What 2020 taught me about being Autistic

As one of the most challenging years in our lifetimes has drawn to a close and as we enter a new year I’d like to reflect on what I’ve learnt from finding out I am autistic. With my brother being diagnosed at two autism has always been a part of my life, but my personal insight and journey began in 2013.

I was diagnosed just after my 16th birthday. Truthfully there were many feelings. I was relieved to know that I wasn’t making my experiences up, that there was a reason. However, on the other hand being 16 and at an age where I wanted was to ‘fit in’.

There was tons of mimicking, masking and social scripting at this age. For autistics this can be an extremely vulnerable age like for many teenagers. I really struggled because I felt there was no one out there like me. I went to college in a base and because of the proficiency of my masking staff began to question why I was there at all and this made me second guess my diagnosis. What I learnt is that is the chameleons ability to blend into our environment can really have an effect on the support we receive. It made me question my diagnosis and I lost all belief in myself. We learn to disguise our true selves so well that our autistic traits can’t always be seen. Therefore we go unrecognised and misunderstood. 

I struggled through transition of adulthood. Struggling to find a job, being discriminated against in job interviews and feeling like I was set up for failure because of my diagnosis but that’s when I reached my turning point. 

I began to embrace being autistic, what it means to me. I read and I read and I learnt as much as I could to better understand myself. I wanted to help people who felt like I did for so long. That’s when I found there are others like me. When I applied to volunteer for AP I found my tribe. I thought ‘Wow there is a community I belong to!’ 

What I’ve learnt through 2020 is that now a lot of people have an insight into loneliness and isolation. Many autistics feel like this everyday, for myself maintaining friendships has always been difficult. 

I’ve learnt that as much as things can be made inaccessible for autistics, equally they can be made accessible. For example working from home, quieter shopping hours, communication through technology. 

One of the biggest lessons for me is that there may be times in my life where I regress. For autistic individuals when there are major life challenges we may struggle to process them emotionally, our reactions may be delayed and we may regress. However, things always get better. 

To all the chameleons, all the autistics. I’m proud of you for getting through 2020. The amount of change we have endured has been phenomenal for all of us. You did it and I’m proud of you!

I’ve been with AP for just over a year now, here is to another and hopefully better year. 

Cerys the Chameleon x