(As always, 1st November is Autistics Speaking Day – please do check out the other posts on the website!)
I haven’t been on here much recently; university is really hectic at the moment, and the time and energy that isn’t going into my studies is going into various other little side-quests. I don’t feel too disconnected though, because some of those side-quests are autism-related. Firstly, whilst I don’t want to go into details for anonymity reasons, I’ve recently embarked on a new project which involves writing about autism someplace else – publicly. It’s still online, and yet it feels more, y’know, IRL. It’s me, not just an alias I created specifically to express what I never felt I could around the people I care about, and it feels like a big step. The second thing I’ve been doing recently is starting, slowly and tentatively, to properly address some of the problems I’ve been having over the last couple of years and, I suppose, seek support through more formal channels. It sounds big and scary when I put it like that, but in reality it’s more like tiny baby steps that, taken individually, don’t seem worth worrying about.
I bring this up because I’m thinking about the year that’s passed since last year’s ASDay and realising that, in seemingly small and unconnected ways, I’m beginning to accept and embrace my autistic self not just in theory but in practice. The idea of learning now, as an adult, what sets me off and how to minimise the risk and how best to recover afterwards and how to explain all that to people seems like a bizarre concept, but it’s been happening to me for a while and it’s an ongoing process. For those of us who grew up believing that passing for neurotypical was the ultimate goal and that our differences were purely behavioural without considering sensory and other underlying differences in autism, it’s surprisingly common to have to re-learn how your brain wiring works and how to work with rather than against it. Some things that I thought were harmless need to be dealt with carefully or they can build up and lead to overload; on the other hand, some things that I thought were Very Very Bad can be mitigated and dealt with or even sometimes enjoyed, with some forward planning and supportive family and friends. My biggest challenge, as perhaps made evident by the whole “secret WordPress” thing, has been and is still opening up to people IRL (by the way, I include online communication with people I know in my definition of IRL, because why should that communication be less valid?) and again, the progress is slow, but steady, and perhaps increasing in pace. Even if the potential worst-case-scenarios never arise, I’ve found that just knowing there are people on side makes a world of difference.
What does this all mean? Well, in short, I’m one month into term and haven’t gone into shutdown yet (although who knows, maybe I’ve spoken too soon), I remain absolutely terrified of the future but I’m working towards making the future seem like an actual possible thing, and I’m feeling more like myself, like this version of me, in the big and scary realm of IRL.
Baby steps, as it turns out, can go a long way.