Rated: E · Essay · Psychology · #2292232
A personal insight into being Autistic
I have decided to periodically write about my experience of adjusting to life with a diagnosis of Autism. Feel free to snooze me or unfriend me if you see fit, I feel like it's something I should do as I begin to live with the diagnosis and writing is my only reliable form of communication.
Receiving the diagnosis was akin to a rifle report which has triggered an avalanche of self-analysis, that is scouring through four decades of my life. I have to admit, I'm finding it a little tough.
I know people mean well when they say, "well, everyone is different", "what is normal anyway" or "oh I do that all the time" if I mention a specific trait, but it is unhelpful. I am not looking for sympathy, rather trying to offer an explanation of how I am and why I am.
Being autistic is not being a little bit quirky, I do not think the same way as you, I do not process anything in the same way that you do, and it is incredibly isolating, it makes life very difficult, and it is more than a little frightening at times. Most people treat me differently, they don't know how to deal with me so I don't fit in anywhere, I have felt that way my entire life. This explains why I prefer my own company, why I am introverted. Conversations are terribly hard work for me, people don't receive the responses they would normally expect to so they give up and move on, that is fine and completely understandable. I can be completely alone in a crowded room. (Not that I would ever choose to be in a crowded room)
When you walk along the street, your eyes take in vasts amount of information, most of which is unnecessary to your function so your brain very cleverly filters it out, the same with sound, smells, and touch. I do not have that clever filter, when I walk along that same street I am seeing and hearing everything, every face of every passing person, every colour, every pigeon that is wandering between the footfalls; I am hearing every noise, every voice, every note of music coming from the shop doorway, the click of a bicycle chain as it goes past , every car engine and beeping reversing truck... And I am processing all of this, it is overwhelmingly exhausting, it is why I avoid such situations as much as I can.
When I am working in the street I listen to audio books with my earphones, it creates a bubble, it squashes out most of the exterior noise. If people I don't know talk to me I hate it, I try to be polite but my brain is actively telling me to escape the situation, so I come across as abrupt and unfriendly.
So when I write about being in the wild places, this is not simply romantic ramblings, it is truly the only place I feel comfortable. Having no sensory filter when I am in the woods is amazing, because everything I am seeing and hearing and feeling is natural and beautiful, it is home. It's not just a "hike in nature" it is a sensory paradise, it is why I write of becoming the landscape so often, because that is exactly what is happening.
So as a coping mechanism, I search for these glimpses into the natural world when I am trapped in the human world. One clear example was standing amongst the cacophony of the village centre, and listening to a Mistle Thrush sing, she was high up on a Lime tree, and despite the swirl of human activity going on around me, the Thrush and I connected, I was the only one listening, the only one who noticed her.
Autism has it's positives. I am good at my job because of it, I like to think I am a good driver, I'm very organised, I can write well, I learn quickly, I am never bored. I would hope there is more to add to this list.
Yet there is a lot of negatives, I really struggle to understand why people don't see things the way I do. It could be said that I am quite selfish, self-centred, I live my life mostly within my own head, I become annoyed at the noise within my own home, noise which any family home has: the TV, cupboard doors banging closed, plates clacking together at tea time, I do my best to keep my annoyance internalised, but I don't always succeed. As you can imagine, I am not exactly a delight to live with.
I have had nearly 45 years of what is called "masking", or "camouflaging", attempting to cover my flaws in an attempt to live a "normal" life, this is damaging and is probably what has led to my depression, at the very least has contributed to it. What I am finding now is that since the diagnosis, I am unconsciously slipping the masking off, so to an observer I may seem to be getting worse, yet I am not, I am simply becoming me.