I had a dental appointment this morning, a semiannual cleaning that takes a lot out of me due to my sensory sensitivities.
Up until this point I’d never fully disclosed my Autism to my dentist or the hygienist who cleans my mouth. In the past I’ve mentioned light sensitivities, high pain tolerances, and poor body temperature regulation (partial disclosure) but never used the word Autism.
Today, because part of my new years mission is to spread more Autism awareness, I told my secret.
I should be used to the responses people give my by now, but for some reason they always catch me off guard – “I never would have guessed. We have Autism in our family – nephews (young people). You hide it well.”
Even more I hated myself for my response to the comment. All I could think to say as I stood dumbfounded was “thank you” and I hated myself for even speaking those words.
My Autism is not something that I want to hide. I am not ashamed of being Autistic because I know that Autism makes me who I am.
I continued to share that “as I’ve grown up there are tricks that I’ve picked up along the way, allowing me to blend in and more easily manage in society. I have worked very hard to get to where I am now.”
In my mind we shared some understanding in that moment. I like to think that I was not dismissed as misdiagnosed or lying because often people don’t believe me when I tell them I’m Autistic.
There was so much more that I wanted to tell – how I meditate constantly and practice mindfulness to keep my anxiety under control. I wanted to share that me passing is a lot of work.
So much to say when you have metal tools in your mouth. There was no good time for further elaboration but I hoped for understanding of how hard it was for me to sit still while they probed around in my mouth.
Finally, as an adult, I am able to force myself (with great mental effort) to sit still through the entire dental cleaning.
At first glance it may appear as if I am calm and still but the reality is something far different.
My heart is racing and my hearing is fuzzy. As I lay flat on the dental chair my body is tense and I am pressing myself down with every muscle in my body, attempting to melt into the chair so I do not run away.
I wear sunglasses to block out the light and ear plugs to dampen the drills but still the excessive unpleasant physical contact is an assault to my senses.
Somehow I always manage to push through these draining experiences.
By the time I get home my head is pounding and my mind is fuzzy.
It is still very difficult but now as an Autistic adult I am finally able to get through an ordeal that was nearly intolerable as an Autistic child.
I am grateful for the small accomplishments. Learning to sit still while people touch me took years of practice, determination, and hard work.
#ActuallyAutistic #SheCantBeAutistic #AnonymouslyAutistic #InvisibleAutism #InvisibleDisability