Autism or Autism Spectrum disorder can be defined by the medical community is a neurological and developmental disorder that affects how people interact with others, communicate, learn, and behave caused by difference in the brain.
Say Autism and some people think of Sheldon on Big Bang Theory or Dr. Shaun Murphy on the Good Doctor. Someone who is emotionally stilted, incredibly smart and male. Or if they are old enough, they might think of Raymond from the film “Rainman”. Again, a male character.
A good friend of mine, non-knowing that I was autistic, described people on spectrum as being rigid. And in fairness, to her, I didn’t know I was autistic at the time. Most non-autistic people have a limited concept of what it is like to be on spectrum.
Rarely, do they think of a someone creative like a writer. Someone like me.
Nor do they think about the consequences of living a life undiagnosed. I was 45 went I found out I was autistic. In the months, yes, I said months, I have spend a lot of time reflecting on what it means for me to be autistic.
So far it means not being so hard on myself. Understanding that I am not lazy or stupid, I have issues processing things and need more downtime. It means getting noise reducing earplugs so that I can enjoy concerts and outings with my family and friends without getting overwhelmed by noises. It means having sunglasses and hats with me or in the car so light doesn’t do the same.
It means working on being more comfortable asking people what they mean when I am unsure instead of guessing what they mean.
It means learning to actively not mask. Masking is when someone who is autistic or neuro-diverse consciously or unconsciously suppress or hide elements of their personality. Masking leads to depression and anxiety because you are hiding who are everyday. From experience it is exhausting, when I was in high school I would often come home and go to bed. The same was true in college. After a day of masking and in my mind failing at fitting in, I would also go to sleep. I still do this.
Now, what it doesn’t mean. It doesn’t mean that I am incapable of taking care of myself or managing my own affairs. Or that my brain is somehow defective.
I am autistic and it is beautiful.