February 2, 2022

Yesterday, I reshared my post about the concept of “overreacting.” I believe it’s rarely done by autistic people – or maybe anyone, but autistics get accused of it more often, so that’s what I focused on.

Some autistic people commented that they do overreact sometimes. So, I want to explore the concept a bit more.

Overdoing something (overthinking, oversharing, etc.) means doing it too much, in comparison to some standard. Before we can agree that you’re overreacting, we have to agree on the standard that you’re comparing yourself to.

For those who say they do overreact, I suspect that their standard is either how most people would react, or how they would react if they were having a better day.

For me, and anyone I see reacting to something, my standard is the intensity of the feeling. To overreact, or to underreact, means to miscommunicate how one feels.

I believe, for those of us who experience life intensely, that underreacting is much more common. We start out reacting proportionately to our feelings as children, get told we’re overreacting, and dampen our expressiveness as we age.

Still, there are days where we lack the strength to dampen anything. It all comes out, and so does the memory of other people’s judgment, which then turns into self-judgment.

If you tell me that you overreact, my first thought is not that you miscommunicate your feelings. My first thought is that you judge yourself because others once judged you.

I wish I could go back in time and hold you, the little you with the big reactions, and say that it’s okay to feel that way. I wish I could say yes, a very hard thing just happened, but I’m here now and we’ll get through it together.

I can’t say it then, but I can say it now: We autistics are on this roller-coaster of life together – with higher highs and lower lows than anyone else can imagine – and we’ll get through it together.

P.S. I write from my personal experience as an autistic. What I share is not a substitute for advice from an autistic medical professional. Also, some of my opinions have changed since I first wrote them.