Uncategorized

Processing my autism diagnosis – watching home videos

So, as I mentioned in previous posts, I was diagnosed as autistic in January this year. So far I feel I’ve done a pretty good job of processing it and letting myself recover from all the strains of masking throughout my teenage years and well into adulthood. (For those who don’t know, masking is a way for neurodiverse people to act so as to fit in with society, but it’s intensely draining and goes against all our natural instincts, causing anxiety, depression and other mental health issues. Think pretending to be a movie character for your whole life without ever getting chance to be yourself for fear that you won’t be accepted/judged/bullied etc – I’ve pretty much made a vow that I’ll only mask if it’s absolutely necessary to preserve my future mental health.)

However, one of the things I wanted to do was to watch old videos my family took of me as I was growing up to see if I could see any autistic traits, mainly because I’ve seen lots of vlogs by families with autistic kids and wondered if I acted the same as they did. I knew my nan said I flapped my hands and made other stimming/self soothing gestures when I was less than a year old and that she suspected I was autistic (sadly, not much was known about girls on the spectrum in the 90s, so I was dismissed by the doctor, a story I know is only too familiar for women my age who are only now being diagnosed), and I remember feeling on the outside of a lot of social stuff like birthday parties and playgroups.

After speaking with my awesome mother, she dug around and found some tapes of past Christmases, birthdays and holidays for me to watch. When I put the first one on, within minutes of watching myself and noting my body language, where my focus was, how I spoke and interacted with people around me, I knew that the signs I’m autistic have always been painfully obvious, the only problem back then was that no-one knew what they were looking for.

And it hurts that something so obvious was missed. But seeing myself so natural was also liberating, because I’ve spent all these months post-diagnosis trying to relax myself and not worry about being judged enough to drop my mask, especially regarding stimming – knowing that how I stim now is the same as back then makes me feel that I’ve found myself again. I didn’t lose myself in the masks I’ve had to wear.

I cried because of this, and rocked and flapped and did all the things that help me express my emotions.

Of course there will still be times when I don’t feel my difficulties are valid, because there’s always going to be people who don’t understand, don’t have patience and some who just don’t care, not to mention my own thoughts of feeling completely fine until I have to be social, but this has definitely helped me to realise that though I might have hidden things well as a teen and adult, I have always had these difficulties.

And if I need more time to think when I’m asked a ‘simple’ question, need help doing everyday tasks, or if I need my ear defenders just to walk down the street because the world is so loud, it’s perfectly okay.

(Side note: along with my difficulties, there are many cool things about being autistic, and I’d never want to change how my brain comes up with all the crazy ideas I have.)

Anyway, that’s my ramble for today. Time for dinner.

Poetry

Restraining a meltdown

Let me scream, let me go hoarse,

these emotions want to rip out through my body.

Crossing sounds and smells, yellow light shining in my eyes

 

and people all around

expecting me to speak in a calm manner

and diligently do my job.

 

My brain is on fire,

my mind just clinging to the vaguest comprehension of what I’m doing.

Voices turn into a babble my ears cannot take,

 

but I’m bound by this uniformed chain

to fulfill my role

so I keep my meltdown locked within.

A struggle covered over with a smile

that is kept from bursting out

 

from the fear of how they’ll react if

they see it fully formed.

 

Poetry, Short Stories, Uncategorized

A letter about autism to my childhood self

Hey. Try not to panic. It’s you from the future, and

I’m writing to say don’t worry. Everything

that’s getting to you at the moment will make sense in the end.

 

Like the times you wait by the fence watching the other kids play

wondering when they’ll ask you to join in, and what you’ll do if it happens.

How you’re confused at the ease they interact, talking freely,

while you stand their silently, their shouts and screams of joy

overloading your ears – until the whistle blows and hits you like ice up your spine,

locking you into rigid limbs and wriggling insides. The hold authority has.

And those times you’re unsure what Miss is asking of you, fretting about if you’re doing your work right

because she didn’t go through it fully first. So you wait

and watch the other kids, trying to guess their thinking as they set straight to it

and hoping you can catch a glimpse of their work so you can copy.

Then there’s the time you have to go to the dentist during rehearsals for the school play. Should you put your hand up? Should you just stand?

You ask around in whispers, and everyone says put your hand up. You do, but the teachers don’t see, so then you do stand.

And get told off for not telling them to put you on the end of the row, even though your form tutor read the note at registration.

How about all those times the kids take advantage of your attempts to join in? Sharing

your cat’s cradle only for them to run off with it and claim to the others that it’s theirs,

or when a girl steals your toy and tells the dinner lady you stole it from her

and you can’t speak up properly so give in and let them keep it?

When they’re supposed to share textbooks

and drag them away so you can’t see?

Let’s not forget how you can’t co-ordinate your body in P.E,

or have so much trouble learning in class that you take your work home.

When you have your nose in a book at the doctor’s because you can’t deal with what is going on, and get called rude for not paying attention.

Then there’s your many attempts to get the timing right on Mario’s jump and fail at every try.

When you tell a stranger about how bad mum’s morning breath is

and don’t understand why she’s embarrassed. It’s fact, isn’t it?

Why you can’t understand why people play with dolls when you can just make up characters in your head.

 

Like I said. It’s all fine. There’s a reason for it, a simple explanation:

Autism.

A condition meaning

your brain is wired slightly differently to most people. You notice

things they never will while missing the unspoken signs

they give each other all the time.

It doesn’t mean you’re strange, weird, stupid or a freak.

It means you’re you,

and though you haven’t met them yet, there are others out there

who are wired in the same way

and know just how this feels.

 

So remember, you’re not alone. If you explain

your difficulties (and your strengths)

then eventually the world will start to understand.

 

P.S. In the meantime, try sunglasses and earmuffs — all year round.

Poetry

Neurodiverse

I can’t think

how many times I’ve had to hold my tongue to please.

How many times

I’ve become someone else

because at the time, it felt like an easier option

than having to explain why touch makes me uncomfortable,

why I can’t concentrate in social gatherings,

why I’ll always interact with animals

yet give other humans a wide berth.

There are some who I know would understand,

but others, regardless of explanation and education,

never will.

Poetry

Age Rings

My age is shown in armoured plates,

shells coating my body. Each one no thicker

than a single hair and full of patch jobs

from nicks and scrapes I’ve received

clawing my way here through thorned words,

cactus remarks, daggers thrown at me with a single look.

Sometimes, not even I can remember who I am underneath,

and I know I would feel naked if I stripped them back.

But that lemon juice you offer is so fresh.

Poetry

So what would a diagnosis mean for you?

The spectrum runs much deeper than we can see,

maybe we’re on the precipice,

maybe we’ve already reached the bottom.

Dragged through the world, forced to be immersed,

or constantly waiting on the edge, wanting an invitation

but blocking up the letter box.

Time opens up, divides, expands.

The clock ticking provides a distraction,

my body sways in keeping.

Why is yellow such a bright colour?

It rains on my head and splashes in my eyes,

a tidal wave of unpleasant butterflies

and the number three.

All I crave is quiet. pH7.

Poetry

Simulacrum

I cry rainbows at night when I think no-one else is near. Flower skeletons decay even more in my mind and silhouettes of birds turn out to be no more than shaped words. Carefully chosen, trimmed to perfection like a prize bonsai tree. My wings have been clipped. I’ve been pressed against pages leaving only an imprint behind. I am not myself. I am the person someone else wants to see.