John Scott Holman struggled with undiagnosed autism for nearly 25 years. His diagnosis has enabled him to embrace his individuality and move forward. He writes and speaks publicly about his life with autism, hoping to inspire greater understanding and acceptance. Visit his Facebook page here.
“I want friend like me.” – Frankenstein’s Monster, The Bride of Frankenstein
Most people enjoy taking one day out of the year to don a convincing mask or costume. Halloween has always been my favorite holiday, not because I enjoy disguising my true identity, but because I get so tired of it. October 31st is the one day of every year when no one expects me to pretend to be normal.
As a child, I divided each year into two categories – Halloween, and the 364 boring days. “Scotty boy, why are you still awake?” my mother would ask. “It’s after midnight. I knew you shouldn’t have eaten all that candy. Halloween is over. Get in bed.”
“I’m planning my costume for next year. I’ll go to sleep when I’m finished.”
I’ve always been intrigued by the macabre, the supernatural, and things that go bump in the night. I identify with the misunderstood outsiders (a.k.a. the villains). The Wizard of Oz always made me cry – that poor witch! She didn’t ask to be green and ugly. Is it a crime? Ask Kermit the Frog – “it’s not easy being green.”
At eight years-old, I became obsessed with Universal Horror Films of the 1930s; Frankenstein; The Wolfman; Dracula; The Mummy; The Invisible Man. These “monsters” were my friends and allies. They too were mislabeled, misunderstood, and mistreated, and their stories helped me to feel less alone.
In sixth grade, I saved up my money and bought a very realistic, rubber Frankenstein mask. I wore it to school on Halloween day and was teased relentlessly. It probably didn’t help matters that the mask was entirely too big for me – I could barely see out of it and kept running into walls.
The next year, my parents helped me to throw a massive Halloween party. My entire class was invited, and my mom made sure it was the kind of party that no seventh grader would want to miss. I dressed up as Groucho Marx. About a hundred costumed seventh graders were gathered around watching the infamous shower scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, when I dropped a fake body off the balcony and into the crowd! That year was much more fun – serves the bullies right!
As I grew older and began yearning for the acceptance of my peers, I learned to hide my autistic quirks and blend in with the crowd. It wasn’t easy, but I became very good at wearing a neurotypical disguise. Abercrombie and Fitch? Check. Hair gel? Check. Lack of interest in anything besides cars, beer and girls? Well, it couldn’t hurt to pretend I was interested in those things. Then I just peppered my language with sarcasm, curse words and inane remarks – voila, a neurtotypical teenager!
Pretending to be normal was exhausting, but there was always Halloween. I still get excited when the leaves turn and the air bites. By now, I’ve learned to stop pretending. I accept myself for who I am. The torch wielding villagers get annoying, but I don’t let them put a damper on my spirits.
Now that I have some autistic friends, I understand myself. I love who I am, and if others are alarmed by my eccentricities, so be it! It’s not easy being green, but I’ve learned to love every minute of it.
“In Their Own Words” is a series within the Autism Speaks blog which shares the voices of people who have autism, as well as their loved ones. If you have a story you wish to share about your personal experience with autism, please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. Autism Speaks reserves the right to edit contributions for space, style and content. Because of the volume of submissions, not all can be published on the site.