What Autism is to me
I don’t think I look Autistic. I really don’t. I stem from the 1980’s when to be autistic you had to have that certain “look” about you. I can’t explain it. It was something you could see in the eyes and a certain thickness of the arms. That’s what Autistic people were to me. I didn’t really understand it. I still don’t really understand it but I’m trying to make sense of it all in my own special way. The kids that were diagnosed with Autism at our school usually attended the catch-up classes and almost always flunked normal classes. They ended up at the bottom of everything. I didn’t understand it. But I think that was and still is a fault with the system rather than the kids themselves. A different post entirely for a different day.
Partnering up with Natalie and having Alex has been a record breaking eye opener for me. I can now bounce off ideas with her, and I can see SO much in Alex that was me as a child. I feel sort of angry that I was misplaced as a child. I couldn’t be Autistic because I was a high achiever. Always at the top of my class and understanding everything that was brought my way. No-one thought too much about the social troubles I had. The bullies. Why did they single out me? And my acting out. I wasn’t always an outstanding role model for primary and high school children yet it was called acting out. If you read my previous writing on here I blame the death of my Mums boyfriend at the time. A strong man in my life. It may have been a factor, yes. But now? I’m not too sure.
The more I delve into this subject the more I am distancing myself from the perceptions I previously thought were solid. My childhood. My teenage years, my young adulthood. I’ve always thought that my isolation from others in school was a social thing. Not wanting to properly grow up fully. And no-one prepared me for any of it. Then my young adulthood and my connection with drugs and alcohol. I was hurting inside. But could it be for reasons that I’m not fully aware of yet? Perhaps I’m thinking too much.
I suffered from terrible Anxiety as a child and young adult. I’m quite positive that this was a pairing with Autism. I see it Alex. I understand what he’s going through. Not quite understanding social queues in school. Terrified that if he gets it wrong he won’t be able to live it down from his friends. I understand it. I lived through it. I remember the chest-constricting paranoia over the silliest of things. I am an only child. My family and friends are everything to me. Yet instead of obsessing over bills and housing arrangements and where my next meal was coming from; all that would be brushed aside to make way for “how I spoke to my friend last night?”, “is he still friends with me?”
You could say all of this is a side-effect of low self-esteem but I disagree. I think embedded in low self-esteem are lower level issues. Issues that need to be resolved first before the esteem is even touched upon. Like understanding the way the world works a little bit better. And I’m sure this was a part of autism.
I haven’t suffered from any anxiety for many years now. Perhaps it’s because I understand how the world works better than most now? I’ve learned to manipulate chance encounters to my advantage and only want the best for me and other people. I’ve read. I’ve adapted. And boy I’ve certainly put into practise. For many years, I learned to please people at the detriment of my own wellbeing. I was able to use that experience, along with my newfound backbone to understand how people work much better. People like to feel good about themselves. I know how to make that happen. And when people feel good about themselves they are more open to you. All I needed to learn from that was to respect my boundaries, and theirs.
That’s another thing that I found difficult as a kid. Knowing where the line is. As a shoddy communicator, I’d often find myself across that imaginary line. Past the point of no return with some people. Not fully understanding how and why I had managed to get there, and our friendship completely in tatters. Like the time I left a good friend on his own to fend for himself, or the time that I asked a girl out that my friend fancied. I didn’t have a line. My morals, and my ethical stance; I didn’t understand.
Yet, I learned as I grew older. Probably why I became so secretive and withdrawn. I had put on a false face for the world to see. Knowing what people wanted and expected me to be, yet not truly understanding what “I” myself wanted. I had learned to cope in an insane world. Those weird things that I did that no-one understood? They were hidden from the watching eye. Only done in solitary, and the not understanding and misinterpretation of other people? Well, I learned to play along. I learned to adapt. I learned to live in an upside down world that was completely insane to me.
You wouldn’t think I was Autistic now. You just wouldn’t. I’m an awesome communicator. A lifelong friend. A guy that really feels for other people. But that’s because you don’t see the real me. My quirks. My strangeness. It’s still there. But I know it’s not acceptable in an increasingly intolerant world. My wife see’s it all. She tells me it might be worth asking about it. Not that I need help, but perhaps just for some closure. My wife is amazing. She knows my quirks. My strangeness, my oddities. Yet she plays along. She understands that is just a bigger part of me. Who I am. The best thing she ever did for me was to make me feel safe.
Allow me to be myself around her. And that’s amazing. I hope you find a safe person too if you struggled like I did. Because there’s nothing better than feeling safe. Safe is important for Autistic people. I see it in Alex. When he feels safe he feels unrestricted. And that is amazing to see.
Please be amazing.
I’ll keep my hopes up for you!
This is what autism is to me