems too upset to see it as beautiful.]
Christmastime is THE WORST for puzzles if you’re Christian or exposed to a high-Christianity culture like the U.S. where Christmas is everywhere.  You feel bad because it’s a time to give.  You wonder why your pieces allow you to achieve, say, graduate-level studies and/or have a number of talents, but you can’t get it together to plan a time to get a flipping Christmas tree or get the cookies baked.  You feel bad because if you ask for help, the people you trust the most may be the ones from whom it’s inappropriate to ask for help (parents, grandparents, aging relatives).

But everyone looking at your puzzle just wants to focus on how many pieces you have, so why should they help you?

And you feel guilty for even thinking of asking.

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