Here is some of what I’ve been thinking about lately.
Part of my black or white, all or nothing, rigid thinking includes me vacillating between thinking that I have super awesome unique talents, skills, traits, and attributes that are worthwhile, positive, useful, helpful, and beneficial and feeling that my strong personality, preferences, opinions, and ways of expressing myself are too difficult for people to find worth tolerating or putting up with.
I often worry about things like finding a career that I love or a meaningful relationships when I wonder why anyone would bother accommodating me when I struggle so much with super basic “common sense” things that the majority of other humans just seem to innately pick up. I worry about people thinking I’m faking my confusion or inability to understand what they consider to be super basic and straightforward instructions when they see me using high level vocabulary and forming articulate arguments using advanced critical thinking when expressing abstract concepts in casual conversation. It gives me anxiety & dread to think that if I don’t try to dumb myself down, people might assume I’m looking for pity or hand-outs or trying to exploit the system by asking for additional resources and support in my daily life when I don’t seem to have a “severe developmental disability.”
The truth of the matter is that I haven’t even really started living my life fully out of fear because each time I’ve tried to venture forth by going back to school or getting another job, something’s always inevitably come to challenge me in a way that overwhelms me & send me running for the hills again. It’s not like I want to just waste away in my room all day every day. This genuinely makes me sad & stressed because I feel the minutes of my life just slipping away. I’m a normal person like everyone else in that I have hopes, dreams, goals, desires, etc. but because anytime I’ve tried to work towards an aspiration of mine, it feels like a million dangerous roadblocks get erected no matter what path I try to take, I get drained, discouraged, and disheartened.
Despite being a decently articulate & introspective individual, it’s very hard for me to explain in a detailed manner exactly what’s “wrong” with me in terms of why I need “disability” services. I don’t even know why I struggle a lot of the time or what it is that I do that’s inappropriate or ineffectual. Over the years, people have used certain language to describe my thought & behavior patterns and sometimes it’s been difficult to accept their assessments as accurate because I see everything from a totally different perspective, naturally. I almost feel incapable of seeing things from the “mainstream societal perspective” so I don’t think I’m the person to ask when it comes to my challenges a lot of the time. That being said, I’ve developed some defense mechanisms where I’ve been able to hide a lot of the qualities in me that would initially stand out to others as red flags or unusual/abnormal as a survival technique. This is called masking & because I’ve gotten so good at it in certain settings, a lot of external observers can’t tell what’s going on inside of me that’s causing me to feel like I’m struggling so much. This has actually worked to my detriment because now I don’t know how to explain these difficulties AND many others don’t even see me struggling.
The past few years or so, I’ve been trying to “unmask” more & be a bit more true to my authentic self so that outside observers could give me additional feedback on what they think might be going on so I can get more/better help. It’s also just exhausting to mask & it makes me feel like I’m being dishonest about who I am, which I absolutely hate, so I’m also doing this simply to feel more comfortable in my everyday life & interactions. However, the less I mask, other new obstacles arise that I’m having to learn how to contend with. I know that life is never going to be obstacle free, but it definitely gets tiresome to be working to minimize difficulties in one area only to discover ten more popping up somewhere else.
I know a lot of people in my life are unsure as to why I talk about Autism so much, and I know that many remain skeptical about my being on the spectrum in the first place despite having received an official diagnosis from a specialist. I know that others dismiss it as just “another label” & think I shouldn’t be putting so much focus into it. I just want y’all to understand that the reason this has been so important to me is because receiving this diagnosis has given me the language I was lacking when it comes to trying to explain a lot of the difficulties I face on a daily basis. Being autistic explains so much of why I feel, think, express myself how I do. I know this may be hard to understand when one’s grasp of what Autism is has been misinformed by stereotypes, outdated information, or limited personal experiences.
In the end, all I hope people can take away from me sharing my thoughts & feelings is that while a person may “look” or “seem” a certain way to you, that may not be the case. We are all very unique & have our own vastly different experiences, strengths, weaknesses, etc. and that’s great. The thing is, since we are all so different, this means we gotta try to understand, when others are struggling in ways we haven’t, we can’t possibly ever fully know what exactly they’re going through, no matter how similar it may seem to something we have experienced or something we have seen someone else experience. Instead of trying to offer advice or share personal anecdotes of how we underwent something we THINK is related, it’s more productive to wipe the slate clean and assume this is a fully new & unique situation we have never encountered before because that’s the truth of the matter. Every since situation that occurs, though it may seem similar to others, is fully unique & new, and thus needs to be treated that way. I advise trying to learn more about the specifics of each new situation, person, event, and ask about what you can do to be supportive to the people in that situation.
A lot of the time people won’t actually know what can be done, if anything, because that requires a lot of introspection & the ability to verbalize what might just be a jumble of nebulous feelings in a constructive & concise way. That’s a very rare & valuable skillset that has to be cultivated over a good amount of time with the help of professionals, especially therapists. Things are always changing, and this can be confusing, especially when it comes to the medical fields of psychology & neuroscience. There is still so much we don’t understand about our brains & bodies, so all we can do is be patient and work together to further our collective understanding to the best of our abilities. I hope that with continued efforts & courage, I’ll eventually be able to make significant headway when it comes to finding the appropriate resources for my personal situation, and that that will help me finally be able to actually start living my life in a more decided, deliberate, dedicated way.