Autism

Life on the spectrum – From a personal perspective

I’m proud to be on the spectrum.

What is Autism?

Autism is a lifelong developmental disability that affects how a person communicates and relates to other people. And how they experience the world around them. – National Autistic Society (NAS).

Admittedly, life as an aspie isn’t always the easiest and at times I become frustrated because I find “simple” tasks difficult. I wonder what it’s like to view life from a disparate perspective. I regularly feel that I take one step forward and ten steps backwards. I periodically forget to prioritise essential resting time and can become quite preoccupied with other areas. The majority of the time, the understanding I lack stems from myself and not from those around me.

Truthfully, we all struggle with certain aspects of life and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. We’re not always fully equipped to instantly deal with the situations we find ourselves buried in throughout our life adventure. But, we’re never alone in our battles. It’s just that others are more vocal about their challenges in comparison to the people around them.

What does Autism mean for me?

Acceptance is a constant task. Growth is constant. The learning curve continues to expand. 

It can be easy to fall into a comparative mindset, to get caught up in the idea that I can’t “really” be Autistic because I am able to manage certain scenarios seemingly better than those further along the spectrum. Friends of mine are also Autistic but cannot leave the house unattended, whereas I flew abroad alone this summer. I was the same at one stage, but I’ve grown, I’ve learned and I’m better equipped for the obstacles lumbered in my direction. But, again, we all face our challenges and our downfalls just like we all have our unique strengths and passions. 

I’ve had my fair share of days wishing I wasn’t Autistic and I’m not ashamed to admit that. Just last week during a Therapy appointment (with lots of tears and frustration) I vocally wished for my Autism to go away. This isn’t possible, but growth and appreciation is. I’m still learning to accept being on the Autistic Spectrum, but I’m further along the line than I have been previously.

I have to reassure myself daily, with each slip up and downfall, that my Autism isn’t a flaw. And that it isn’t to blame. And most importantly, that being Autistic isn’t a weakness. 

My Autism means that I’m highly sensitive. I struggle with busy places, new people/situations and social interaction isn’t my strongest point. I pay close attention to the smallest details and am quick to recognise the tiniest change. I overthink the slightest alteration in tone and ponder on whether I have unintentionally caused upset. I have an inability to detect sarcasm and can quite often appear to be “matter of fact”. Being Autistic means that I prefer structure, familiarity and warnings about even the smallest applied change. I become heavily fixated with my passion for animals, which I love.

I find myself in rooms with bright lights emerging surrounded with crowds upon crowds of people. I quickly become agitated, my heart begins pounding and my mind quickly begins to race. I crave an escape, an isolated place to collect my thoughts. I become anxious with slight changes in plans and my anxiety levels are constantly sitting in suspense awaiting my habitual fight or flight mode. I push myself and question myself, often focusing on my flaws and my insecurities. I focus on my breathing, I rehearse reassuring mantras in my head repeatedly to gain a sense of security and solitude. I remember how far I’ve come, the hardest days I’ve succumbed and the obstacles I’ve faced.

Often, I forget that I’m Autistic. Habituation is one of my greatest friends and it continues to aid me greatly. But on other days being on the spectrum is all I think about. 3 years of being diagnosed is nothing in comparison to the 19 years I remained unaware of who I really was.

I used to crave normality. Normality for me meant stepping further away from who I am and involuntarily masking my true self behind an unrealistic persona. I’ve never felt comfortable following trends or engaging in excessive bouts of spontaneity. I’ve never had a big friendship group, but the few friends I’ve been blessed with continue to mean the world to me. A large proportion of my Friday evenings were spent wrapped up in a blanket on the sofa after enduring a busy academic week wondering why I didn’t enjoy drinking like my peers, and why I became so drained from socialising. The thoughts in my head couldn’t be spoken aloud, which left room for me to dwell on my feelings and insecurities.

The World isn’t always Autism friendly, unfortunately. It’s filled with judgement and misunderstanding. People believe that Autism doesn’t exist, or that it requires a cure. Regionally, we find new things and instantly label them as being bad or strange before taking the time to educate ourselves about them. Our society is filled with challenges, lies and confusion. Without forgetting to mention developments, unexpected changes and people that cannot always be avoided. With this being said, however, I’ve been surrounded with the most understanding people who continue to accept me when I struggle to accept myself.

With being on the spectrum, every day presents a challenge. Challenges that are not always physically visible, yet, still mentally draining. I can challenge myself massively on one day, and I find that I need days to rest and recuperate following this due to the level of physical and mental exhaustion endured from it.

For more information on Autism (ASD) please visit the following resource: 

https://www.autism.org.uk

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