We welcome Marco back to the blog for the next installment of “Wrestling With My Mind”

Marco Orlando

I have internalized a lot of hatred in my life, both real and imagined, because I have consistently felt less than human. Because of this, I often go back and forth between two extremes when it comes to living life with an autism spectrum disorder. There are times where I will seemingly embrace having autism and openly celebrate the ways it makes me different from everyone else. And then there are times where I will turn right around and denounce autism and the frustration it has caused me and my family.

I’ll admit that most of the time, I’m a bit self-conscious about having autism, like I’m very much aware of it and I know that it’s a part of me that won’t ever go away. But I also know how poorly people like me are treated in our society, and I would prefer not to be treated poorly because of it if I can help it. It doesn’t help that in recent times, the word “autistic” has seemingly become the new go-to insult for people to describe me and other people like me. It’s almost as if the word “autistic” now means what the dreaded “R-word” used to mean when I was in school, essentially carrying the same weight as that horrible word.

Indeed, having autism has been a gift and a curse to me at times in my personal experience. During the times when I don’t terribly mind having autism, I will make a more conscious effort to address “the blue elephant in the room,” as I like to call it, and let other people know that autism doesn’t define who I am as a person. In a similar vein, I’m a larger man who likes wrestling and Boston sports, and these characteristics are rightfully not the be-all-end-all of my entire existence. I’ve been featured on local news programs in the past, offering my insight on what living life with autism has meant to me, making a point to emphasize that autism, while challenging, can be manageable.

During the times where I very much resent having autism, I will go out of my way not to draw unwanted attention to myself out of fear that my having autism will somehow be one of the first things that people notice about me. In my more depressing moments when I’m really down on myself, I feel like having autism has been a detriment to me at times because my mind doesn’t work quite like everyone else’s does. I feel having autism may have also cost me potential friends throughout my lifetime, as well as potential opportunities for even the most basic normal everyday life stuff that the rest of the world seems to take for granted, such as marrying or raising a family.

Ultimately, I would prefer to be seen as an individual, and not just someone with a disability. Although, I’ve had people tell me before that they wouldn’t have known I have autism if I hadn’t come right out and told them, so I guess that’s encouraging. Even so, I find myself trying to “pass” for being “neurotypical” even though I know in my head that I’m not, and I tend to overcompensate for any of my perceived deficiencies because of it. Maybe someday, I’ll learn to truly accept myself as I am, because I don’t know if I ever have.

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