Monday, August 5, 2019

27, from UK I’m coming to the end of a masters degree. Yes, I enjoy it though it’s a lot of work. Something someone would be surprised to know about me: I’m not sure. I taught food security over in India for a month several years ago and loved it. In my opinion my biggest accomplishment thus far is:Completing my undergraduate degree with a first, dancing on stage with others… There’s plenty I want to change about myself! I don’t think there would be enough paper to cover all that! Changing the world – I think I’d want more peace, more acceptance of others, more respect. I wish others NOT on the spectrum would understand That what you see isn’t always what you get. Not to write people off based on what you perceive or observe about them. That sometimes you need to listen in different ways. That communication isn’t always verbal. That difference is okay. That autistic people are not less than or stupid, they have their own talents and strengths. Biggest supports were: People taking the time to listen to me and having the patience to stand by me. Often autistic individuals have been through a lot of trauma, so will be naturally more defensive. People that stuck by me and showed me that I could trust others have probably helped the most. Practically, those who have taken an individual, person-centred approach – thinking outside the box – have worked best. Those who work with me, around me, not just with the system. Also, acknowledging that me not attending, say, lectures, wasn’t due to laziness or because I was skiving and sending me notes etc, giving me an equal opportunity to learn. What I want to tell fellow autistics: It is okay to like yourself and don’t see yourself as being defective. Embrace difference. Like (or even love) yourself. I know autism comes with a whole host of stresses – and the world does through lack of understanding etc – but stick with it. You deserve compassion, understanding and kindness. My social worker suspected I was on the spectrum when I was 22/23. I mean, at 14 I ended up in hospital and it says “social difficulties” or something on my notes/discharge letter but autism wasn’t suspected. Perhaps it wasn’t known about in my ways of presentation back then. I think my social worker suggested it because she realised that there was something additional to trauma that was going on. If she was late calling me, for example, even by a minute, I would become extremely distressed. Change was difficult for me, I over-thought in every social situation and I had high levels of fatigue. I also had eating difficulties that didn’t fit the ED-services mould. When I first received my diagnosis I felt: It was a lengthy process. There were feelings of grief, anger towards others that I was missed, anger and hurt at all that I’d gone through and how understanding could have changed my life. I suppose I’m replying with hindsight… but I think initially I thought that having the diagnosis was proof I was defective or deficient or wrong in some way. Today I feel about my diagnosis: That perhaps I’m not evil. I still feel useless and defective sometimes, but I’ve come a long way. I am more assertive now and surround myself with healthier people, which helps me not see myself as so ‘wrong’. Sometimes I am glad of being autistic, sometimes I wish I wasn’t. I still feel grief and anger, but perhaps less than I did. I’m not sure if being diagnosed would make a difference if people still didn’t understand. I self-harmed and attempted suicide due to feeling evil and knowing I was wrong. I tried to change everything about myself to ‘fit in’ – starvation, purging, speaking certain ways, wearing certain things. Maybe I’d have accepted myself a bit more had I have known. Maybe my friendships would have been more successful as I had mental health issues as a result of being invisible and neglected in the system. Maybe professionals would have been less likely to get frustrated or tell me everything was my fault (the world told me that) and would have just helped me with my different way of processing everything. Maybe I wouldn’t have been so tired and had a burnout for so many years due to the strain I was under for so long. Obstacles I overcame: Quite a few! I don’t really want to go into anything too personal because those experiences are mine but I have been through different experiences of trauma. I became very defensive, suspicious of others and I had anxiety/panic attacks and flashback effects as a consequence. I self-harmed in order to cope. This is less now, though I am not immune to these things. Now, I try to dance or run or go for a walk to help. I am more pro-active in my responses. I make better choices in people I surround myself with. I am beginning to accept they might like me for who I am. This is a long process. Just having someone – and I have had a few people – believe in me, made such a massive difference. I was lucky to have that.

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