Anonymously Autistic

I am Autistic.

Growing undiagnosed was hard. I was a strange child, which made it very difficult for me to make friends. Also I was viciously picked on in school.

I saw the movie Cruel Intentions over the summer between the 7th and 8th grade. In true Autistic fashion, I became obsessed with Sarah Michelle Geller’s character. What fascinated me most was her ability to change who she was depending on who she was with. In front of parents and teachers she was a saint, but the students in her school knew better.

Our family moved that summer, and I had the opportunity to start over in a new school for 8th grade. Determined to be like the fictional character in my new favorite movie, I began to change how I acted in front other people. Unfortunately, Kathryn was not the best role model, but nobody picked on her.

Even as a teenager, long before learning about Autism, I knew that something was different about me. My new found persona helped me to gain many acquaintances, and the bullying stopped. Still, you may notice that I used the word acquaintances instead of friends in my previous sentence. It’s hard to get close to people when you’re on the spectrum, and even harder to let people get close to you when you are afraid they might find out who you really are.

Autism is still my deepest darkest secret. My chameleon act has gotten much more refined, and I no longer try to emulate bad role models.

Pretending to be normal is extremely draining. I have a lot of trouble holding normal conversations. Because I cannot easily pick up on social cues, just knowing when to talk and when to stop talking is hard for me. I also can get carried away and over excited when talking about something that excites me, so a large percentage of my daily energy goes to holding myself back.

Somehow I am able to get through the days in my corporate job without being discovered by my pears. At work and around new people, I tend to be quiet, even though I am a very talkative person by nature. Everyone on our team is encouraged to attend networking events, obviously this is my least favorite part of my job.

I love my job, and I am an extremely devoted employee, but the days that include networking or meeting a bunch of new people take a physical mental tole on me. Sometimes I feel as if I am melting, or shutting down. My ears get fuzzy and my eyes stop focusing. By the time I get home from a particularly social work day I feel empty and weak.

When I am tired and worn down, it is harder for me to act normal and I worry that people will pick up on some of my more noticeable Autistic traits. Usually I can pick up on when the “melt-ie” feeling is creeping on and will switch to energy reservation mode until I can get away for a reboot. My favorite reset activity is soaking in a tub filled with scalding hot water. I like to submerge myself with my ears below the waterline, listening to my heart beat.

I am struggling, but I am getting by. Managing to stay Anonymously Autistic.

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23 thoughts on “Anonymously Autistic”

  1. Nicely articulated. It is a tough position to be in, coming out as autistic or keeping up the act. I pass no judgement on this, we each have our own life context to navigate. I am very open about it, probably too open, I use it as a chance to dispel myths and hopefully make being on spectrum, which is now close to 2% of the population, more acceptable. But then again I am also a disabled veteran, I draw a pension, my social life (such as it is) and income are not at all at risk as a result of me being who I am. Sure, I alienated some acquaintances since I came out, but honestly that was very freeing. This is not a pitch for you to out yourself though, just me talking about me, which I do enjoy doing hahaha. But I do want to offer some advice on handling the stress and fatigue of the constant act, in the long run that is what really broke me, more so than my back or balance. It reached a point where playing the extravert was so exhausting, and of course having no clue what was going on, I used to want to just drive my car into snowbanks on the way to work, not because I wanted to harm myself, they just looked so soft and comfy and it would make for a lovely nap, fatigue and also chronic pain and sensitivities are my real disability hands down.

    So these days I make sure I have a sensory diet, I made sure to understand my sensory issues and triggers, worked to avoid those that I could and were not necessary for me to expose myself to, mitigate ones I can, and build up resilience to the ones I have no choice but to deal with. So my advice to you, friendly advice at that, is to take stock of your sensory inventory and that includes how you take in, store, utilize and manipulate sensory data. Are you a vivid visualizer or like me aphantasiac and thus unable to visualize. Can you recall smells and tastes in your mind when folks mention them or is this a foreign concept? When you hear a voice in your head, such as a movie quote do you hear the individuals voice or just yours using their tone and cadence? The more you can understand about your sensory personality as I like to call it, the better control you can exert on your environment. Maybe dimmer lights in your workspace, finding enough alone time after a long day to decompress, etc. And it might be helpful to have your husband on board, once again not saying you should or must, but his awareness could potentially be helpful in reducing stress and sensory load as well. Self-Knowledge is a critical tool for having a more meaningful and enjoyable life, being ok with your inherent difference is powerful too, even if it is just you who knows it.

