Monday, 30 April 2012
A couple of weeks ago, someone somewhere googled the phrase “I Wish I Didn’t Have Aspergers”. The phrase popped up in a blogging dashboard and struck the blogger as being particularly sad. She wished she could have answered.
We don’t know who it was. We don’t know where he/she lives. We have no idea if he/she found what he/she was looking for in that search. But, there are many of us in this world who feel that having autism is not something to be wished away so we decided to have a flash blog day today in an attempt to get our message to that individual and everyone else who needs to hear it!
We hope that these messages of hope and positivity about autism will help the person who entered the search phrase to feel better about who they are – a person with unique potential – which actually makes you the same as everyone else on this Earth.
I was diagnosed in my 40s which was a huge relief to me. Now I could understand why I had always struggled to be like so many other people. Now I knew that there were others who I ‘fit’ with. I go to an adult autism group once in a while when I am not in a too intense amount of sensory overload from being at work all day. What is so remarkable is that each one of us who goes to my adult autism group is completely different from the others. However, I have never heard one of them say that they wished they didn’t have autism, and I wish you didn’t feel that way either. Don’t wish yourself away. Let me explain why…
I am considered a useful member of society by many who know me. I am a registered midwife and registered midwifery lecturer who teaches midwifery to degree level students. I am a registered Public Health Practitioner (the first midwife to be invited to join the UK Public Health Register). I am the 2012 Writer in Residence for Portsmouth Libraries. I am a published author of fiction and nonfiction. Most importantly of all (to me) is that I am a good wife and a good mother with a loving, understanding husband and wonderful children – a son who is also autistic and two stepsons. My life may sound idyllic to you ( well I hope it does anyway) but it took me many years of apparent failure, being told I was stupid, or lazy or weird, of failed friendships and damaging relationships to get where I am now. I am stubborn and so I persevered with trying to fit in, to hold down a job, to ‘do things right’, though at times I did wonder if it would be easier to just give up.
After many years I realised that if I wanted to do the things I longed to do, such as being a midwife, then I would have to mimic the way others behaved, the way they spoke to each other in public (though not the way they talked about each other behind closed doors in some cases). So I trained myself to become a chameleon person, to blend in with other people who were different form me (when I was being paid to). It took a long time to learn how to do it well but eventually it worked! It is stressful (but I don’t think feeling stressed at work makes me any different from anyone else) and since I ‘Came Out Asperger’s” to everyone I work with I can now do things like wear big noise cancelling headphones when the noise of the office gets too much (which helps so much). My work colleagues understand that I prefer to be on my own, that ‘it is me not them’ so they don’t misinterpret that as me ‘snubbing’ them, and even more importantly, they (usually but not always) don’t take offence when I say something that inadvertently upsets them.
The most important tip I can give you is to never stop trying to achieve your dreams. The process won’t be easy (it isn’t for anyone else either because everyone has their own internal struggles that we can’t see) and never be afraid to tell others that you have a diagnosis of autism. If they don’t or won’t understand… well that is their problem, don’t allow them make it yours. Try to be proud of who and what you are – use your diagnosis as an explanation but never as an excuse. You are different – you see, hear, smell, learn and interpret things in a special way – find a way to use this your advantage!
My one blog post is not enough to tell you everything about why being autistic can be wonderful but I hope each of the posts written for you today helps you to reach that level of understanding. I wish you strength, and every success you work for.
Kind regards, Denyse