Autism and me – An insight into my characteristics

Autism

To my knowledge, everybody on the Autistic spectrum struggles with different aspects. Whether that’s beginning a conversation, using public transport alone or becoming comfortable with wearing only a specific brand/item of clothing.

For example, I’m obsessed with (vegan) Doc Martens and no longer feel comfortable wearing other footwear types. My friends Etta and Ava (also on the spectrum) love vintage clothing and have a preference for Lindy Bop in particular.

Our struggles can often result in sensory overloads and feelings of discomfort whilst we struggle to process bundles of information from the world around us.

I prefer not to relate to my struggles as “symptoms”. My Autism isn’t a disease, it doesn’t require a cure.

Feelings and emotions.

People on the spectrum are often misunderstood as being unable to feel. Though, in fact, the emotions we feel can be more complex than those without Autism. I personally find it hard to find a comfortable and maintainable balance with my moods, therefore either being extremely happy or worryingly low.

I believe that people with Autism are increasingly more sensitive than those without, or at least that’s the way it’s been established in my case.

I personally struggle with understanding and expressing my emotions. I quickly become distressed and go into meltdown following the anguish I hold to be able to release my thoughts, as opposed to managing them alone. I cannot always express the times I feel down, but it’s made easier in the form of emailing.

Busy places.

People with Autism often become distressed in situations filled with lots of people, due to the sensory overloads we face. The noise can become daunting, we can quickly feel trapped, the crowds can seem overwhelming and as though there is no escape, and the anxiety levels start to run high.

I prefer quite, solitary places. So the supermarkets offering Autistic friendly quiet hours definitely have my approval!

Loud noises.

It’s often commented upon that I have sensitive hearing, as I regularly comment on noises I have the ability to hear whereas those around me don’t. Ie: background noise on a tv programme or the sound of my cat from a far distance. This also means that I struggle with loud noises, I dislike the sounds of hoovers and the sirens of emergency services passing by, which I know cannot be avoided.

I view this as a positive attribute. I’ll hear animals in danger and I’ll very rarely miss out on important information.

Special interests.

I become particularly engrossed in my passion and admiration for animals, which has become my area of high education study. I talk about goats (alot) to anybody who’ll listen, really and I wish to become an animal behaviourist. I absolutely adore animals, we share a special bond and and I wish for them to be involved in my every day thoughts and routine.

I love that my Autism has expanded my interest of animals and that I’ve had the ability to maintain such a special interest throughout the duration of my life.

Understanding sarcasm.

In light of recent weeks, I’ve discovered that I can only understand sarcasm if I’m the one issuing the sarcastic comment. However, if another person makes a sarcastic statement, I cannot always interpret it, meaning I quite often take things literally and become confused about the situation.

Autism and me – an acceptance journey

Autism

That’s the thing. I never anticipated being a 19-year-old sitting face to face with my Therapist discussing the possibilities of an Autism diagnosis.

It seems, my wonderful Therapist had picked up on possible Autistic traits in me during our sessions together (for my Anorexia Nervosa) which had mutually been a struggle for a while. My inability to express my feelings, thoughts and emotions without great difficulty and high intensities of distress and agitation. I could willingly speak endlessly about animals, but every other subject seemed to be a chore. I also struggled to maintain eye contact and would often stare at the floor or at the wall during our chats together, when I could actually form a sentence instead of nervously giggling. Alongside an inability to cope with changes in appointments (I adored sticking rigidly to Thursdays at 12!) and my inability to understand sarcasm.

In April 2016, I was diagnosed with Autism. (ASD). My condition unknowingly present from birth, but not picked up on until later in my teenage years after a lengthy assessment process where I became increasingly distressed and impatient. I always remained aware that something about me was different, but I could never quite pinpoint what that was. The wait was gruelling and torturous and each day I would hurry home excitedly hoping to be met with an appointment letter, with my disappointment only growing as I waited longer and longer.

An Autism diagnosis is life-changing, but not defining.

With increasing numbers of adults diagnosed with the condition, mostly due to the ability to mask and imitate those around us as a means of fitting in and seeming less “odd”. Though, the thing is, I never purposely intended to be the same as those around me. So, personally, Autism has been a real journey of self discovery, finding out who I really am beyond the copying and uncomfortable habits I forced myself into.

And no. Autism isn’t solely a “Children’s condition” and it most certainly doesn’t disappear magically whilst growing up. Autistic children become Autistic adults – it’s a lifelong, developmental condition.