    Hope my little blurb was at least thought provoking, at the end of the day, the choices we make are what we have to live with, so understanding how our brains approach things is a powerful tool in making sure we are making sound choices for our own well being.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much for all of your advice. I truly appreciate your words. For right now I am not ready to share my secret with too many people, although I do not plan to keep this to myself forever. There just has to be the right moment for sharing, and so far that moment has not arisen. Fortunately my sensory issues are not as bad as other people on the spectrum, and I am grateful for that. I am always sensitive to bright light and certain high pitched sounds, but for the most part it takes a while for things to get overwhelming for me. It seems like my problems are worse if I am tired or worn out, so allowing myself to get plenty of rest and paying close attention to when I start to get that “feeling” allows me to know when I need to step away from a situation to reboot. My husband knows me, as I am, and at home I act freely like myself (bursts of energy, excited jumping, spinning, and strange physical gestures included) I just have not added in the label of “Autism”. That is why I say, if he knew anything about what Autism really is VS the stereotype you see in movies and in extreme cases, he would know without a doubt what I “am”. I don’t try to hide that from him. He means the world to me, and I feel as if I can truly be myself around him, strange as I may be. Eventually I do want to tell him, but in the end knowing the label should not change anything between us because I act like myself and do not try to mask my behaviors when I am around him. Not sure if I am articulating that well. Sometimes I get lost in the words.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Articulated just fine! And I understand getting lost in the words, why I have worked to scale back the length of my blog posts, have to keep re-reading thousands of words to keep on track, darn working memory is a light-weight compared to my long term memory hehe. I liked your response though, very well articulated and shows a great deal of awareness of self and environment which is spot on something we on the spectrum need to have a strong understanding of to live up to our potential without nearly killing ourselves in the process.

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        1. Thank you so much! I was not always self aware other than being aware that I was struggling. I actually became very involved / obsessed with Buddhism a few years back and that really helped me to confront many of my demons. 3-4 years ago I had almost NO self awareness. Hours of meditation and yoga later, I can now pass for normal and have learned to control my overactive mouth when talking to new people. Best thing I EVER learned in regards to conversations is a quote about how to know if something needs to be said – “Is it helpful, is it true, is it necessary?” I find myself saying this over and over again in my head when trying to talk to new people. lol. If only people knew the processes that are going on under the surface in order to produce the calm and cool exterior that I try to hard to project.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. You have awakened me to a whole new, brave struggle, I was completely unaware of. My beautiful sister was severely autistic at a time when doctors barely understood what it was, let alone gave it a name. It is fascinating to hear you write so eloquently about your condition and your ability to live effectively in both the world and your world. We all do that but your condition gives you special insight. Buddhism says that we are all interconnected. It also says your struggle is your mission. Thank you for connecting me to your piece of the world thru your writing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow, your words are so kind. Sincerest thank yous. I truly believe that what people like me need is more public awareness and NOT a cure. That is why I started this website, to educate non Autistics about who we really are. Spreading awareness is extremely important for everyone. Despite my struggles, if given the opportunity to be “normal” I would not take it. My Autism is a huge part of my personality and the source of my greatest gifts. We are in a dangerous time where clinicians are looking for a cure or an Autism gene so parents can predict if the child that they cary might be Autistic. It is a terrifying idea that there are people out there who would potentially have people like us removed from the face of the earth. We are not a pathology, we are real people with amazing perspectives and talents.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This post makes me realise how intelligent and creative people diagnosed as “on the spectrum” can be. You are so brave for posting this, and I feel honoured to be one of the people you feel safe to communicate with. My daughter was diagnosed as “bipolar” 10 years ago, and she hasn’t yet confided in her partner. Thank you so much for posting. I will follow you.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hmm I know what your description of burnout feels like.. it has taken me many years to get my stamina levels back up to how they were pre-diagnosis. I still get shattered now, but it takes a lot more to knock me down completely 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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