Monday, July 25, 2022

Don't Let Them See the Autism in Me

Earlier this year, I learned about autism burnout. Well, I knew it was a thing within myself, but I didn't know it was an actual thing shared by many. One of the things that leads to this state in the constant struggle to not let the world see the way autism affects me.

First off... I know it's okay to be on the autism spectrum. It is! If you're reading this, please understand this. However, growing up when autism awareness wasn't a thing, I learned that I had to be a chameleon to avoid being noticed. This required, and requires, a constant thought process denying what my body needs to meet sensory or calmness needs.

When things get too loud, especially with drums or bass, every ounce of my being is telling me to, "run! escape! flee! I'm not safe here!" In public, this may get a strange look. If I expressed my level of discomfort on the outside, I'd get comments from others and I'd be noticed. To be noticed will start the conversations of, "are you okay?" and then I've got an equally painful conversation that is equal to the pain of the sensory bombardment.

When I get excited, it's a wonderful feeling, but the emotions are too much. I have to vent the excitement, or it'll feel as if it's going to consume me. The way I dispel this is by a stim, or as I like to call it, "the dance of the fingers". You may have heard of finger flapping, but I much prefer the dance. When I must dance, it's because there are exciting thoughts racing through my brain that are very much like a locomotive going downhill at full steam with no brakes. I need a break from such euphoria and by dancing my fingers, I'm able to dispel that rush of excitement. If I don't dance, my insides feel as if they're going to burst out of me in a fury of excitement. See the problem here? If I dance the fingers in public, people look. They always look. Those that know me well, I have no problem with them seeing me as exactly who I am. For those that don't know me well, well, I can't let them see which allows that train to rush down the hill with unabated speed.

When meeting someone new, my body tells me to avoid looking at them at all costs. There's too much info yet it's like trying to play chess without being able to see your opponent's pieces. It's awful, it's tiring, and if I look at the person, I may not hear what they have to say, but if I look away, I am being rude. In certain situation, I must add, there are no issues. On Saturday, Olympic gold medalist, Shawn Johnson East, was the honorary starter for the Indycar race in Iowa, and I had no issues greeting her in the flagstand and prepping her for the start of the race. This is because, when in that position, I'm under my concept of Alias, which is the best chameleon experience possible. It's actually easy for me there because I'm playing the part of starter of the NTT INDYCAR Series. It's outside of an official title I struggle, that I will flee any new encounter, because I can't let them see my avoidance of eye contact and my level of uneasiness.

It's tiring. I know it's okay to be me. I know that I am not weak because of these challenges, yet I'm afraid to let others see it. It only takes one time for something to be pointed out to leave a scar that lasts a lifetime. When we overcompensate and something gets pointed out, this time opposite of the first, we are now scarred on both sides. We neither can nor cannot whatever the thing may be. This very well could be the essence of autism burnout because we have to exert so much level to not let them see while attempting to disregard and override every signal our brains are telling us to do. It's tiring, sometimes degrading, and it's extremely frustrating to know that I should be 100% comfortable with who I am, yet I'll attempt to bear the noise, I'll delay the dance, and I'll flub social greetings all because I'm attempting to hide from the world who I am.

1 comment:

  1. You are always, so very brave. May you find ways to be unabashedly yourself and carry your dignity with pride and not shame.