Diary of grieving the person I always wanted to be to embrace who I really am.
Story of another late-diagnosed woman with an Autism Spectrum Condition.
Trigger warning : raw text based on raw emotions, probably containing some internal ableism that will be deconstructed during my journey.
Denial is probably not a great description on how to describe 32 years of feeling not fitting in the society without knowing why. Therefore I tried hard, copied what everyone was doing but it was clumsy and it did not work. I always struggled to understand why. I did everything everyone else was doing and it worked for them. I just wanted to be loved and popular.
I was the weirdo, the person that is too much, do too much, or is too intense.
There was nothing obviously “wrong” with me so no one paid attention of my struggles, they probably even did not see it. They were not aware. The expectation on me was very hard, is still very hard for some. My relatives asked me to be “normal” without acknowledgment that I was trying, unsuccessfully. That “fake it until you make it” moment never happened.
Now we know why I felt off all my life. I was autistic. Yet again, some of my relatives still expect it to be fixed: “don’t use it to become lazy and complacent, you know what is wrong, fix it”.
Well, I’ve been trying all my life to “fix it”. But now we know that there was nothing to fix, I am just different. Would those people expect people in a wheelchair to “make an effort” and walk because it makes them uncomfortable? I bet they don’t. Why would that be different?
There were so many signs from my childhood to my adulthood. Obsessive special interests, struggle to control my emotions, being too much, being “self-centred”, being bullied at school and at work, having public melt-down and private shut-down, and sadly faced domestic and sexual abuse as I struggled to say NO in order to fit in & do what was expected. Autistic women are vulnerable.
Why no one thought about autism instead of the labels “too much” “too emotional” “weird” “obsessed” “depressed” “lazy” “distracted” “selfish”?
I can’t help myself to feel my life would be so much different now would I received support to build myself knowing I had autism.
And no, we’re not all a bit autistic. Autistic traits are human traits, everyone can have them. But being diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Condition is having a very specific combination of traits, through childhood to adulthood. And there is no easy “autism”. What they call “Asperger” or “high-functioning” just means our IQ is normal and we don’t have learning deficits. It certainly doesn’t mean we have it easy. “High-functioning” autistic have a huge amount of mental health issues and struggles with self esteem, employment and relationships.
I am personally under medication to make my life barrable. Don’t you dare telling me that I am lucky to have “minor” autism because of how successful my career and relationship are. You know nothing and it is insulting.
Well, at least now I have an explanation on why I felt so “broken” and different my whole life.
I feel privileged that I have the incredible support of a local charity Autism at Kingwood who provides support for late-diagnosed autistic adults. They don’t work to change us, but to understand us.
Understanding my new self is a whole new journey, but hopefully, with the appropriate support, life will become brighter, lighter and better.
Surprisingly, I thought being diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Condition would only bring me relief and pride. However, I got hit by a huge wave of sadness and grief. So huge that I had to take time off work because it was overwhelming.
I will be autistic all my life, there is no cure, and I will never feel like I “fit in”. My social interactions will probably stay problematic, my professional career will continue to be impacted by it, and I’ll probably have to remain on medication.
It is hard when you spent 32 years trying to be “normal”. I felt so jealous of everyone having it apparently easy, able to thrive socially. Life should not be that hard. Now I know it will remain hard. And I have to accept it if I want to move forward.
I know so well the society is not adapted for us. Autistic rights are not there yet, that’s why a few high-profile people are out because it is deeply tainted by unhelpful clichés. I am not special, I have no great talents, and my intelligence is normal. I am not a hidden genie.
So that’s where I am now, deeply proud to be autistic, but deeply sad that it is not fixable. I need to grief the person I always wanted to be to embrace who I really am.
I now have all the tools to understand myself and be OK with my limits. Being #ActuallyAutistic makes me able to ask for support and ask reasonable adjustments.
Being comfortable with my true self will allow me to have more meaningful relationships. Only my partner knows who I really am because I feel safe and loved so I don’t need to “mask” my autistic traits. I hope to arrive to a point that I will be my true self with everyone, it will remove an important burden on my shoulders. The feeling to be “fake” and “not myself” is pretty isolating and exhausting. But I fooled everyone for so many years, so I am perhaps a great actor.
With proper support in my professional life (which I already have), my autistic traits are my strength. I am thorough, have great attention to details, focused and methodical. I follow the rules, am loyal, and determined.
Every experience of autism is unique. And now I know that it defines my personality. It is more than a condition, it is just who I am & I am OK with this.