Autistic, Out And Proud.
I’ve been wanting to write this post for a long time but I was worried that I might inadvertently upset someone. So let me start by saying that my intention is not to minimise the struggle of those on the autistic spectrum and their families. I’m only writing about myself and my experiences, I don’t claim to understand your situation or your issues simply because I’m autistic.
I struggle, and have days where I hate being autistic, and wish I could be ‘easier’. Pre diagnosis I felt faulty, fundamentally broken and completely unfixable. I realise now that I need to love myself, I need to celebrate my uniqueness. I need to be proud of who I am, all of me, including the fact that I’m autistic.
Why I am open about being autistic?
Being completely transparent about being autistic is a conscious choice for me. I share my diagnosis to make life easier for me and the people in my life.
Honesty promotes understanding.
It means that if I’m struggling, or if I screw up socially there is an extra level of awareness surrounding me. I’m not making excuses, I own my behaviour but it’s true that I don’t have the instinct that neurotypicals (non autistic people) have around dealing with other people.
I get anxious and struggle to read people. I make social mistakes and then I feel those mistakes very keenly. I get overstimulated easily which makes these issues even worse. So if I can explain “sorry but I’m feeling anxious”, or “I’m not feeling on top of my social skills today” then my friends and family can be understanding and tolerant. Which is incredibly helpful for me, and from what I’ve been told it’s also helpful for them.
I fit into a box more easily.
I’m generally not a huge fan of boxes but I’m aware of where they can be helpful for other people. Prior to diagnosis people struggled to ‘get me’. They couldn’t figure me out and this made them nervous. People can be scared of the unusual or the unknown.
Now they can say ‘ah yes Ella, she’s autistic, so that means I can expect X, Y and Z’. This makes them less nervous and more willing to give me a chance.
Obviously autistic people are people and therefore individual and unique. But we share some common traits and knowing what those are likely to be is helpful for others.
I’ve had a friend directly tell me that being able to put me into the autism category/box has been helpful for her to understand me. As a result our friendship has grown. So that has to be a good thing, however I feel about boxes and labels.
I can be proud.
This is the most important reason that I’m open about my diagnosis. Put simply being autistic is not something I should be ashamed of.
I’m proud of my community. The achievements of those on the spectrum over the years has been incredible. Autistic people have lots to offer and our skill set and unique take on the world can be very useful to society.
Personally I’m proud of who I am despite my challenges. I’ve been married for 15 years, and am raising three wonderful children. My love of schedules and planning enhances family life. My direct approach means my children know that they can ask me questions and I’ll always tell them the truth and they can trust me.
I have an unusual sense of humour and I make my friends and family laugh. I’m passionate about the things I care about. I’m honest and not afraid to ask questions other people might find uncomfortable. I know this is something that my friends and family value, mostly.
My vulnerability inspires others to allow themselves to be vulnerable around me, and honest about their own issues. This means I can better support my friends and they have someone to talk to about things that they might ordinarily worry about sharing.
I am autistic, and I am proud.