Rambling About my Autism: Masking, Self-Exploration and Understanding Eachother
I don’t know if I speak for every single neurodivergent person out there but I don’t struggle with autism. I struggle with other people not having it or not even having a concept of what it is. I don’t expect total empathy but it would be nice if I got a centimeter of wiggle room when it came to social situations without coming across like I want cheat codes for life.
I use the pronoun “my” because everyone experiences autism differently and it’s such a complicated diagnosis that it’s entirely understandable why neurotypical people are very confused by it. It doesn’t help that autism isn’t really touched upon in education or that representation of neurodivergent people in the media is pretty poor. Often, whenever an uninitiated neurotypical person thinks of autism, they either think of edgy internet humour or Rain Man and they’re just as bad as each other in my estimation.
I was diagnosed in Primary School when I was about seven years old but at the time, I didn’t think much of it. I might’ve told some of my friends at school but I couldn’t tell them anything about what it meant or anything. I never understood why my parents took me to this place far out of town where this man in a suit was asking me bizarre questions and conundrums or why I had to leave the room for several minutes whilst the man just spoke to my parents.
I was one of those kids who was steadfastly attached to a counsellor because I had a short fuse in the nursery which carried on until I was about nine years of age. I don’t remember her ever having a conversation with me about my diagnosis. Maybe she wasn’t qualified to speak about it or something, I don’t know.
Anyway, I only really took notice of it when I was fourteen because I started to realize that I was missing pieces of puzzles all the time. Throughout school, I had a terrible fear of failure in the sense that I didn’t want to try and do anything without very specific instructions because I was scared of the consequence of doing it wrong. People would tell me jokes and I wouldn’t get them. I would miss social cues sometimes. I was overly self-conscious of things that “normal” people aren’t supposed to be self-conscious of like the size of my shoes.
Then, I was worried about telling anyone because of the stigma attached to it at the time. Being raised by the internet mostly, people made fun of autism all the time and not in a particularly fun way. Being autistic meant that you were stupid and sub-human. I feared facing direct harrassment in real life so I left it alone for a bit. Only my friends knew about it.
It wasn’t until I was about eighteen where I realized that it was something special about me; it was part of my character. I read more about it. I talked to people online who also had autism or they were concerned that they might have it and encouraged them to be diagnosed. I was exploring it and I realized that it was more interesting than I thought. I embraced it. One of the very few good things about the internet is that you are allowed to be who you are and find other people who are the same as you. I know this is because of social engineering and advertising etc but still.
To this day, I still live with it and it still does bother me from time to time but I feel like part of being human is self-exploration and learning to live with yourself. There are still times where I act irrationally because I’m socially paranoid which is an off-shoot of me being a constant thinker. There is still a fear of me doing or saying the wrong thing to upset people or that I’m misinterpreted. Not having many friends at school, I’m keen to get attached to people but I get quickly overwhelmed and anxious. I would still probably suffer a sensory overload in nightclubs which can lead to something like panic attacks All this is part of learning about yourself and it’s a disservice to not try and address it. Not to solve it, but to realize who you are and accept yourself.
What some neurodivergent people are self-conscious of is the idea of masking. This essentially means that you hide autistic behaviours by doing an impression of a neurotypical individual which is a practice that is definitely unhealthy. I’ve been guilty of this throughout university when I’m rubbing shoulders with people I barely know because there is an element of safety in it. Ultimately though, you should be allowed to be yourself in real life and I do know that there are some people who see my overanalysis in conversation and wished that I would shut the fuck up. What I say to that is that there will be people like that anyway if you’re autistic or not and we should work together to normalize being who you are. “Normal” to me is who I am.
Really, I’ve had it easy in comparison to other autistic folk. Some won’t find out for ages that they’re autistic because they don’t have anyone around them showing concern or, if you’re AFAB, you have to jump through all these hoops because of the inherently sexist industry. In 2021, the “woman are just hysterical” viewpoint is indeed, still a thing. I spare a thought for people who are getting diagnosed after their teens when I got diagnosed in about an hour. To those people, I encourage you to keep pressing forward with it and to not give up getting the help and support you need. It’ll be alright because it’s not as scary as Rain Man makes it out to be.
If there is anyone reading this who is concerned that they might be autistic or that they know someone who does. I say that you don’t need to be concerned. If you want to be diagnosed, push for the diagnosis but if you can’t or you don’t want to. That’s fine too. Do what I did. Reach out to other autistic people and talk to them. Join a Discord server and have a chat because there are more neurodivergent people out there than you might think and they are all looking to open the conversation as well.
Outside of that, I don’t know where this was going. Just try and understand each other.
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Something no one told me about having CPTSD is that acknowledging you were abused/traumatised can cause a trauma reaction
But I need to do it because it's affecting my life negatively already
I was trying to explain this to my friend and used this analogy:
'It's like......I've been running from a monster that was always at my heels tripping me and clawing my back until I was exhausted and had to stop
But now I'm turning to fight and getting the shit kicked out of me atm
And my friend, who is the literal best but wishes to be anonymous right now, replied furthering the analogy with something that I think a lot of people need to hear
You're getting beat up by the fear and those feelings of breaking habits and doing new and unfamiliar things. The abusers aren't landing the scratches and hits like they used to, and the cuts they kept leaving are finally starting to heal. Continuing the metaphor, as you get better at fighting it will get easier, less scary, and you'll realise your winning and the old wound are healing up because they're not being reopened constantly. It takes bravery and practice, and sometimes when you throw a punch the shoulder injury will hurt more, and even reopen a bit, but that's why we try to partially fight and partially just shield (eg cut contact) so we're not overdoing it and losing feeling in your arm. And eventually your shoulder will get stronger too.
So for anyone struggling as I am with the process of confronting your past abuse I hope you take my friends words to heart and keep fighting
I'll keep at it too
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