Hi all, I'm offering these thoughts in case you find them helpful.
A slight Trigger Warning - I allude to suicidal ideation. It's a subtle one, but please stop here if that risks harming you.
I'm reflecting on how I've historically bent myself out of shape to fit in, to play the games that everyone else wants to play, and to avoid being criticised for wanting to do different things. For three adult decades (my 20s, 30s and 40s) I have taken my cue for what is "normal", what is "expected", from family and society generally. And I've formed the conclusion that where my needs and wants are different, it is I who is wrong.
The tension between my natural self and those external expectations drove me to overstretch myself, to copy and emulate others, trigger extended episodes of anxiety and exhaust myself to the point of clinical depression and despair. Whenever I struggled through sensory problems in crowded places, I simply tried harder to enjoy it like everyone else.
Allowing myself a self-diagnosis of ASD, and researching the implications, has allowed me to give myself permission to say "Not everything that I'm good at is good for me, and I have genuine reasons for needing to say 'no' to these and other things". The regret and sadness here is that I needed the framework of ASD to allow myself this; why couldn't I have accepted myself *before* discovering that I'm not alone?
Despite that regret, I'm very happy to say that I now put my own needs at least on a par with the needs of others. I respect my own needs, and I'm done with modifying myself to meet the needs of others when my needs are at odds with theirs. I also hope that I can keep doing this if my formal diagnosis comes back as unclear or a signpost to elsewhere.
Putting other's needs above mine exhausted me to the point that I self medicated with everything legal that I could find, and this led to addiction and because of the frustration around that I contemplated the ultimate "nope"; I can now see that it's far better to risk disappointing others than to be unable to live if that means pleasing everyone else to avoid conflict and criticism.
One life, one chance.
Don't let the "others" grind you down. Your needs are important. Your mental health is important, and you are entitled to prioritise and protect it.
As the airline safety briefing says "Fit your own oxygen mask before helping others" - you would be no help to anyone if you passed out.
Find your "I", and celebrate him, her, or them.
It may sound like a trivial example, but I've never willingly sent a Christmas card; to me they are a waste of paper and money, a blind adherence to tradition, and an anachronistic irrelevance. I know that others enjoy them, but it has always stressed me enormously to feel forced into complying with the ritual. I'm now standing by my username.
I hope you can take some strength from this, find your "username", and kick ass. I know it's never that simple, and some of you face bigger obstacles than I could ever imagine. But I hope that this helps you a little too.
I'm done with Christmas Cards.
Well written Mr Christmas Cards....and also well worth re-remembering each sentiment as often as needs be.
Well said! I suspect this is something that a lot of us on the spectrum will very much identify with.
It's a strange discrepancy. On the one hand, us autistics are undoubtedly well-known for being insular, self-centric and socially inept. After all, it's part-and-parcel of our unique traits, whereby we struggle more to successfully navigate the social landscape. Yet equally, because we do struggle that much more, we actually put a lot more hard work and effort into doing so. That's why it can be exhausting and soul-sapping. The problem is two-fold: our extra efforts drain us, and yet the NT masses just don't see our struggle, instead perceiving us as weak for becoming exhausted at what they consider to be easily natural. It can be so disheartening, especially when NT's don't usually seem to make anywhere near the same amount of effort to understand or accommodate our own unique viewpoints. It's felt as a very unfair one-way street.
So good on you for voicing and sharing this. I know I for one am all too familiar with what you describe.