Being diagnosed as autistic eighteen months ago was like having a rug pulled out from under my life.
[Aside: I then spent a while deciding whether this was a metaphor or an idiom and wondering what the etymology of the phrase was. No problem at all with using phrases like “raining cats and dogs”, and I understand their meaning, but my brain will always wander off wondering why…]
[Second aside: Why do wander and wonder look so similar?]
Eighteen months on and although I’d suspected autism for several years before that, I still feel like… Like a freshwater fish who’s been brought up in saltwater and then finds freshwater for the first time.
[Third aside: Can freshwater fish survive in saltwater?]
I’m still me but who is me? All the things I thought I understood, I now don’t know if I misunderstood them after all.
I’ve been told I miss the point many times, but what about when I’m not told? How do I know if I’ve missed the point if I’ve missed the point?
Having spent 39 years of my life trying to be something I wasn’t, I’m now in turmoil trying to work out how to be who I am.
In the meantime, life goes on.
I have two daughters who need me, who are also freshwater fish in a saltwater world, but they’re different fish with different needs and we aren’t compatible all of the time.
I am exhausted from another evening (and morning) of meltdowns. Of being screamed in my ear when I have sound sensory issues so today my ears are stinging and the one with tinnitus is loud and throbbing. At least I am on my own while children at school and husband at work, so only the sounds of the outside.
[Fourth aside: Aeroplane flying overhead. Cars. Tap tap of the keyboard as I write. Fridge/freezer buzzing in the kitchen. Birds tweeting. Laptop fan whirring. Tinnitus hissing.]
Sensory overload means being on the edge of a meltdown, and the tiniest sound or touch can make you flinch or cry out in pain, or most likely snap at whoever came near you. It’s exhausting. I’ll have to sleep soon or I won’t be able to cope with after school. I won’t be able to prepare food for my children, or do household chores, or manage a bedtime routine – and then they’ll stay awake far too late and be tired and meltdown themselves. And so it repeats…
But if I nap during the day, then the other jobs that need doing don’t get done. I can’t clear up the mess. I can’t declutter (try getting rid of things with people who meltdown at any change; it has to be done without them knowing.)
I can let go of stuff. It’s hard. It’s emotionally painful. I have to be in the right frame of mind. But I can do it. I’m 41. Life’s too short. I know stuff clutters the mind and doesn’t help mental health. My children are children, it’s too hard for them. Fortunately, they don’t notice when things they never use disappear when they’re not looking.
But I need recovery time or I stop functioning. Knowing why doesn’t mean I can function. Knowing why still doesn’t mean I don’t berate myself for being so useless.
I used to be able to work. I used to have a sharp mind. In my head, I can’t see why I can’t cope. I can’t accept that masking for so long has disabled me.
I can’t work out what I need help with when I evidently need help. I don’t know who to ask, even though I know there are lots of options. I can’t explain my needs, and I can’t support the needs of others.
Ask me how I am, and I’ll answer:
Ha. Ha. Ha.