I know I’m supposed to be ashamed. I know that. I know autism is supposed to be a loaded term, spoken in hushed whispers, a reassuring hand on a shoulder, a pitying frown. It’s supposed to be “risk of” and “suffers from” and “unfortunately”.
I can’t quite decide if it’s my autism that keeps those ideas at arm’s reach. I know that I see the world in terms of facts, rather than judgements.
I would hate to suffer from negative judgements being an automatic response. I would hate to suffer from knee-jerk preconceptions, instead of making up my mind after careful research. It’s a neurotypical trait that I’m very glad I don’t share.
I am autistic, and that is not a good thing. It’s not a bad thing either. It’s an absolutely neutral thing. It’s a thing.
The fact is that I was autistic even when I thought I was neurotypical. The fact is that life was much harder for me when I didn’t know I was autistic.
I know that I’m supposed to be careful with my autism. I know that from the moments when I’m told not to let it ‘define me’.
I still don’t know what that means. Being autistic is a definition of a neurotype. Being autistic is a way of seeing the world and being connected to it. Being autistic is taking joy in the detail whilst everyone else is weighed down by their big picture. Being autistic is not being able to shut the noise out unless hyper-focused on something you love. Being autistic is loving deeply and truly. Being autistic is being pre-programmed for mindfulness.
But I know that the world is scared of that word. We are misunderstood as cold and cut off, rather than finding our connections in more than just other people.
This week I was reminded that I am supposed to be ashamed. It was done gently and kindly, but it was wrong. Usually it’s more subtle, people just don’t mention it. Like an old skeleton in the closet that everyone has seen, it is brushed past. Not mentioned. If we just don’t talk about it, maybe it’ll all go away.
I don’t want to go away.
I’m a little ashamed of your shame on your behalf. There is a quiet revolution happening. It’s getting louder. Neurodiversity is here to stay. Equal but different. Valuable and present.
More and more truly representative autistic role models are appearing. More than ever before. Autism is no longer confined to young, white boys. The humans it comes in are as diverse as our thoughts, and far from being a terrible thing, it is liberating.
It was a year ago this week that I started this blog, just a small place for me to share my thoughts and hopes and loves.
A year ago I Tweeted it into the ether and it flitted on its merry way.
Since that day I have been overcome by the kindness of strangers of every neurotype. From people sharing my words, to commenting, to connecting, to the actual creation of genuine friendships, I cannot thank you all enough.
When I began all this I was quite lost. The world had changed its hue, and I had been cast adrift, alone, to work out a new way.
My brain is not always easy. It is not always my friend. Sometimes it is the irritating toddler hanging off my arm, desperately screaming for attention. Sometimes things are hard.
But not once in that year have I been alone. There have been ups and downs and a few sidewayses too, but I’ve never been alone in my neurotype the way that I had been forever.
All I have to offer is an Anniversary Thank You! Even when I haven’t been up to interacting, I have noticed. Shares and comments and kindnesses. Too many to count. Thank you. I couldn’t do this without you all. I wouldn’t be nearly as much me as I am.