What does my autism mean?

It’s worth revisiting this subject every now again. It’s no secret that I’ve struggled to understand and accept my diagnosis. But I am making progress in this direction.

All I have done since the diagnosis is to bravely push myself into overcoming my difficulties, proving to myself that I shouldn’t let it hold me back. And the happiest period of my life was when I was around people who didn’t make me socially anxious.

There’s a life out there for me somewhere where I can be happy and free. My autism doesn’t mean I’m doomed to struggle forever. But I’ll never find that place until I truly know who I am and how to manage my life in a way that is actually beneficial to me.

I question everyday what is truly autistic and what is merely my own refusal to look myself in the face and stand up for myself. I only just met the threshold for diagnostic criteria. I imagine I was masking quite a bit during the process. All my life has been spent chained to the neurotypical world and I’ve always tried to blunt my edges to fit in. Well actually not always.

Life has been a balancing act between doing what makes me happy which involves being true to myself, and doing what I need to do to survive which is never the stuff I actually want to do but instead am forced to do.

I think I always made a choice wherever possible, to do what I want but never what I need. More often than not it’s the wrong choice in the end.

When I say life is a balancing act, that actually means that I oscillate sharply from one extreme to the other. Never been very good at shades of grey, that’s just not my world.

Talking how we neurodivergent see the world differently, I don’t think there’s ever been space in my world for anyone other than myself. The hardest thing to deal with has always been how self-conscious I am around other people. It feels like the world is somehow on hold because everything now revolves around what might happen when my brain registers someone else in vision.

At a simple level, the brain goes into fear mode. Fight or Flight or Freeze. I’m not sure if there’s much adrenaline going on, it doesn’t feel like a rush. But it does feel like everything is magnified. And it doesn’t result in actually taking steps to escape any danger because my rational mind knows there is no real danger. But my brain just hypes up everything anyway.

And I have to go certain lengths to calm myself down but it feels like my brain never turns off this fear response. I’m always tired because my brain and body are always agitated.

It’s generally always Flight or Freeze for me because confrontation is truly what I’m most frightened of. I’m in self-preservation mode where my brain is anxiously scanning for all possible things to wrong. Always frozen while I anxiously await the stimulus until I just react.

And yet there is the craving for stimulus. Life feels so empty without it.

I can’t really do small talk and I can’t really ever sit down and talk to someone without fully determining how it will affect me. And truthfully, if it doesn’t affect me then I’m not stimulated so I’m not really engaged.

All of this adds up to strong notion that I am quite narcissistic deep down. Certainly among what some psychologists would call “vulnerable narcissism”. But I would say that I am who I am for a reason.

Everything happens for a reason, meaning cause and effect rather than any spiritual interpretation. I am who I am because I lack something that allows me to engage with the world in the normal way. I do care about people but then, like everything else it’s for selfish reasons.

Ultimately I’ve gone to great lengths to compensate for this selfishness by trying to act unselfishly. But putting the cares of others before my own leaves me more vulnerable.

I’ve been pondering the question of whether it was really in my best interest to be diagnosed with autism. It was important to be diagnosed with something because I was headed down a long, dark road at that point. No job, no friends, no life, had struggled to readjust after graduating uni at the age of 33.

Was it useful to be diagnosed under the wide umbrella of autism? It didn’t really answer any of my questions. There was no path forward, no treatment, no real idea of anything. There was a general support available which really consisted of signposts for services and general information about autism.

The true good it does is to find a community of people like you, they have a drop in session once a week to provide a safe space to talk to people or be by yourself with plenty of activities. And there was the old monthly socials to give us safe social engagement.

I was never truly interested in being safe, I was always looking for stimulation. In that way I think I was always looking to defy the idea of being autistic, that in a safe environment I was itching to break forth and be confident and badass.

There is a certainly a gaggle of demons inside me that likes to subvert social expectations but knowing that all my friends and acquaintances were autistic there was a natural tendency to repress myself around them. I threw myself into the autistic community and became more sensitive and empathetic as a result.

Did I end up becoming too sensitive? Too meek? It was a wonderful place to be when life was opening up and there was so much potential. As I write now, that feels like a million years ago.

It makes all the difference to be in a welcoming environment where you are accepted but I was still the same guy I always was. Hunting for another fix so I could escape myself. I wasn’t learning anything about life, myself or others.

Everything in my life is and always has been about myself because I have always been trying to answer the question. “Who am I?” And I build up the ideas of who I am from others, only in terms of how they see me.

I could say that I’m self-centred for the most important reason. I’m lacking a functioning ego and therefore, the most fundamental insecurity of all. That I’m not in any control of myself. That I’m basically an autonomous, mindless machine that sees everything but can do nothing.

When I’m around people I automatically relinquish free will. When I’m alone I’m crying out for someone to show me I exist.

And so the crux of the issue. I was constructing a false sense of self from those I was close to. In the end the relationship I was trying to build with others was really just trying to build with myself. Everything I did to support the one I loved was my way of supporting myself. I was trying to cement a relationship between us in a way that fused us together, made us inseparable.

Everything I was looking for in her, I was looking for it in myself. I was living my life vicariously through her in every way. Everything I did to help or hurt her was to help or hurt myself.

All of this came from the fact that I had subordinated myself to her so totally because I’d given up on myself. All along I was at the mercy of my heart, to give control of myself over to her and put her in charge of defining my identity, of determining my fate.

I projected everything onto her when things were too difficult to face up to because I’d lost the ability to really empathise and accept that she was different.

It’s extremely difficult for me socialise with someone who is different. To talk about their interests and stuff they care about that I don’t. I’m not good at it and I don’t feel comfortable. I don’t really understand people who are different. Of course that’s probably cause I’ve only got my own shabby internal model for understanding the human mind.

And mine was always so skewed away from the normal mode.

To attempt to summarise and find a useful conclusion, it’s fair to say that I have to, first and foremost, build my own identity and become independent by finally respecting my need to be alone. To give myself a home where I am master of my own destiny. Where I have the space to always put my own needs first and look after myself.

I hope to become a more balanced person so that I am able to be less black and white. I won’t want to shut myself away for too long, inevitably I’ll want to be social again and I’ll put myself under much less pressure. I hope to be less single-minded so I can balance the seeking of stimulation with the calling of calmness. I really need to spend more time relaxing and I’ll be freer to balance my life when I finally gain some control over external influences.

Ultimately I need some say in my own environment so I can actually have control over the forces that cause me stress and anxiety.

I’d very much like to take a break from constantly talking about myself, frankly I’d have gotten bored of reading if it wasn’t me writing it.

I appreciate very much those who do read, you must have the patience of a saint.

I have no idea how visible the blog actually is so I don’t know how anyone has actually found it but it’s a nice feeling to receive likes and subscribes.

I hope it brings something even though the only thing I have to offer is to share my thoughts and experiences.

Time to regain some balance by spending time with people, I’ve been too isolated. I’ll be doing it on my terms from now on hopefully. Don’t want to feel so out of control ever again.

Kindest regards and thanks

Jamie x

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