One of the most incredible things that the modern world has given us, is a new way to communicate.
I want to talk about an emerging group, the Autistic Community. When I first got diagnosed, I didn’t really know what to do. I had no idea that such a community existed.
I was still me. I was still the ugly-duckling, trying to work out my place in a flock of ducks. I now had a reason for why I was on the outside, but that didn’t let me in.
I used the time to work through who I would be now. Which parts I would keep and which parts I could shed. I had spent a lifetime learning to be a type of person that I wasn’t.
What had I achieved? I had hidden. I had been seen to be coping. I had lived a half-life, a pretence, an existence. I had not been whole. I had hollowed myself. And because of that hollowing, I had not been helped. Everything I had tried to do to make life easier, to fit, to be a duck, had left me less duck-like, more exhausted, and more alone.
I started chatting to some people on a website. They were all in a similar boat to me, either late-diagnosed, seeking diagnosis or wondering if they needed to. I was struck both by our differences and our similarities.
And then I decided to start this Blog. There was so little out there about women like me. So few voices. I wanted to write the things that would have helped me. I wanted to reach out.
I wondered if anyone would read it. I decided it didn’t matter. I took to Twitter and I tentatively and embarrassedly tweeted my first link at the marvellous Sarah Hendrickx, who I had recently had the great pleasure of hearing speak.
And then there they all were. One by one these amazing people commented and shared and reached out to me.
The Autistic Community is warm and accepting. It is honest and stark. It is desperately trying to be heard as a voice in its own right. It should be heard. It has a lot to say.
There is boundless empathy. There is kindness and insight. There are so many different views. We are all over the world. We are everywhere. Some of us are afraid and hiding. Some of us are out and proud. Many of us carry battle scars and feel the weight of our masks.
Even those who do not feel a part of a group have so much to say. So much to teach us. I have learned so much from the endless patience of so many. Being natural researchers I am always blown away by the incredible knowledge base. Everything ever written about autistics will be read voraciously by autistic people.
And again and again we find such similar experiences echoed in our pasts.
It’s a relief to be around people who understand autistic motivations. It’s a relief not to be alone.
I’m not someone who can interact regularly. I find even social media exhausting after a short time. I worry that dropping in and out the way I do is antisocial. But I know that that’s not a judgement the autistic community makes.
So whether you’re reading this because you’re pondering whether or not you might be one of us, or you have an autistic child, or you’re interested in autism as a professional or a private person, feel free to drop by and say hello. The #ActuallyAutistic tag is fascinating.
You can find me here
We’re not that good at small-talk, we don’t keep people at arm’s length to check they’ve learned how to discuss the weather appropriately, we just throw out ideas, we share research, we ask for help, we connect.
There was no test of my social skills before the autistic community welcomed me in with open arms. I don’t think I can ever thank them all enough. They are perhaps my biggest safety net. I wasn’t a duck, I can’t be a duck. Perhaps I shall learn to be a swan.