January 17, 2021

My autistic birthday

By rosieweldon

Birthdays are generally difficult for those on the spectrum as they are a day about us. People watching us open presents. Parties we never wanted. While done out of love they can often become a day of dread. I’ve certainly dreaded mine falling on a school and then workday.

Then things got even more complicated when I experienced severe depression in 2016. Birthdays are about celebrating that person getting a year older. To me they are a celebration of who that person is. If it’s someone’s birthday I care about then I want them to feel valued and loved. When I span that back at me, I felt undeserving.

‘My autistic fight song’ readers will know that I had a particularly bad birthday a few years ago. I hated the idea of celebrating another year lived when I didn’t feel deserving.

Which is why I am so excited to be turning twenty-nine tomorrow. It’s taken me years of self-discovery to come to the point of self-acceptance. I’ll never be the most confident person, but I am confident in who I am.

I have made peace with the parts of myself I wanted to change. I have forgiven myself for pain inflicted on my own body.

I don’t think what I have been through makes these lessons worth it. Losing people isn’t worth the new appreciate of life. Learning to walk isn’t worth the appreciation of every step. But they are lessons learned that I can take with me.

Another reason I have come to love birthdays has come in the form of my autism diagnosis. Family and friends get it now. When Mum asks if I want to go out for a meal I can honestly say ‘no, I wouldn’t enjoy that.’ I would go, I do go out for meals. But I wouldn’t enjoy it, so why do it in celebration of my birthday?

An autistic person’s birthday isn’t going to look like other birthdays. Not for most of us. If it does it’s likely you aren’t gearing it to our needs. Our birthdays should meet our sensory and communication needs. No pressure to open presents. No singing Happy Birthday if not wanted (I have Jenson blow the candles out with me). Bonus points for involving our special interests into our birthday.

I guarantee that tomorrow when I turn twenty-nine, many will comment on how close I am to thirty. There was a time I feared it, hated getting older. But I am proud of where I am. Right here, right now, I’m good with everything. I don’t dread turning thirty, I welcome it.

I don’t say this as a ‘I’ve got everything figured out’, that would be impossible. Life can turn in the blink of an eye. I know how cruel life can be. But that is all the more reason to celebrate another year lived. Through the bad, the good and the great, I made it another year.

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