Unfortunately, I was prone to the stigma attached to Autism and (alongside my lack of knowledge) due to minimal awareness I thought I knew what Autism “looked like” in an individual, a huge part in the reason I like to raise awareness of my condition. So people understand, and accept, people for their uniqueness and their quirks. And so people stop putting a “face” to Autism, the condition affecting one in a hundred of us.

Autism isn’t a label that fits all.

To begin with, I viewed my diagnosis as a bad thing and became upset for a short period of time, until I grew to learn more about my new diagnosis and what it meant for myself and others.

Over two years along the line and I have finally found, not only comfort, but also acceptance in myself which may not have met without my diagnosis. Something I never imagined myself to need until it became present in my life. Fitting in the “missing puzzle” that had previously been vacant from my life and filling it with knowledge, happiness and self-worth. The acceptance of learning to love myself for the crazy goat lady I am. Animals being my interest, whilst others on the spectrum may have other areas of passion and happiness!

I grew determined to ensure my Autism didn’t restrict, or define, me in any way possible. Meaning I have overcome anxiety-ridden fears and have tackled many obstacles over the years. Including, my ability to use public transport alone (giving Ive planned the journey strictly!) my transition to university life in Wales, a completely new setting, being introduced to people I hadn’t previously met. And my recently new found ability to vocalise when I am finding a situation stressful – particularly busy places or loud noises.

Whilst challenging myself is exhilarating, it is also exhausting and I usually require days to rest after fighting my anxiety.

Autism doesn’t have a cure, though I wouldn’t choose to cure mine for The World. It remains as a lifelong condition with each day being a learning curve and a milestone in each individuals journey!

Autistic pride day!

Autism

18/06/2018 represents Autistic Pride Day.

But what exactly is the day all about?

Autistic pride day is the celebration of the neurodiversity of people on the autism spectrum. It celebrates what people with autism bring to the community and recognises their potential.

Pride being a huge component in the way I feel about my diagnosis. Admittedly, I do become frustrated with myself at times for finding “simple things” tough, but there’s nobody in life (Neurotypical or Autistic) who views everything as an easy ride.

We live in a World where anything other than the “norm” is considered “weird” and it’s vastly become something avoidable and scary. People with Autism aren’t weird, what’s weird is the stereotypes and the judgement. What’s weird is that Autistic people can be mistreated due to their disability, no fault of their own. People with disabilities are people too, people with big hearts capable of love and affection. People who shouldn’t be treated any less than the rest.

People deserving of acceptance.

I’m privileged to share my condition with an intelligent, bright and inspirational lady who makes me proud. Who I feel honoured to write about today.

Dr. Temple Grandin is an American Professor, alongside an animal and autism advocate. She is also one of many well recognised people diagnosed with Autism. A kind hearted, compassionate and strong individual. Grandin invented the “hug machine”, designed to assist those on the spectrum with hypersensitivities. Evidently, Autistic people are intelligent, they’re capable of achieving amazing things regardless of what outsiders may assume.

In recent times I’ve seen so much information staggered around online about curing Autism, how people with Autism are evil and how Autism is “caused.” Well, in my opinion, people who view and understand The World from a different and unique perspective aren’t evil, they’re fantastic. People who battle through each day despite personal difficulties aren’t evil, they’re courageous and strong.

But, hey! Guess what? The people making assumptions haven’t bothered to gain an insight into what Autism is and what it can mean for people on the spectrum. Therefore, they aren’t worth getting upset over. Autism isn’t an illness, it’s a lifelong disability present from birth but not always picked up on until later in life. Ie: you can be diagnosed in adulthood and autism doesn’t just magically disappear after childhood.

If Autism isn’t an illness, why would anybody want to cure it?

People aren’t robots. Let’s stop trying to model the “perfect person” and instead, accept people for who they are.

I struggle with many things, including loud noises and social anxiety, changes in routine and so on but my “cure” comes down to hard work and stepping out of my comfort zone. It doesn’t come from over the counter in the chemist, mid-evil research or fad articles written by narrow-minded people.

But people attempting to cure others just for being different, people forcing others to use bleach to cure their condition? They’re evil.

I’m proud of myself for accepting my Autism diagnosis, for allowing it to motivate me to overcome my areas of weakness, for never letting it define me as an individual. Autism is a taboo subject, unfortunately, but Aspies are stronger than the stigma. I’m meeting milestones, making memories and creating beautiful friendships – all of which can be difficult for people on the spectrum, but something I won’t let put a halt to my success.

