Autism and my identity
I’m going to try and write a post a day about autism for world autism awareness week. This post is the first. Today I’m going to write about the concept of my autistic identity.
I really only started to understand I was autistic when I was a teenager. I remember the final diagnoses. I remember sitting infront of this lady and calmly explaining that because of how much I had read about autism I was ‘un diagnosable’. That any attempts would be invalid. I believed I was beyond help. Due to die soon and generally of no value.
At the time I was living in a homeless shelter. The discussion around my autism had been ongoing for a few years but in that moment it really mattered. That’s the day that would decide if I got support, or would be left to the streets when I turned 18.
I had only been part of the discussion about my autism for a few years. Becoming aware of the condition and what it meant when I was about 15. However, unknown to me, the discussion itself started when I was 9.
These days, I identify openly as someone who is autistic. I have a diagnoses and I accept that I see the world through a different lens to most people.
When I was 16/17 I was not coping. I could pretend to be normal but the cracks were showing and my peer relationships were failing. I just could not keep up.
In hindsight I am really happy I saw it coming. When my life collapsed I had nothing and very few relationships in my life. I in effect had to start again. As I rebuilt i was open about the autism and built a life and lifestyle that was autism friendly. Suitable for me.
That was almost 8 years ago now. The last 8 years have been an amazing ride but ultimately it’s all been made possible because I am open about being on the spectrum.
Lion, my big fluffy plushie companion, is not a secret. I don’t fear needing ear defenders and I have learnt to ask for help. In the BBC I have found an employer who respects me for who I am and works to build on my strengths.
Autism is part of me. It provides a handy framework of tools which enables me to understand the world and seek out appropriate support. I don’t let if confine me, but I do let it help me understand my own limits. I built a friendship group who knew I was autie from the start. That’s been key. Most people in my life knew I was autistic from day 1. No need to pretend otherwise.
World autism week is about raising awareness so that more autistic people can be themselves. From awareness we can create acceptance.
Acceptance that I have a giant lion, or wear ear defenders is what enables me to focus my effort on my work. Ultimately, my work gives me purpose and from that purpose i derive my happiness. I am autistically happy and it is awesome