Autism. The admiration reaction

I'm writing this blog up into a book, and thought I'd post this little bit on how I've reacted in the past when people say,

“Ooh you’re brave, I admire you. I just couldn’t do what you do.”

I always have to assume that people mean well with the things they say to me about how I deal with autism.

Unfortunately, the admiration reaction is really just another way that people separate themselves from the painful reality that bad things could happen to them too.

By putting me up on the pedestal of bravery, they keep a myth going that bad things only happen to brave people. They are normal, so hopefully they’re pretty safe. The reality is that you become brave by facing hardship. Hardly anyone starts out brave!

As for the phrase, “I just couldn’t do that,” well, no-one ever thinks they can do horribly hard things. But if you have to do it, you do it.  And if it’s something you have to do for your child, you’ll do it even more, because you know that no-one else is going to do it.

Admiration looks like support, but it’s not the same at all. Someone who admires me doesn’t usually want to hear about my tears or anger or despair. They want to keep the myth going that I cope beautifully because I’m a super-mum. They would rather look up to me than put their arm around me and help me pull through.

When I’m told that I’m brave and wonderful, I feel warm and flattered for about a minute, but the admiration actually separates me from the support of my friends and makes things harder in the long run.