I’ve just woken up from a dream. In it, I did something socially strenuous. Soon after, I was standing on the doorstep of a house with a few other people, waiting to enter.
I didn’t want to be there, or interact with anyone for any reason, but I needed something in the house. When one of the other people tried to speak to me, I didn’t know how to respond. I tried to figure it out, but it felt too complex for me to handle in that moment, so instead I sat down on the doorstep.
“Do you have to do that?” the person asked. In the context of the dream, they knew I was autistic, but didn’t know much about autism, and were genuinely curious.
I paused. It felt like a weird question, because the answer of “no” would be technically correct but fundamentally misleading.
“I could resist it,” I answered, “but the cost would be too high” – meaning, I felt that it would use up every last ounce of my strength to stay standing and be social.
If this had been real life and not a dream, I probably would not have chosen to pay the social cost of randomly sitting when a stranger spoke to me. Instead, I would have accepted the mental health cost of forcing myself to act normal.
I’m not saying that would have been wise, but if I’m being honest, I think it’s what I would have done. I’m still getting used to the idea that I always have the choice to be myself, and I’m still learning when it’s worth the risk to do so.