I’ve spent all day knowing I need to write something but not knowing how to start. I’ve got so much going on in my head that the need to get some of it down in written form is almost crucial to life itself.
My whole life I have tried. At everything. Being autistic meant that I had to try harder than everyone else at everything. Being a person. Thinking about other persons. Having facial expressions (I would practise that in front of my bathroom mirror to the point I felt like an idiot thinking,what was I doing it for?) Holding inane small talk in conversations. Toning it down. Being quite. Not talking because when I did actually talk which was what people wanted I talked too much and over shared or went on a monologue about a favourite topic. Be normal. Make friends. No not that way this way. It’s not enough. It’s never enough. You can try harder. Harder. HARDER!
When will it be enough? When will I be enough?
I spent my whole life knowing no matter what I did it wouldn’t be enough. With family or boyfriends, work, anything. I felt like I drifted around like leaf litter in a river being washed around, occasionally coming into contact with the bank and hard ground and life.
When I finally knew the reason why I struggled and that I wasn’t built to function the same as everyone else around me, it still took me years to learn, to want to learn, why that was so.
I was so happy when I did finally start learning more. That I wasn’t deficient or wrong and that this is how I was built to work. I took on life with a whole new perspective. Now I had the answers and as time went on those answers would become more refined.
It I still kept trying (chameleon) always trying because that was how I’d spent the majority of life up to now. It was programmed into me. Like a default switch that I couldn’t turn off. And the trying was slowly wearing me down. Trying to be something and someone I’m not.
The questions would arise: Why am I trying so hard? Why isn’t anyone else trying? Why is it so hard? Even though I had these answers I was still living the life I’d been pushed into like that square peg into a round hole. I didn’t fit. Like downloading android apps onto an iPhone. You know it’s not going to work, but by the slim chance you can get them on there they will never function properly and will end up taking the whole system down.
Because doctors will be doctores, and psychologists will be psychologists, I’d had one form of anti depressant prescribed to me on and off for years. Trying to medicate the autism out of me which also wasn’t going to work. All they did was numb me. They took away my natural defences and abilities and left me vulnerable to manipulation and abuse.
I have many scars.
7 years ago I managed to finally get away from it all. And it was like my hyper senses before were in hyper sleep like in a deep space travel movie, or waters trapped behind a damn that suddenly burst. I think it was both. Because when all that rubbish was purged from my system my senses woke up. They burst out of me from nothing to everything. From 0-100 kilometres an hour. Here I was in my mid 30’s having sensory experiences for the first time since I could remember and I was now faced with having to learn how to control them (yeah because that was going to be easy). I still feel sometimes like a character in a superhero movie who has been suddenly endowed all these powers and now has to learn how to use them or else.
I smell everything, hear too much, see too much, feel too much. Like Dorothy going from black and white Kansas to technicolor Oz. And the older I get the more acute it all becomes. The more sensitive to the point that I feel that if gets any more sensitive I’d hear it if the moon farted. And smell it too.
My son also laughed at that analogy.
Finding the autism women’s group I became apart of was so incredible. I felt like I found a home. A place where I didn’t have to try anymore because they all liked me just the way I was. I could be me.
But who was me? What was I? Who was Elle?
With everything going on in my life, all the troubles, all the pain both physical and mental, the turmoil the anguish the GAH! This year something inside of me snapped. It took that latest fight, that latest misunderstandings, that latest need to defend myself again….. I couldn’t do it anymore. I took a step back to get a breath and examine it all. My life. The people in it. Where I was. I was going through all these changes. I felt like everything was changing. (There was shifting in the force)
I was alone, metaphorically speaking. I had reached the end of….no broken the tether. With all the trying over all the years I saw the same pattern. I was doing all the work. I was the one who had to change. I was the one who wasn’t enough. I still couldn’t participate in a conversation at 42 without being told to be quite.
It took me almost going into autistic shut down to finally wake up and see that I, for my own health and well-being HAD to stop. So I stayed in that step back. And waited to see what would happen. The realisations and what I learned in that step back both broke my heart and crushed the last of my hope. That unless I tried. That unless I did the work, no one else would.
So I stopped trying. But in my hurt and pain and frustration, I became angry. It wasn’t until the other night that I realised how angry I was. I’d shoved it down so hard. So now I have fight being cynical and pessimistic and negative (oh my!)
Even though I stopped, I still get the urge to defend myself when someone inevitably misreads me or misunderstands me (I’m not speaking Klingon or something am I) which happens quite a lot (I’m autistic I’m not a bitch!). My facial expression won’t be right. My tone is too harsh. My voice to loud. I didn’t think to ask how someone was. You have to understand other people. Everyone is going through a hard time you just have to try harder…….all those words hurt me. Can’t you see they hurt me? Can’t you see that I’m suffering too? That I have my own pain to deal with? No. Because I don’t see how it is. I don’t have the empathy or connectivity to other humans to be able understand properly. I’m not normal.
Yes I know from all these words how full of it all I’ve become. But I can’t keep holding out my hand only to have it ignored or smacked away.
It’s not hard to get to know me. I don’t bite. Yes I’m blunt and matter of fact. Yes I’m right almost 100% of the time and it’s annoying. Yes I need to have things a certain way to be able to function smoothly. Yes when I get passionate about a subject my voice modulation is beyond my control along with my facial expressions and physical movements so I look more like I’m agitated than happy. I’m intense. I hate small talk and will actively avoid it wherever possible. Yes I will tell you stop whistling or cracking your fingers. I will tell you if that dress you’re wearing is ugly or your hair cut unflattering. I won’t remember to ask how you’re doing if you’ve been sick unless you ask me to specifically. I will tell you if you’re being an idiot. I have an intense sense of justice.
But I’m loyal. I am fiercely loyal. Until you break my trust and than I will have no feeling for you other than as a fellow living creature.
I am passionate. I’m eccentric and quirky. I have such intense empathy that I feel physical pain when I see an animal run over or someone hurt to the point I have to shut it off. My memory is looooooooooooooong (yes I will remember that time you were wrong and I was right)….. The pluses outweigh the negative. It’s not hard to find them if you try.
But I’m not waiting anymore.
I started seeing other kids do the same to my boy. But I’ve learned from the mistakes of the past, yes I know they were well meant but they were damaging. Now I’m teaching my boy how to function with the abilities he was given. Body language over facial expressions. No he doesn’t need to make eye contact or shake hands or hug someone he doesn’t want to. Yes be polite have manners and think of other people but don’t let that compromise the person he is. We aren’t wrong we are another culture. A neuroculture.
It might be a while before I’m done processing everything that’s happened this year let alone the events of the past. It might be awhile before the feelings of cynicism and frustration fade (I wish they’d hurry up).
I guess I’m still trying in some ways, just not in the ones that hurt me anymore.
I’m autistic. I’m not what you think you see.