I get this a lot from my family, sadly. In fact they’re really the only people I get it from. The exasperated sigh and the question of ‘Why I seem more Autistic now than I did before?’
They never explain when ‘before’ was.
They never give data.
But they do make me question myself. A lot.
Sometimes I wonder if they’re just gas-lighting me and it’s more of the same. Blame the victim. Minimize the situation. Make them question their sanity, or in my case my truthfulness. But a lot of the time I DO question myself. I question my sanity. I listen to them and I doubt myself.
AM I more Autistic now? Or is it all an act? Am I faking it? Am I faking so well that I’m fooling everyone including myself?!
The answer is No, I’m not.
I’m not faking. I’m not lying. I’m not putting on a show.
What I am doing though is teaching myself – for the first time in my life – that it’s okay not to mask. Those lessons have taken some time. The programming and the conditioning is strong and it’s taken a long time to get myself to the point where I can let myself relax and feel safe enough to just be myself.
Flapping my hands isn’t going to result in my mother’s nails digging crescents into my wrists as she slams my arms down by my sides and yells at me. It’s okay to physically stim.
Playing the same song on repeat isn’t going to result in my ex yelling at me and getting ‘punchy’, even when I do it with earbuds in. It’s okay to listen to something on repeat (auditory stim).
Talking to myself or the cats in my own pidgin, and singing or saying the same sounds or words over and over isn’t going to get my mouth washed out with soap or get my face a smack. It’s okay to give in to the echolalia.
Giving myself the time to come down from an intense sensory situation like going to the mall or on a bus isn’t going to get me yelled at, or accused of being “delicate” or forced to keep doing it until I go into meltdown Stuffing a towel under the door and blocking out the window isn’t going to get me punished. It’s okay to be cognizant of sensory stimuli and do a little self care after something overwhelms me (in fact, it’s vital!). It’s okay to leave the situation and regroup (sensory overload).
It’s okay to chew. Chewing on safe things isn’t going to get your mouth smacked, or washed out with soap. It isn’t going to get you grounded. It isn’t going to get all your things taken away from you. It isn’t going to have you called out – for decades – and mocked for doing it. It’s okay to chew (oral stimming and oral self soothing).
When people say I’m ‘more Autistic now‘ they are usually questioning the validity of my diagnosis. Which means they’re questioning the validity of ME. Questioning the validity of my struggle. Questioning the validity of my worth. Making me feel like I have to prove myself, only they’re not looking for proof. They’ve made a decision already.
I used to try to bring these things up with all of them. My sisters and both my parents. I’d ask them if they remembered when I did this, and this, and this. My sisters always say they don’t remember our childhoods very well but they don’t remember any of that so it didn’t happen and they only know that I’ve always been a problem and very dramatic and they have no reason to believe me now. My parents either get sad, or angry and defensive. I honestly prefer the latter. That at least shows that there has been an “Ah-ha …. oh shit” moment. It all stings though.
‘You can either be disabled or capable‘, my sister said the last time I spoke to her, ‘You can’t expect me to believe both‘.
But here’s the thing.
I was always Autistic.
My doctors – a group with over 50 years combined education and experience – all say I am freaking text book and wonder how on earth it took so long for me to get diagnosed.
And then I put the mask on and they go “Ahh”.
Over decades I taught myself, out of self preservation, to hide it. To mask. To keep it to myself and grit my teeth and ‘fake normal’. ‘Normal’ got you left alone. ‘Normal’ didn’t get you punished. Being ME, being Autistic, did. And it’s only been in the last 5-6 years that I’ve, slowly, taught myself that it’s okay to do those things that make surviving the world with this particular set of wiring doable and livable. I’m still learning to be okay with my limitations (which is hard to do when you don’t have a lot of support in the matter), and feel safe in being the Me that was always there. The Me that I used to only let out when I was alone in my bedroom and away from judging eyes.
So no, I’m not more Autistic than I used to be. I’m just as actually.
I’m just not hiding it anymore.