So here I am, becoming autistic. Not literally, of course. I have been autistic my whole life. But I am figuratively becoming autistic as I learn to recognize in myself the things I do to move through the life I want.
I am becoming autistic as I own how much I find it hard to be touched, and how noises bother me, and how I use screen time to disengage, how much I can’t do multiple phone calls in a day, how much I love my solitude.
I am becoming autistic as I grow more confident to claim my identity as a person whose needs are not the same as the majority, but who has found community with others like myself.
I am becoming autistic as I recognise myself, allow myself to just be, become comfortable in my own skin, and learn to care for myself in the best ways for me- not only after everyone else seems to be happy I have met their expectations of what I should be.
I am becoming autistic and it is good.
It comes with tiredness though. I feels a little like changing the rules. It takes so much thinking about to see myself differently than what I’ve been told, and have told myself.
It comes with uncertainty. What if this feeling of relating to autistic people is that for the first time ever I feel really accepted by a group of people I respect and enjoy knowing, and what if I am making it up? I find myself thinking,” well, if I have come this far…. why now do I think this? am I being a chameleon now, or is this truly discovery?” In the past my reason for thinking I’m not autistic was that I didn’t perceive myself to be disabled enough. But deep down I know I just was passing to myself. And then I recognise myself again. And I relax, because it doesn’t matter what others think, this journey is mine.
It comes with growing confidence. I am not prepared to go through the process of pathologising myself for the sake of formalities. I spent my life feeling not good enough and like my role was to please others. It is only the identification with the term neurodivergent that has begun to free me from that, and I will not force myself back there for a piece of paper.
It comes with a fair bit of fear too. It is hard knowing what some people’s reactions will be- I have been in advocacy long enough to know how many people treat those who are openly autistic- and choosing to experience that. And there is fear that I will not be believed or seen as credible because I do not have a life that looks to others like it backs it up. I feel like everyone has seen me being a fraud by passing as neurotypical, and now if I say I am autistic they will call that the fraudulent thing. It’s hard to put into words. It’s like realizing there is an easier way to be, but knowing many non autistic people think being autistic is worse, so they won’t understand why I’d want to be that way.
It comes with increasing boldness, when I am in the middle of fear and worry, then I discover strong words
Don’t you dare
For someone else’s comfort –
Do not become small
For people who refuse to grow.
and I remember my passion for justice and my desire to walk before my children and model to them what it means to be proud and determined and unapologetically oneself.
So, I am becoming Autistic, and it is liberating.
image is my face (fair skinned female presenting person wearing dark rimmed glasses) half cut off by the right edge of the picture, and some tree silhouettes in the background on the left side of the picture. The picture is faded and in the style of an almost abstract watercolor painting. In the middle of the image there is a green speech bubble that contains the words “autistic, proud, determined, unapologetically myself”. Along the bottom of the picture is web address michellesuttonwrites.com
This post is part of my emerging autistic identity series- read them all by clicking here (clicking link will open a new window, posts are in reverse chronological order- first at the bottom)
This article has been translated into Russian on the Neurodiversity in Russia website. To read >> click here << (link will open in a new window)