It can be hard for people to see the difficulties I have every day seeing as so many of them I mask or are internal battles which I face. On the outside, the majority of the time I come across confident, knowledgeable, functional…just like everyone else.
Noone sees the constant battles that go on within me all the time. I overanalyse every situation because I am so afraid of getting it wrong, not being like others and messing things up. I know that people battle their own demons all the time, and I by no means thing having autism is the only way and the reason that this happens but think of everything that runs through your mind during the day and then magnify this, include the inability to read a situation easily, the social anxiety that comes alongside, knowing that at any moment the sensory overload or buzzing within your brain could result in a physical and distressing melt down causing you to hurt yourself, feel overwhelmed, loose ability to speak and a magnitude of other feelings.
Whenever someone makes a comment to me I worry about the response I am going to give. Will it be the one that they are wanting? expecting? Will I end up making a joking comment that isn’t actually understood or funny. More than likely I will over talk, or end up talking about one of the things I immerse in. The only time this isn’t the case is when I am dealing with facts. Facts are true. I cannot mess them up. This is why my confidence, until recently, has always been at work. I know what I am expected to do, what I am supposed to do, what the right answer is. Therefore I can answer questions about what to do, or how to do it. This is safe for me. Every other conversation I have comes with a level of anxiety, of hope that the person doesn’t think I am weird.
People with autism are often thought of by having a lack of empathy. This couldn’t be further from the truth. I recently came across a meme that said “We do not lack empathy as people know it. We lack COGNITIVE EMPATHY. That is the ability to predict other’s thoughts and intentions including the ability to read between the lines during communications. We have plenty of AFECTIVE EMPATHY which is the ability to share another person’s feelings with them. We have plenty of COMPASSIONATE EMPATHY which is the desire to help others (though we may not always know how). In fact many of us have TOO MUCH affective empathy and compassionate empathy which can be overwhelming for us.” This is one of the truest and realist comments that I have come across in regards to how it feels to be me. There have been so many times where I have had the best intentions and all I have wanted is to do what’s best for someone or to help them that have resulted in me falling flat on my face and in fact often make the situation worse. There have also been many a times in my past where I have been used, abused and walked all over by people whom were supposed to be my friends because I care too much and will do more than I should for people, and I would do it all again in a heartbeat. There are positives to this too though, I believe it is this that makes me as good with children and at my job as I am. It means I will walk to the end of the world for the people in my life I care about and who I love. It means I wont give up easily on the people I care about most, in fact I physically can’t.
Living with autism feels like I am always trying to curb myself and hold back from the person that I really am in order to fit with the norms of everyone around me. It means keeping thoughts to myself because I do not know how people will respond and its just easier trying to please everyone rather than having to handle and deal with confrontation. I have tried as I have grown to do this less. Let myself be me, speak my mind more. Sometimes this feels rewarding but sometimes it feels like I should have just played the game and not argued my point. I know I can be overly stubborn at times and it can be hard to read what is actually something I should be standing up for and what is something I am overreacting over because of what it means to me personally even though it may not be that important to others. For example, if you tell me you are going to do something, come and see me, pick me up at a certain time, even make a certain thing for dinner etc and then can’t I will not be able to handle this unless you have an amazingly good and rational reason, and even then I will find it difficult to deal with.
Having a brain that overworks constantly results in times where being alone and immersing is all I want to do. Is all I can bring myself to do. I cant handle being touched, being social. I am physically and emotionally drained and my nerves are literally frayed making even the smallest touches feel painful, having to concentrate on any conversation a challenge, a nuisance even, for just a little while I need to not worry about anything or anyone else. Often I meet this need through reading, if I cannot watch something, like fanfiction on my phone. Just a short period where I can immerse in a story and then I can deal with the real world again. The only problem is when I am so emotionally torn I cannot shut my brain down enough to do this and this is when I will lash out, verbally, or start stimming or even have a meltdown. Its not that I need to shut myself away from people, especially those close to me. They can be right there with me, but I just need a moment to try and quiet my brain and give myself a chance to catch up with all the processing I have had to do, allow my senses to get back on an even kilter.
Living with autism is not at all easy, and I will always face greater challenges than others and I will forever to lacking in understanding of social skills but every day I get up and I try. I try to be the best early years teacher I can be, I try to be the best friend I can be, I try to be the best fiancée I can be, I try to be the best person and version of myself that I can possibly be. I will fail. I will struggle. I will not always meet your expectations but I will always continue to battle forward. To stay strong in my strengths and to strive to educate others. I will always live with autism, but everyday I will remind myself that AUTISM IS MY SUPERPOWER! Every superhero has struggles and powers come with as many issues as they do blessings. These are mine. Always.