January 16, 2021

Do I hold value, as an autistic adult and employee?

By rosieweldon

Disclaimer: It should go without saying that the below has in no way been driven by my employer’s actions. They have never made me feel less than. This is a question of personal self-worth. It is in no way a reflection on other autistic people. It’s how I feel about myself.

This question was one of the biggest hurdles I faced when I first got into work. I couldn’t help but calculate the cold facts. I was being paid £X amount a month, which meant £X amount an hour. Every time I had to ask for help with a phone call, or couldn’t attend a busy meeting, I was costing the company money.

I felt like a burden, a cost to work and at the same time, to those in my personal life. It is so hard as an autistic adult, who needs support with everyday tasks, to feel like I hold value.

A big part of my depression was the feeling that I had no value. I couldn’t hold down a job, so I had no value there. I couldn’t sustain healthy friendships and relationships, so I had no value there. I was desperate to add value, to do something good with my life, but could never find a way to. I think that’s why I love doing daily tasks at work. Not only do I love the repetition and routine, but they are concrete evidence that I’ve done something worthwhile each day, I have added value. As soon as I doubt my value at work, I start to doubt whether I deserve a place at the table.

I would love to sit writing this and say I don’t struggle with it anymore. But I’d be lying. The only difference now is that I have enough self-awareness to know that I have crippling self-doubt and imposters syndrome. So, I accept other facts. My employer saw worth in me when they hired me, they choose to pay me. It’s on them if they called that wrong. Family and friends choose to stick around. They must see something worth sticking around for.

I give 100% to my employer. It’s who I am. I can’t give anything less than my all. If that means coming home and working all weekend on the dyslexia project that I believe in, then I will. If it means skipping lunches to attend training, then I will. The problem comes when I am doing this to compensate for being an autistic employee. Am I doing those things to make up for the support I need? Am I trying to prove to my boss that I hold value?

The ridiculous stereotype that autistic’s, especially autistic accountants, are some kind of super genius, plays on my mind more than it should. When they hired an autistic accountant, did they expect more? Are they disappointed with a run of the mill accountant? Dedicated, yes, but not superhuman.

I can’t change how much I give to my job, any more than I could change being autistic. I am proud to give everything to an employer I am loyal to. But sometimes I question, or more fear, if I am doing it for unhealthy reasons. Trying to compensate for being autistic, is something no one should ever do.

I do think writing has helped my sense of self-worth. I don’t rely on others to do it. It’s just something I create and put out into the world. I see in the comments and people’s reactions, the value it holds.

I struggle to comprehend that I add value to situations. Maybe I always will. Maybe it’s being autistic. Maybe it’s years of battling my mental health. Maybe it’s from trying to be something I’m not. Who knows? But as long as I trust in others, I won’t go quitting my job or any friendships any time soon.

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