Peeling the onion

It’s been a while since I posted. Shortly after learning of my diagnosis around five years ago, my partner was expressing her frustration with me. Her friend suggested that perhaps I didn’t know what I didn’t know. At the time I thought that was quite stupid. Now, I know it’s the truth. My lack of common sense sticks out and is silly to deny. One example would be the last time we went kayaking. While landing, I slipped and the water came in to my boots. It’s winter,so the water was very cold. After putting the kayak away, I took off my boots and slipped into sneakers. My partner asked me if I had changed my socks. I didn’t. So now my feet were wet and cold, and my shoes are wet. In the end, I bought some socks at Walmart and we had a big laugh! It’s good to laugh at our mistakes!

So, what else is there that I can’t see? Peeling the onion means, for me, looking at the different layers, going deeper and deeper. After looking at various layers there are several things I have noticed: I really can’t read people’s faces, particularly their eyes. Even my partner. Nothing! I have great difficulty expressing emotions, except anger. I can express my emotions to animals or young kids but it’s much harder for the people I am close to. I respond emotionally to my partner as if she’s challenging me. This is a response I developed in my early adolescence to my mother. What is frustrating is that I know that this response doesn’t reflect reality but my response is so machine like and at times I feel powerless until I realize that I am back in control. It’s very frustrating! This machine-like behaviour seems resistant to change. Sometimes I think that these types of behaviour are “autistically driven”. In animal behaviour we call this type of behaviour Fixed Action Patterns. They are wired in, or present at birth like reflexes. They’re difficult to impossible to modify. It’s not an excuse, but an understanding of what is required to understand the difficulty of change. I believe that there aspects of autism that need to be accepted by NTs as different but functionally the same. There is no rule that autistics have to behave like NTs. In fact, that is ableism.

With the last statement in mind it seems that there is an issue of how much behaviour we as autistics need to modify to “fit” socially in the world. For younger folks the answer would probably be “Why! That’s ableist!”. But for those of us who have be fortunate enough to live to be much older, the notion of fitting in is less threatening. In reality, we autistic survivors had to fit in as children because, in my case, autism was unknown at the time (I am 75).
When I was first diagnosed, I suddenly started stimming and having meltdowns. Then slowly, I began to mature as an autistic man and most, but not all stims began to quiet down. I haven’t had a meltdown in over two years. It was like a dam of autistic energy broke.

All of the changes that I have described are the product of peeling the autistic onion. It is, at times, painful because I can see the damage that not knowing for decades has caused. I will continue to peel as I continue to grow. More later.

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