Mental Health Training

Autism: A Journey to being Whole, by Laura

Posted by on 5 May, 2021 in Mental Health |

Autism: A Journey to being Whole, by Laura

When I look back over the challenges I’ve faced throughout my life, I quickly realise that lots of these were heightened due to not growing up in an ‘Autism-ready’ world and that many could have been managed much better, had the signs been identified and appropriate support been offered. Prior to recognising and learning many signs of Autism, my family and I never had the answers as to why I was always “rude” as a child (I would repeatedly call “Mum, Mum, Mum”, whilst my mum would be speaking to others, and even now, I struggle to identify when exactly is my time to speak) or whenever we had ‘fun’ (fun being objective, of course) days out, these would end up spoilt by “meltdowns” (consisting of inappropriate behaviour or phrases, lashing out, refusal to walk, or tantrums – again, ‘meltdowns’ are something which still feel very real, though now these cause arguments with the ones I’m closest to, lashing out in terms of pushing those closest to me away, and ‘self-destruct mode’ – this is where I have to battle within myself not to complete suicide or to not self-harm), or how the refusal to eat anything but pancakes was actually a sign of Autism, as opposed to being a “fussy eater” (as you can likely now see, I’m no stranger when it comes to food, however I have a list of ‘safe foods’ and I won’t stray far from this. Unfortunately, it also doesn’t contain the healthiest of food choices, and I feel the need to binge eat, in fear that there will be nothing left that I can eat (in terms of taste and texture)).

When the meltdowns occurred as a child, looking back, I believe there were many contributing factors, namely, overwhelming in terms of sensory overload and social anxiety, in addition to the pressure of ensuring I enjoyed the day out as planned. Only matters of weeks later, I would express to my mum how much fun I’d had; she, of course, felt frustration and confusion, as the days wouldn’t feel so much so at the time.

As I’ve aged and matured in my understanding and self-awareness (or does that contradict the Autism in me?), I have learnt to spot the signs and triggers from the near offset. I can openly say, that holiday’s, Christmas and planned days out, are big triggers for me, including meeting up with extended family (that is, those who don’t reside in my home). I find the overwhelming sensory environment real, of sound and chaos, and again, the pressure to ‘enjoy myself’ just too much. I can feel the meltdown building inside me; from a small spark right in my core, it grows, I feel a numbing sensation radiating from just below my chest, down to my thighs, passing through my legs, to my toes, and right the way up into my brain. I feel out of control, angry, frustrated, unable to rationalise or think clearly, begin to reject the ones I love, until reaching utter ‘self-destruct’. By this point, there’s nothing to pull me back with. I feel impulsive and a great desire to act upon these feelings. I feel isolated and alone by the desire of suicidal thoughts and I begin the battle against the “thing” within me, not to act upon these. I’m left feeling exhausted, both emotionally and physically, and alone in the sense that other’s around don’t truly understand, despite me not being entirely certain that I actually want their compassion or support, after all.

When I think of the ‘challenges’ I’ve faced, I’m immediately plunged deep into my mind; it’s almost as if I’m virtually transported through my life but with a now different lens of Autism self-awareness, however significant or insignificant certain features may be, and I’m flicking through each specific memory, like a group of trailers for a movie, but on high speed. I can stop at each specific memory, knowing exactly where it is stored away in the world’s largest library – chronological order, all bunched together, but all so separate, in a disordered, but perfect formation, the details which seem unnoticeable to others, are still as vivid as they were, the first time I lived them through.