A discussion of Generation X and my own autism diagnosis
|I rush in from school and go straight to my bedroom, blazer damp from the rain and shoes splashed with mud. I pick up my comic book from where I left it on my desk this morning and collapse cross-legged on the scratchy, blue carpet with my back against the hot radiator and shiver. With cold red fingers I turn to the first page and begin my escape. |
I have replayed the story in my head all day at school and I know each panel and word by heart. I have twisted and turned it, come up with my own variations and alternative endings. I put myself into the story and pretended I’m not me, because the real me sits alone at lunch. Superheroes don’t have to go to school, and they certainly wouldn’t get picked on if they did.
Heat seeps into my spine and the sadness disappears. I go somewhere else. What looks like a few flimsy pages of coloured ink and advertisements is actually a portal to another dimension, one that sets off a thousand stories in my head.
In the early 90s I was pretty obsessed with X-Men comics. It was around the time when Generation X first came out. There was a character called Monet St Croix - she had super strength, she could fly, and everyone thought she was a little stuck up and cold. She would go into these trances that no one could break, and because of her super strength she couldn't be shifted either. Beast (I think) diagnosed Monet as autistic*.
Cool, I thought, I wish I could just zone out away from everything like that. Leave the real world behind and live in my fantasy comic-influenced daydreams. Way better than real life.
I didn't realise I was already doing that. Not with so much dramatic comic book effect of course, but more often than not I was away in my own head where I could daydream about my latest obsessions. I didn't realise I was any different. No one thought anything of it, I guess. They didn't see a problem with my inability to keep a consistent friend group, or the bullying, or the isolation. It was the 90s, I was just a weird kid, girls can't be autistic. She's just a comic-book nerd like her dad. Her brother is quiet too. It'll get better. It didn't. I left school at 18 and spent 20 years feeling like I was drowning. I was diagnosed as autistic at 37.
The Monet St Croix that everyone saw when she was first introduced in Generation X was actually not the real Monet at all. Her jealous, deformed brother had transformed her into Penance, a mute creature with razor-sharp skin. Her sisters - twins Claudette and Nicole - didn't want their father upset at the loss of his favourite perfect daughter, so they used their powers to merge together to take Monet's form and fool everyone.
Claudette was autistic. Nicole was not. When Monet was present and speaking, that was Nicole. When Monet was in her trances, that was Claudette.
Was it a good representation of autism? No. It was another case of the 'non-verbal savant child' trope. They were imperfect in their father’s eyes, but despite his cruelty they couldn’t bear to see him unhappy. They masked as the perfect daughter. They masked.
I always liked Penance more than Monet. She couldn't touch or be touched. People were invested in solving her mystery. The only person who managed to get close to her was a telepath. Maybe I felt a little bit like that - trapped behind a barrier that everyone could see but me, not knowing how to reach out.
Eventually everyone went back to their own bodies. They got to be themselves again.
With a diagnosis, I am finally getting to be the authentic me. I have ‘back up’ that allows me to ask for accommodations at work so I don’t have to be in a constant cycle of burning out and recovering just enough to keep going for another few months. I can be nicer to myself, understanding my unique skills as well as my limitations. I can be Claudette instead of Penance, a little less untouchable