Autism at 30
I’m 30! It was my thirtieth birthday on Saturday the 17th and turning 30 definitely got me thinking about where I am today and how I’ve got here.
Growing up I wanted two things, a family and to be an accountant. I didn’t want for a big house or a fancy car – I wanted to live in a loving family and do a job I loved. That was my dream life.
Your twenties are hard years. They are hard for everyone. But add onto that being an autistic (mostly undiagnosed) adult and they were hell. I repeatedly crashed and burned, and quite literally fell and had to get back up. Fight song (my memoir) readers will know just what I gave to chase my dream of being an accountant.
I hit brick wall after brick wall. I did things I’m not proud of and through sheer desperation turned to methods of coping that were unhealthy. I longed to take my own life but could not bring myself to do it. I saw no hope, no future, and wanted out. I repeatedly felt broken, unloved, and completely incapable.
Career wise the world was telling me I couldn’t do it, from university through to my first job. I didn’t think I’d ever be enough to hold down a full-time job without it destroying me in the process. Family wise, well I thought that was nothing short of a cruel joke that was impossible for me. Most people struggle to connect with me, they don’t ‘get’ me. Experience taught me the only relationships I would have were ones of people talking down to me, ones where I would never be enough. I truly believed that my differences would never be accepted.
At 25 I was at rock bottom. By 28 I had found a job I was really happy in. They put in all kinds of reasonable adjustments and adapted my role to suit my needs. I backed away from any relationships and focused solely on my job and my own family (mum and siblings). I was so happy in my work life, finally at peace with a 9-5, that I didn’t stop to miss anything else. I accepted when I got diagnosed as autistic that a family wasn’t in my future. I actually wrote an unreleased blog post called ‘dear wife’ where I spoke of the impossibility of ever finding ‘my person’. Relationships are hard work for everyone, but especially me. I couldn’t take the toll of a relationship on top of what work takes from me (even my new job). I was happy and content in plodding along as a full-time accountant.
Until July 2020, when my incredible partner re-entered my world (we knew each other years ago). Just when I was content and settled, she came into my life and showed me that a relationship really could be as easy as breathing. That someone could see me for who I was, and not want me to change. She has added a whole new level of happiness to my life that I didn’t know was possible.
I turned 30 on Saturday. I woke up beside the woman I am so beyond in love with, and today I logged on to my full time accountant job – from home. I never wanted for much in my life. Just to be happy and get by. Somehow, through everything I have been through, through all the people telling me I can’t – somehow, I’ve ended up at my dream life.
I write this blog because I want everyone (especially autistic people) to realise that you have no idea what is around the corner. I always knew connecting with someone would be a one in a million shot, but I have. My partner gets me in a way no one ever has. My boss supports me in a way I never thought anyone would.
I think a lot of autistic people get told they can’t achieve things – especially the ‘normal’ every day things. When I was diagnosed I knew that only 16% of autistic people were employed, and only 5% ever get married.
Autistic life is hard, my life is hard, there is no denying that. A dentist or vaccine trip can become a horrible situation that I need to get through and recover from. It’s a life of sensory overload, miss communication, going nonverbal, having meltdowns and so on. But that is my life. And I have accepted and found peace with that a long time ago. What I didn’t realise that was despite all of that, I could be happier than I ever thought possible. That my life is not written off because of my daily hurdles. I can find peace within the mayhem, happiness within the struggle.
Autistic life is hard, but what autistic people should never accept is being told we can’t have something that we want. Being in a relationship was never about me being autistic stopping it, it was always about finding the person that I can connect with, the person that gets me. Being in a stable job was never about me being autistic stopping it, it was always about finding the right job, finding the boss that will support me and the company that will put reasonable adjustments in place.
I turned 30 on Saturday and my life is a million miles from where I thought it would be. I go up against daily autistic struggles, that will never change. But it doesn’t remove the fact that I am happier than I ever thought I could be.
I have no idea what the next decade will bring. But I know I will never again write myself off because of being autistic. I will do everything I can to stand with the autism community, fight for our needs and raise awareness and understanding of our lives. Autistic life is so much more than what people realise. There is so much joy and possibility amongst the struggles and challenges.
Thank-you for everyone that has supported my writing journey. I am proud of many things in my life but being an autistic advocate is especially important to me. It is so important our voices are heard, but that only happens when those that are willing, listen. So, thank-you for listening, thank-you for caring and wanting to understand.
To celebrate my 30th please consider ‘buying me a piece of cake’ for just £3 at the below link. The target is set at the costs of running this website and blog for one year. I fund this site personally, including the SEN gift projects. Any help with the costs is hugely appreciated and takes a weight off of me.