Discovering my autistic truth has not been a single cataclysmic moment, but rather, a series of enlightening ones. The journey has not been without its twists and turns. Many of these twists and turns have taken place under my nose, but also below my immediate consciousness.
In the beginning, when I was very young, I didn’t know how to be anyone but myself. I didn’t know that I needed to mask and act in order to gain acceptance. Truthfully, in the very beginning, I didn’t realize that it was important to gain acceptance from my peers. I learned the hard, raw way that to fail to be accepted was equivalent to agreeing to be mocked.
The effort involved in dealing with being mocked is more painful, more intense, and more distracting than that involved with the hard work required to be actively accepted. (Did that make sense? My words are straining today.)
Or so I thought. I unknowingly injected my spirit with Novocain as I left myself behind in the rearview mirror. There was pain involved, but I wasn’t about to admit that to myself. Sometimes the toughest choices are those in which both/all options involve pain, but you’ve got to choose one, so you opt for the least painful.
My solution was to create a New & Improved Me, one that would be acceptable to all parties.
I worked hard in my adolescent years to distance myself from myself. I surgically extracted the parts that wouldn’t do, and replaced them with artificial prosthetics. Sometimes, Novocain just isn’t enough, but it was all I had.
And the Internal Critic was born, watching my every move, making sure I spoke and moved and thought Just Right. My surface had to be glass, my persona just edgy enough to say “I’m one of you; I’m cool; don’t mess with me”.
I harbored a lot of secrets, too. And a tight lid was installed.
The distance from myself was directly proportional to the level of acceptance I achieved. In other words, the more I pretended and the more I kept secret, the more people liked me.
It’s like a mosquito bite; you don’t feel it for the first few moments that it’s happening, but it starts to itch moments later, and it lasts for hours afterward, bleeding and becoming hard, scabbing over and then finally leaving a scar.
Like several others I know, this went on for decades. Strict training, a sort of finishing school for “cool” and “edgy” instead of dainty.
Distance, more distance. I could put enough between me and myself fast enough. Every gaffe I had committed before, I just wanted to live down. It was all about hanging in there and biding my time.
Discovering my autistic truth has been like throwing myself into reverse, in a way, trying to catch back up with the one I had abandoned, trying to go back and unearth my own remains and revive them.
My discovery became an inner trial, during which I confessed my crimes of self-abandonment, self-denial, self-depreciation, and psychological self-abuse.
I was plaintiff, defendant, judge, and jury.
When I brought the gavel down, my verdict was “guilty”, of all of the above. I sentenced myself to time served, and let myself out on good behavior.
This would be conditional, however. The conditions were that I treated myself with greater kindness and compassion, and that I gave myself permission to act in accordance with those natural tendencies that aligned with autism spectrum traits.
I was freer after my trial than before it.
Now I’m distancing again.
But this time, it’s different.
Before, I was distancing myself out of self-preservation. I did it to satisfy others. This time, I’m doing it for healing. I’m distancing myself from that Finishing School of Cool. Distancing myself from the harsh criticism. The Internal Critic is still there; she was somehow spared the death penalty. But she is banned from psychologically beating me. No more lashings. If she is to speak at all, the criticism is to be constructive.
I’m distancing myself from the pain, from the fake personas, from the need to be accepted by strangers who wouldn’t think half as much about my wellbeing as I’d been forced to care for theirs. Distance from the meddling and self-micromanagement. Distance from the shackles.
Ironically, I wrote about this a year ago today, except that I didn’t remember that until now. Here’s a copy: