January 16, 2021

Autism is not weakness

By rosieweldon

I was diagnosed as autistic at 25. I had a mock interview at University in which the lecturer stated the biggest thing going against me was my inability to hold eye contact. This was when I realised pursuing the label may help people understand me. What I did not bargain on was the journey I would take, in understanding myself.

It was not an instant process. I had this label, and I knew it to be true, but now I had to unlearn so much about myself. I compare the process to that of coming out as gay, in both instances I had to accept what I could not change, even if it was not what I would choose, and find a way to be proud of who I am.

Acceptance was key to my life changing between 2016 and today. In 2016 I hated myself, there is no pretty way to say how I felt in that year. I could not do work-based learning, I could not walk into university rooms that already had people in, I could not get on a changed bus, pick up a phone etc etc. Every time any of these things happened, I mentally beat myself up over it, I was pathetic, I was a failure. I could not do the simplest of tasks and hated myself because of it.

Acceptance changed everything.

I worked tirelessly with a counselor after I started working at the Bank, to accept the parts of me driven by being autistic. I still work hard on it, but every day it gets a little more natural for me to think this way.

Last Thursday I had sensory overload at work, and it was a slow crawl to 5:30pm. As I walked out of the office and into the open air, tears fell down my face.

At the Bank I would have seen those tears as weakness, as a sign of failure and being too pathetic to uphold a ‘9 to 5’.

But you know what? Those tears are not weakness. They are the sign of someone who faced sensory overload mid-afternoon and managed to hold it together until the end of the day to break. A sign of someone who will dust off and go straight back into that same environment 9am the next day.

I didn’t hate myself last Thursday. I walked home with my music playing and cried all the way home. I pushed back deadlines and sat and watched Scorpion (my calm down show) and embraced the quiet and stillness of my flat. An hour later I was absolutely fine and refreshed.

I am not weak. I am autistic, and that’s okay.

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