Neither This Nor That: autism identity in a non-autistic world
Being a mum and wife and helping run a business and a home, and being autistic has created two main versions of me: I can do busy, I can do efficient. I can do friendly, capable, organised. I can get up early and get through whole days without any me time. I grin and chat and duck and dive. It’s not that I don’t enjoy it, it’s that it’s exhausting. But this is the version of me every one likes and I push her hard to keep it up.
But it’s not really me.
Real me is holding her breath.
The lack of proper breathing space catches up with me though, and I begin to fail, to fall. It’s like I’m sitting on a cliff and getting closer and closer to the edge. Days get more difficult to wade through, I become clumsy, forgetful, insanely anxious.
I panic. And the panic rises.
Like a dog I pace and circle and look for a safe place to hide and be alone and rest, but the busy me has created a void where there are no safe places for the burnt out me. Every sound around me makes me twitch. Other humans become a threat. Not like paranoia but in a dutiful way, in a destruction of my peace way. I begin to loathe the sounds of fellow humans. My body starts to freeze up because the 2 strongest messages in my brain are “Run away from this!” and “Keep coping!”
Everyone around me is unaware of how much I’ve struggled and am struggling. I stumble and scrabble and I can feel the massive inevitable drop coming, and it’s horrid, it’s terrifying, and I really don’t feel safe at all anywhere.
Bit by bit by awful bit, events get more tedious, conversation becomes less possible, sleep fails, waking up fails. Pain comes. I run out of possibilities, I lose all direction. I can not go on. I am empty, biting my knuckles, unable to eat or drink and staring into space.
Help… I’m falling…
And fall I do.
I deliberately banged my head against the garage door 2 nights ago. I hurled my notebooks into the middle of the garden – my gardening lists, my household lists, the confusion of what needs doing. All these plans. Good stuff, bad stuff, who knows? What was I thinking? I was now incapable me.
I couldn’t do shit.
I’ve felt steamrollered ever since. Flattened. Hurting. Needing recovery. It’s a long climb back up and I’m not ready.
There shouldn’t be these two versions of me because neither one is right. The me that feels like real me pops up now and then but she makes me feel guilty. I’d love to let her live a full life and wipe away the other versions of me but I really really don’t know how to let her exist and be happy. She’d have her own pace, her own needs and they don’t fit this world.