When I Said I Wanted Superpowers, This Isn’t What I Meant

I’ve seen a lot of people make sense of their mental health issues or their Autism or their whatever by saying that it’s given them a superpower: sensitivity to emotions, intense focus, and so on. Despite my love for all things superhero, this has always irritated me and I never really understood why until I talked to my Mum about it. The words just came out and it clicked into place.

For me, it’s too simplistic a concept. At this point in time, I only feel disadvantaged – deprived – by my Autism especially. I’m told I won’t feel like this forever – I know that lots of people feel like it does add something to their lives – but right now, it takes away from my life more than it adds. So it really doesn’t feel like a superpower. If anything, it feels like I’ve suddenly got a superpower that I can’t control. If you want an excellent example of this, watch Agents of Shield: one character develops the ability to control the vibrations around her but because she can’t control it, she essentially causes earthquakes whenever she gets upset or angry or scared. Sometimes I feel kind of like that, like the intensity of my emotions causes irreparable damage to me and everything around me. I’m not causing natural disasters or shattering windows but maybe the effect is just slower.

An example that fits better with Autism might be having enhanced hearing – connected to the sensory sensitivities – but because I can’t control it, I can’t use it. I can’t isolate a single sound and tune out everything else; it’s just a tidal wave of noise, the world with the volume up to maximum. It feels like the best I can do is to manage it, to keep it at a level that doesn’t kill me. I wonder if I’ll ever be able to control it, even a little bit. What if it’s something that you just can’t control, like time or the weather? I worry that it’s one of those things, that it’ll be like this forever. Is it still a superpower if you can’t do anything with it, if you can’t do anything good with it?

I’ve done my fair share of those personality tests that supposedly tell you something about yourself, what animal you’d be or which Hogwarts house you’re most suited to. I think this is something that many people who struggle with identity do: you feel like you don’t know who you are so you’ll take any answers you can get. I’ve definitely fallen into that rabbit hole before. I’ve never found a good one for superpowers though. Mine would probably be something to do with emotions, like being able to manipulate someone’s emotions or transmit my emotions to somebody else. Maybe that’s the problem: maybe the strength of my emotions just falls short of a superpower, maybe one percent more and I’d be able to control them. That fits right into my fear that I’d be something special if I just tried harder, that I’m never trying hard enough. Okay, I’m rambling now.

Anyway. My point is… I’m not even sure what my point is. I guess I’m just thinking out loud. Reading it back it’s a bit of a mess but I needed to put all of this somewhere. Mostly I think I’m scared I’m not enough, not enough of anything. I’d love to know if you’ve thought about any of this, whether you like the superpower metaphor, even what you think your superpower would be… So if you’d like to, please leave a comment below.

Version 2

(Photo by Richard Sanderson. He called this my ‘superhero pose.’)

7 Comments on “When I Said I Wanted Superpowers, This Isn’t What I Meant

  1. I wouldn’t describe anyone of my autistic traits as a superpower, more like super-isolating. I also have fears of not being enough, not doing enough etc. Sometimes they grab hold and won’t let me go and at other times I recognise them for what they are and can manage to dismiss them.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What an excellent post. I have never bought into the whole superhero power, in fact it as a slogan irked me beyond all belief if honest. It took me a good few years to actually accept my diagnosis into my life – and l travelled a diverse path of emotions to get to where l am today – sure l am proud to be , but more importantly l am simply proud to be me – corny perhaps but at least it’s honesty.

    I am ‘proud’ to be the Aspie l am – sure, sure, yeah, yeah l am actually autistic – but l am no superhero, l don’t possess superhero powers – if anything l am a survivor is that a superhero quality? But so too are many on the spectrum, we don’t need to have superhero qualities to be who we are, we just need to survive. Years of confusions and anxiety and stress when a youngster, not fitting in, misdiagnosis and abuse from society and worst the medical profession, and my ability to be super is survival.

    If it is of any consolation, it does get better as you age, but it isn’t a walk in the path. I was a later diagnosis at 44, and l am 55 this year, it took me 8 years to finally say ‘I am proud to be who l am!’

    Of all the things l am proud to be though – super hero is not one of them. But a bit like the elderly who say they have got to an age where upon they can wear silly jumpers, l too have got to the age, where l don’t really care anymore about what others think. The secret to finding peace within yourself – and no this is not some enlightenment thing, but it is ‘accepting who you are really’ and being happy with it.

    Life is STILL not perfect, but it’s way better than constantly being at loggerheads with how you think you should be.

    Again, an excellent post.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Pingback: World Autism Awareness Week 2021 | Finding Hope

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