I thought I’d write something for World Autism Awareness Day. I consider it a special holiday to celebrate my weirdness. That may seem irreverent given that I’m supposed to be “suffering” from it. And I have – lots. Do you want to see my badge of honour?
NO. Today I want to talk about actually being HAPPY. Happy with being me, happy being the way I am. And I want to talk about how to make me feel happy. Sometimes it feels like being happy is something I’m not very good at. I feel as though negative emotions come easily but positive emotions are fleeting. I can’t actually name any, besides I don’t know er … happy? Oh God, I’m out of practice! Even when things are going ever so well, I always find a way to piss on my own parade: “This must be a joke.. I don’t deserve this .. at some point it will all go wrong, what if they find out I am WEIRD. What if they don’t like me? What if .. what if?”
Well, here is basically a cheat sheet on how to make me feel a little better.
- DO be honest and transparent at all times. I feel less anxious when I know what is happening and when.
- DO try to understand that my brain is wired for negativity. Joke about it, by all means – I think I am hilarious. Just DON’T dismiss me as a “negative person”.
- DON’T socially reject me for no real reason and leave me wondering what I did/said wrong. I would honestly rather you just tell me I am an arsehole rather than leave me feeling worthless and confused.
- DON’T interrupt me when I am concentrating on something or in my own little world. It’s like being suddenly awakened from deep sleep. No matter how much I like you, this will really make me hate you and not want to talk to you.
- DO NOT spring things on me. If you want me to cook something for example, you might want to tell me a few days in advance so that I know I need to dedicate my entire Saturday to this meal!
- DO be specific.
- DON’T shame me for not being good at those things I’m not good at, like basically anything practical. I have survived this long doing things my own way so don’t treat me like a child.
- DO try to understand that when I get stressed/overwhelmed, I feel like I am going insane. When I haven’t slept well and am feeling anxious, I feel like I am falling apart. Don’t make demands on me at times like these! PLEASE DON’T tell me to “grow up” or minimize how I feel.
- Don’t put my cutlery in my food. Also, I do NOT share food!
- I can’t think of a 10th unfortunately.
I am really thankful that I am on the AS spectrum. Or more specifically, that I found out that I am. It’s really helped me to actually figure out HOW to make myself happy, how to explain to others what I need.
I feel like I have some kind of frame of reference. I don’t shame myself anymore for finding certain things daunting or stressful because I know WHY now. I know I am not just this hopeless person who doesn’t know how to do stuff. I know why I am smart in certain ways, but really stupid in others.
Knowing I have high-functioning autism has really helped me to try to develop boundaries and accept myself, rather than feeling like my life is one long uphill. I understand now that I am probably not depressed. I just find it depressing that everything seems like so much effort. I often want to be alone. I often look forward to being asleep. I cherish my time alone, but that doesn’t mean I don’t love my partner. I just can’t be ON all the time.
I feel like being on the AS spectrum is like trying to power a small city with a single 60W light bulb. I think I am not so much weird (and yes I am reclaiming that word) BECAUSE I am on the spectrum, I think I am weird because the stress of trying to be NORMAL has been so much to bear all these years.
So let’s celebrate our diverse weirdness and more importantly, having an actual name for it.
A very HAPPY Autism Day!!