Been pretty silent here, but early April has come again and it is time to wake from my fallow period. Over the last year I have made huge strides in my own acceptance. A rough patch last year led to some protracted silence. I had to deal with some sexual abuse that happened to me as a child. The healing took the words right out of me. Then I got to work forging myself a new career, as I realized that my stint as a university professor was not sustainable long term if I wanted to have a long, full, happy and healthy life. My spectrum issues made parts of that job too difficult for me to manage without the appropriate supports in my personal life.
None of us can wave a magic wand and change our personal life. It’s something that builds over time and generally evolves slowly. So, I did what I had to do and remade myself. Two and a half years after initial diagnosis, my therapist and I recently decided that we had worked through my adjustment. I had arrived. Truly, I have come to a place of acceptance of myself.
My differences are what they are. Sometimes they hinder me as I work toward goals, sometimes they help me. The difference in me now is that I no longer judge my spectrum traits as substandard or disabilities, but simply the way things are. The greatest impact this has had on my life is that I make bold accommodations for my traits, and listen constantly to what my body tells me: about my fatigue level, my ability to speak, the sensation of pain, or my need for time alone.
There is no judgment about my weakness or strength in these adjustments, I just know that the best way I can show myself the care and respect I deserve is to honor myself as I am. Right now. Today.
This is advice I often give other friends who are struggling, as well. Many of us are so used to being told that WE are wrong, that WE need to adjust, that WE need to make more of an effort to communicate, fit in or be more “normal”, that we take this dialogue into our own hearts and minds. We learn to constantly view ourselves through the filter the NT world has applied to us and our behaviors as…wrong. Odd. Not quite right. Dysfunctional. Bizarre.
It’s a short step from head patter of this sort to feelings of unworthiness, worthlessness, and a constant state of clinical depression.
When I hear my friends echo back to me these familiar thought patterns, I always stop them–tell them I don’t think they are speaking fairly about my friend (who just said something particularly ugly about themselves). I ask if they would ever talk to a two year old the way they just talked about themselves? Most react strongly about that. We would never be so cruel as to call a toddler stupid, worthless, unable to do anything right. The thought of being so blatantly abusive to a helpless child is abhorrent to most of us–particularly those who have been bullied and abused by others.
Yet, I say, if this is a terrible and abusive way to speak to a child, why is it okay to speak to yourself in this way? Even if others have talked to or treated you this way, does that make this kind of talk right? Is it a pattern to be emulated? or abhorred?
Not long after my diagnosis, I came to realize that any relationship ties I still had (after a great deal of loss) were not meeting the needs I had to be nurtured as I moved through a very long and difficult grieving process. (Grief is hard for us on the spectrum, it is not like NT grief–be patient those of you who mourn, and be kind to yourselves, I beg you!) I would constantly turn to others for help, for support, for a small kindness or bit of attention, and it seemed that I was constantly abandoned.
My darkened world became ever more dark and hopeless each time I was let down by others.
I know many on the spectrum experience this regularly. A quick visit to wrongplanet makes this quite obvious. If you feel this, it’s easy to see that you are not alone. Making it better was a matter of acceptance–which took time and constant work–but I found that there was one thing I could work at that made me feel immediately better: nurture yourself.
Be intimate with your needs. Listen to your body, your emotions, your mind and your spiritual self. Meet the needs and demands as they arise, without judgment, without rancor and without abusive self-talk. Meet them the same way you would feed a two year old who tantrums because their nap was late or their snack was too sugary or their shoes are uncomfortable. You would not judge a two year old. Why do you judge yourself?
Remember that those inner, abusive voices about fitting in, being normal and faking your neurological status took years to develop, but your efforts to turn them upsidedown will have rewards. Be patient with yourselves. Work to see the positives in your needs. And you will soon find rays of hope and acceptance peering through the darkness that surrounds you and your judgments about yourself and your neurology.
Acceptance starts with a commitment to accept yourself. Then the journey after that may be long or short, but I am living proof that it can be done. My life is so different now, but although I can say that the difference began after diagnosis, the true change in me has come after true and whole acceptance of all of me. I used to view myself in a black and white way–these are my positive traits, these my negative, my dark and light, or yin and yang. Now I simply see myself as me, my own most intimate companion and confidant, simultaneously my most significant care-giving obligation and care-giver, all at once.
This is what acceptance has come to mean to me. I think it is something every human has to work toward, whether they are on the spectrum or not. However, I think those of us who have spent so much of our lives being told we must change our inherent personalities to suit other’s views of normal, are probably in most need of this message. Please seek peace with yourselves; walk this journey of acceptance with me.
You will find that once you put your feet on this path, those who once held power over your judgments of self-worth and worthiness will simply melt away.