“Be kind to yourself” I’m told that a lot these days. It is kindly meant, I even use it myself when I see others in distress but the bottom line is I’m pretty shit at being kind to myself. If you asked me to give you a list of my top ten faults that would be much easier. Perhaps this post is about post-diagnostic self-acceptance, I’m not sure yet, and yes, I got my diagnosis, I’m now officially autistic. Since then my mental health has been pretty shoddy. I do think a big element of this is the amount of build up the diagnostic process had in my head, it was a big scary goal for such a long time that now I’m not sure what I’m aiming for. I do think my mental health issues are tied up in my autism, I don’t think the two things can be easily separated. I think pretty much any activity that involves other people can be stressful for me and I need downtime afterwards to recover. The problem is life isn’t like that, I can’t have one hour of dealing followed by three hours of recovery and still function in the way that I would like to. There are times when I need to step away from my day to day life because self-preservation kicks in and on some level I know that hiding in bed refusing to be a participant in life is the best solution for the moment. Coupled with this however is oodles of guilt. There are things I ought to be doing. There are things I can do at other times, things I can do easily that become insurmountable for me at other times. This is where the inner-ableism comes into play. I judge myself, I judge hard. For every thought where I am able to justify taking a time-out to recover from something there are at least ten thoughts shouting “you’re stupid”, “you’re pathetic”, “other people don’t have this problem”, “you’re making excuses”, “you’re lazy”, “you’re a waste of space”, “you’re spoiled”, “you’re attention seeking”, “you’re useless”… the tirade of self-abuse is endless. I do try to interrupt those thoughts, to somehow break the cycle but that too requires effort and since I’m already needing recovery time that is extra hard. Some days I lose badly, I capitulate and hide myself away locked in the self-hate patiently waiting for something to change. Other days I do better, I might not win from all perspectives but I am able to say “hang on, you are not to blame, it’s ok to feel like this”. The thing is it never really stops, the only time I feel at peace is when I’m absorbed in something and that isn’t always something that’s productive or useful, recently I’ve become rather obsessed with a jigsaw app (stereotypical I know and this in no way affiliates me with A$!) and all I really want to do right now is sit and do yet another jigsaw on there. I can succeed at that, I don’t have to really think I just look at the pieces and move them around until I find the ones which fit together and then I start again with a new set of pieces which look slightly different.
I have been telling people about my diagnosis a bit. Mostly trusted people or people whose opinion matters little to me. I still feel as if I’m justifying myself to some extent. I would like to be open and honest about everything and say “it’s not you, it’s me, I do want your friendship but that thing you just suggested we do is my idea of hell right now, and yes I know I managed it just fine last month”, there’s probably a pretty strong argument for the fact that if people can’t deal with those sorts of truths I probably don’t want them as friends anyway.
One thing I hate is feeling needy, I feel like I’m constantly whining saying “look at me, look at my pain”. I do want people to look, to listen, to learn but I also want to be different from how I am right now, I want to be the person who says “I get that, I’ve been there, I survived and now I’m ok” but I don’t really believe that’s ever going to happen. I’ve had 32 years of lurching from one crisis to the next, at least that’s how it feels and no matter how much therapy I have or finding the right cocktail of drugs will ever change that. So I do need to accept that I am not the person I would like to be, I am not perfect. I need support, sometimes I need more support, sometimes less. It seems I am indeed needy and I don’t like how that impacts on others. I would like to be more independent, I would like to be useful.
I could live another 50 years or so. That’s a long time. I’d like to be able to give more than I take from people in that time. I have a sense of borrowing, I borrow resources in the form of people’s kindness and patience with me and I feel indebted. I would like to pay back on those loans, I would like to at least break even. I will never get it entirely right, I will always be autistic, I will always be me with all the failings I have but I do need to keep trying and hoping. I live for a future where I am enabled to do better and help others. I know that I should live more in the present moment and I try to do that sometimes but I’m not very good at it, I’m much better at thinking about what I want to do in 5 years time than in 5 days time. I somehow need to learn to live with myself, to find a balance between my idealisms and my weaknesses, to find a way to use my strengths. So in the darkness I wait for the hope of the future, I’d like it if somebody held my hand while I’m here.