Sunday, March 10, 2019

30, I live in the UK, with my spouse, our two children, and our dog šŸ¶

I’m not able to do paid work due to disabilities. I spend most of my time looking after my children, my dog, my plants, and my house. I read a lot and I’m involved in activism. I really want to be able to do paid work, but haven’t yet figured out something I can do that works around my complicated health needs. Unfortunately, I think that the work that I do at home isn’t valued very highly in society.
Something people are often surprised to learn about me is that I am polyamorous. This means that I can be in more than one loving relationship at a time, with the enthusiastic consent of everyone involved. So I am married and I also have a girlfriend.

I think my biggest accomplishment is in raising my children. One is autistic and one is transgender, and as I’m also autistic and disabled, we have our fair share of challenges as a family. They are both happy and supported and I know they feel loved. I didn’t have a good family role model growing up, so to break the cycle of emotional abuse feels like a very big achievement.

The biggest change I want to see in the world is compassion. This is something that I push for through my activism. I want to see a world where inclusivity is normal and people show more compassion towards each other and the environment. In terms of changes I want for myself, that’s a huge question. Honestly, I am really just now coming to terms with seeing myself and seeing my life through the lens of the autism that I never knew I had. So much of my early life makes more sense now that I know that I am autistic. I think I’m really just working on self acceptance.

Something that I wish neurotypical people understood about autism, is that being autistic isn’t wrong or bad. I wish they understood that their way of understanding the world isn’t the only way, or the right way, but just one way, and that other ways of understanding the world are just as valid. As with most things, I think that listening to autistic people instead of speaking for us or assuming that you already know would make a huge difference.

To other people on the autistic spectrum: find other autistic people. It makes a huge huge difference to be around people who think and understand the world similarly to you. There is something very comforting about building those connections and just being around people who see things in a similar way.

I haven’t accessed any professional resources. The things that have benefitted me most have been talking to other women and non- binary folk on the spectrum, and reading books and blogs.

A funny story about my autism: For a while I felt that I couldn’t be autistic because my eye contact was so good (I now realize that eye contact is a different experience for every autistic person). Then one day when I was talking to a friend and mentally congratulating myself on my amazing eye contact, I realized that I was only looking at her face when she was looking away from me, and as soon as she made eye contact with me, I would have to look away. It was quite a surprise to me to realize that this didn’t count as good eye contact on my part. To me, I was making eye contact with her face well, so surely that must count!

I had to answer lots of questionnaires to pursue a diagnosis for my son, and saw myself in a lot of the questions. I mentioned it to my (autistic) girlfriend, who told me that she has always thought I was on the spectrum and had been meaning to discuss it with me! We talked a lot, I started reading up on it, and saw my childhood and adult selves reflected in so many of the resources I found. Suddenly things made sense.

Here are some signs that led other people to suspect I might be autistic: I take things literally, my eye contact is inconsistent, I often speak quite formally, I have quite intense special interests, I have trouble interpreting facial expressions, I have many sensory difficulties such as scratchy labels, bright lights, loud noises. I stim when I’m anxious by flicking my fingers, rocking or bouncing on my toes. I am quite a fussy eater and tend to go for the same thing every time. I have trouble changing the way I do something if I feel that it’s the right way. I have trouble understanding social rules and conventions, and tend to interpret them in apparently  unusual ways. I can ‘shut down’ when overwhelmed. I have quite black and white thinking. I misunderstand people a lot unless they are very clear, so I’ve learned to ask exactly what people mean.

I wasn’t diagnosed as a child because My parents were emotionally abusive and looking back, I learned to mask very early on. Every difference was ridiculed, so I tried my best to hide it. I remember knowing I was different from a really young age, and believed there was something wrong with me. At school I was hyperlexic, very bright, and bullied, and teachers assumed I was shy and left me alone.

Obstacles I have faced in my adult life center mostly around my health, both physical and mental. Coping with these would’ve been impossible without a good support system, good people in my life willing to listen, and support me. Also books, and the Internet, because these things allowed me to find new information, new perspectives, and shared experiences, all of which make me feel less alone. And healthcare! In the UK we are lucky to have the NHS, and I am not sure that I would be alive without it.

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