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I'm on the autism spectrum. My manager knows about that but my coworkers don't.

I have been working here for a little more than a year and not telling my coworkers that I'm on the spectrum is really becoming a burden for me. I feel like I'm stuck in a big, dark, dusty closet and that I'm a liar and a fraud. This is really taking a toll on my mental health and that's why I have decided to tell some of my coworkers about it.

I'm planning to tell my coworkers individually and probably by writing (via an email or something). However, there is one big issue.

I already told people in the past that I was on the autism spectrum, but it very rarely goes well. Most of the time, people just didn't believe me. They told me that I "don't look autistic" and dismiss how being on the spectrum might negatively affects my life.

I don't want people to think that I'm a liar who is just seeking attention, or that I'm just joking. Especially, since I'm coming out to coworkers, I can't take the risk of people thinking bad things about me (but I still wish to disclose my autism).

So, how can I disclose my autism in a way that people will take seriously? How can I mitigate the risk of them not believing me?

Notes and clarifications:

  • Due to my autism, I can't work full time (I'm currently working 75% after starting at 100% at this job) and I have an official "handicap worker recognition" in my country.

  • I just want to be able to say "I'm on the autism spectrum". Nothing more.

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I've thought about your question quite a while, particularly for you being so insistent about it - this is not the first time that you bring up the issue in one way or the other. I've actually thought that the other (quite comprehensive) answers should have sufficed, but clearly they don't. For you, I mean.

It's by far too long a tale to tell how I've come to be able to operate in society as I do, but I can tell you that I've had a lot of help along the way as the decades marched by. Most of my 'normal' behaviour is learnt and rather honed to the point that almost nobody actually knew about my autism until about a year-and-a-half ago. A very specific person wanted to know how I manage to live completely alone (a question I've never been asked), at which point I thought the cat could just as well be let out of the bag.

First of all, although I suppose you know this, not that many people know about autism, and the majority have the Rain Man sort of idea in their mind. Secondly, not many people could generally be bothered about someone being autistic, if not the Rain Man sort of thing, or their knowledge about 'abnormal' children being their knowledge / experience thereof. Thirdly, whether or not anyone believes that I'm autistic, couldn't bother me at all: but I would say that an actual reason should exist for revealing it. I simply didn't want to think up some excuse when asked - practically lying to someone I greatly respect.

I live in a small seaside village, where the few people who live here permanently, all know who I am - as do quite a number of the holiday residents. Not anyone living around here, has ever been in my house and has scarcely been on my property; I don't have 'servants' and when people very rarely want to speak to me, they wait until they see me in the street or on the beach. I have rarely been inside people's houses and then it would simply entail fixing something, particularly issues which arise with the holiday houses.

The logistics are inter alia the following:

  • I wear exactly the same clothes every day, of which I have fifteen sets.
  • I eat exactly the same food every day - which has somehow become common knowledge.
  • I very rarely walk about the place in daytime and it has to be for a specific reason; on the other hand, I start walking about the beach and the streets at about 22:00 until 06:00; and my sleeping pattern of habitually less than two hours per day, has also somehow become common knowledge.
  • I'm rather certain that everyone knows that I cut my own hair - I'm not the most skillful barber.
  • Not anybody here is unfamiliar with my abruptness and severe lack of patience with grown-ups of any sort; likewise everyone knows that every child has me firmly in his or her pocket. Grown-ups are sort of wary of me, while children can't have enough of playing around the house during weekends and the holidays, especially in the huge trees. My aversion to strangers - except children - isn't any sort of secret.

This list can go on for several pages, but I think you get the idea.

About a year ago, the village was sort of deserted, with only one family on holiday in the direct vicinity. The family have a seven year old autistic boy, who managed to lock himself inside the house. The father was referred to me for help, and to the parents' astonishment, I had the boy open the door after about fifteen minutes of effort, while their efforts of more than three hours went wasted. A few months later with another holiday, the same boy and I by then thicker than thieves, the boy cut his foot on the rocks by the beach; keeping the story as short as possible, he refused anyone to touch him and I was forced to put rudimentary stitches in the wound on the spot.

THUS - by means of an 'autistic' way of living and local 'evidence' of knowing about autistic children (of which the mentioned boy is currently not the only one), the scandalous information of my 'mental condition' couldn't be contained. People don't generally talk to me about it, but when they ask, I answer their questions; and I haven't come about any sort of negativity about it.

What I don't do, is go about telling people of it, since I don't see the point.

I don't know anything about you or your situation, but you might be able to use this little information to devise a manner of getting the message out. If I were you, I'd certainly be prepared that not many of your co-workers would be bothered about it though, one way or the other.


Just an afterthought:

I'd think a little longer about telling coworkers about your autism, if I were you.

I haven't anywhere discovered anyone who isn't autistic to convince me that he or she knows more than theoretically what autism is really about - having infantile fights about the right terms to address autistic people (pardon, people with autism). Recognition, therefore, is at least 50% an empty gesture.

Here's what I mean: I've been suffering from severe migraines since I was about fourteen years old, having been treated by more than one specialist at a time, three of which were neurologists; and in only a few instances have I had the experience that other people don't think that it's simply a pretence to shirk some or other duty, or something of the sort.

This is something small; a far larger issue, is that I had an identical twin brother who died when we were eighteen years old.

If you can honestly say that you understand migraine, or the loss of someone with your own DNA that you've been in physical contact with for eighteen years and then simply lost, then you can think to hope that other people would understand autism. You can't understand - as a reality - what it means to be permanently severed from the only person (other half of you, really) who has actually given meaning to your existence, to dream of him every time you fall asleep and stretch your hand out to touch him when you wake up, even forty years after he's not physically there any longer.

Those people won't really understand you better, either - except the slightest bit if they really put their minds to it: but would they? I can tell you about my brother and not be bothered that you don't understand about him, because you're just someone on the 'other side' of an electronic connection. If those people simply shrug your autism off, you'll still have to work with them and know about it.

I'm fortunate enough to have contact with autistic children and teenagers as well as identical twin children and teenagers - and I'm very certain that I understand their private autism and private twinhood only to a very limited degree.

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