Being me (part 1)

I’m autistic, it’s something I have wanted to try to write about for a while. It’s one of those things that is spoken about a lot but still misunderstood by most people. People talk about autistic kids but rarely about autistic adults and when they do it tends to be the ones who are non-verbal or can’t manage the world on their own. And there is still limited understanding about autistic women, making it hard for us to be recognized and diagnosed and often meaning people dismiss the difficulties we face.  And the only way to change this is for autistic women, like me to speak out and try to help educate the rest of the world.

I’m never going to be able to say everything I want to in one post. There is far too much and my brain will end up going on and on forever trying to get it all down and soon it won’t make sense to anyone. So I’m going to try to break it down. When I’m writing about being autistic it will be a Being me post. And hopefully, I might help some people understand a bit more.

It’s hard to know where to start. I’ve changed and grown up. I’ve learnt so much about the world and myself. Most of the time people won’t guess that I’m autistic. Most people think I’m a little weird but that is about it. I (try) to come across as a confident and cheerful young woman. I have learnt to hid and reduce any signs that I might be different. I have spent my life learning how to fit into a world that made little sense to me.

It might seem like a good thing. Learning to come across as neuro-typical (non-autistic). It certainly makes life easier for other people. And while it has allowed me to fit in and cope with the world, it has had quite a heavy toll.

Most of the autistic you will meet have done the same thing. That’s why we are the ones you meet. We were able to adapt to your world, to learn how to act like you, talk like you, we copied the things you did and watched you interact with the world until we could do it too. We suppressed our natural behaviour to seem more normal. We did anything we could to fit in.

I wasn’t diagnosed until I was 18. Compared to a lot of people it’s quite young but there was still a lot of re-understanding to do.

I was about 8 when I started to realize I was different. I couldn’t seem to connect to my classmates the way they did with each other. When I got upset I would lose control and hit myself and until my thighs burned and hands hurt. I never understood jokes and hated it when the classroom got too loud. It was like I was on one side of a glass wall and everyone else was on the other. I desperately wanted to fit in but I didn’t know how to.

I remember trying to explain to my mum how I felt. I was 8 or 9, it was winter. She was in the kitchen cooking and Simon and Garfunkel’s I am a rock was playing. For those who don’t know the song, I have added a few parts:

I have no need of friendship
Friendship causes pain.
It’s laughter and it’s loving I disdain.
I am a rock
I am an island

Don’t talk of love
Well, I’ve heard the words before
It’s sleeping in my memory
And I won’t disturb the slumber
Of feelings that have died
If I never loved, I never would have cried
I am a rock
I am an island

And a rock feels no pain
And an island never cries

 

I’m named after an island, the Ailsa Craig. So I thought I was being really clever when I tried to explain to my mum that it was a good thing I was named after an island as I was like one. I was part of something bigger and yet not fully connected to it. While I could see my classmates play and interact I couldn’t be part of it because I wasn’t quite connected to them. I was an island and they were the mainland.

I was really proud of my analogy. But my mum seemed less impressed and told me not to be silly. At the time it really hurt, yet again I was being told the way I thought was bad. Now I can see that it must of be quite concerning for her. Parents want their kids to be happy and there I was trying to explain how I could never really connect with other people because I was an island.

Whenever I said that I was different I would always be told that everyone felt different and it was normal. When I got upset and hit myself I would be told off and be made to feel like I was being naughty. My classmates would tease me and make me feel small. There was nothing good about being different. I was a freak. I didn’t belong and people made sure I knew that.

I didn’t like being different but I didn’t know how to be like other people either. I had this sense of who I was that I couldn’t get rid of, even when I wanted to. I tried to embrace it. When people told me I was weird I would thank them, when people were telling me I wasn’t good enough I would repeat my ‘motto’ to myself ‘I am who I am and nothing you say or do is going to change that’. It might seem like I was taking pride in who I was but really it was all I could do to keep my head above the surface.

As I got older it just got harder. The more self-aware I became the more I hated myself for not being able to fit in. When I got upset I would get angry that I still lost control and would hit myself. I knew physical pain made me feel better but when you are 13 and standing in a corridor punching yourself in the head people talk. Frustration would burst out of me and I couldn’t control it. And I would then get angry that I couldn’t control myself and everything would spiral.

If I was violent towards other people it would have been picked up on. But I loved rules and hitting other people was bad, hitting yourself, however, was never mentioned. My teachers thought I was overly emotional but never more than that and I got better at waiting until there were no adults about before I let myself lose control.

I was told over and over that the way I got upset was wrong. The way I dealt with emotions was wrong. The way I saw the world was wrong. Everything seemed wrong so I started to learn to hide it. The older I got the better I became at hiding who I was. I hated doing it but I hated being picked on and made to feel worthless more.

These days people often try to be different. It’s seen a cool. I used to hate it. I would often wish that just for a day I could know what it felt like to be normal. I desperately wanted to be like everyone else. To not be a freak, to fit in and have an easy life. I was fed up of being told I was worthless or that the world would be a better place if I had never been born.

So I got good at hiding who I was and pretending to be normal. It took a long time but now most people can’t tell I’m autistic. I can cope with the world easily. I know how to act and what the right things to say are and while sometimes I mess up, for the most part, acting neuro-typical is second nature.

I hope that this rather long and rambling post has given a little insight into what it was like being autistic when I was younger. There is obviously so much more to say but I recond this post is long enough as it is. I welcome any questions you might have, either get in touch via my facebook page or leave a comment 🙂

With love,

The girl with the braid in her hair xxx

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