I’m different and that’s okay. I wouldn’t change my Autism for anything, today, and every day, we can stand up and be proud of who we are, for not allowing our diagnosis to define us in a negative light. For bringing something special into The World.

Autism is amazing. And everybody on the spectrum? They’re amazing too! Autism pride is about accepting people for who they are and encouraging others to find pride in themselves and their abilities.

For more information on Autism, please visit The National Autistic Society.

Autism – Discovering the real me two years on

Work experience

20/05/2018 marks two years exactly since I received my Autism diagnosis.

Autism is a vast spectrum filled with wonderful, bright and intelligent people with big hearts and kind souls. Each with our own unique personalities. A spectrum I am proud to be part of.

Autism

I remain both overwhelmed and proud of everything I have achieved and experienced throughout this time. Moving away to University in a brand new town with entirely new people was my biggest, scariest challenge and something way out of my little comfort zone. Something I never imagined myself to manage. But another challenge in which I succeeded. I threw myself in at the deep end. Receiving a diagnosis as a 19-year-old truly was baffling, especially in a stigmatised World where the common belief is that only Children have Autism. From knowing nothing about Autism to writing my own blog post on my condition certainly is a highlight, for me. 

My diagnosis came about during Therapy for my Anorexia Nervosa. My Therapist and I worked together weekly for a very long time, until eventually we hit a brick wall and found it harder to work with each other due to my personal difficulties like understanding and expressing feelings and emotions. Attempting to express myself lead to tears and agitation, I couldn’t string together a sentence such as ‘I feel sad’ without panicking and refusing to look my Therapist in the eye. I could only refer to myself as being ‘fat and a bad person’. Additionally, maintaining eye contact is another one of my weaknesses. The inability to express myself has proven to have negative implications on my road to recovery, because I am only able to express myself confidently with words which is hard when trying to engage with services. 

Accept difference, not indifference.Each day, I work tirelessly to better myself and to beat any obstacle in my direction. Why? Because I can. Because my Autism doesn’t define me; I define Autism. Some days are better than others, just like every other being on the planet facing ups and downs, positives and negatives, smiles and cries. I may struggle to use public transport on some days and avoid it with all my power, on other days the challenge won’t seem as big and I’ll conquer it with my inner strength and determination. I may have a sensory overload one day or manage to stay outdoors for the entirety of it. But with time comes strength. 

Autism isn’t a disability, it’s a different ability.

 A big realization for me has been that everybody with Autism is affected differently. Ie: we all have our strengths and our weaknesses. My obsession is Goats, the obsession begins to take over my every day life and I find it hard to put my energies of focus elsewhere, but I don’t mind at all. I love it and I love Goats! Some may have a profound interest in trains or remembering specific dates. But my interest lies with animals, alongside other enjoyments of dancing and writing. I personally struggle with an inability to change, perfectionism, bright lights, crowded places, certain textures and social anxiety (to name a few…) But everybody is affected differently. 

Following on from my diagnosis, I became doubtful of myself and my abilities. The feeling of numbness became very apparent. I was confused and a little lost in my journey. What did my diagnosis mean for me? Why had nobody detected it sooner? So many questions that still remain unanswered, but now they are seemingly easier to ignore. I began assuming that my new ‘label’ meant I was suddenly different, a shadow of my former self. ‘What ifs’ clouded my mind: What if I couldn’t go to University? What if I couldn’t work with the animals?’ But my reality was, my diagnosis wasn’t stopping me but my thoughts were trying to though.

I hadn’t changed, I had just found out who I really was. This was the becoming.

Two years later, I can happily say that my diagnosis has been nothing but beneficial, though tricky to accept at times. It bothers me at times that I struggle with the ‘smallest’ of things unlike my peers, but I see them as stepping stones to achieving wonderful things. But all in all I wouldn’t change my Autism for The World. My diagnosis is something many people don’t know about me because I don’t ‘seem Autistic’, which again is down to a lack of understanding and knowledge. Nobody looks Autistic the same way nobody looks Depressed, these aren’t adjectives. I take each day in my stride as a means of learning to be proud of who I am. It’s shaped me into the person I wish to become, hardworking and enthusiastic, willing to take on new challenges. Whilst also allowing me to gain a glimpse of the person I always have been, unknowingly.