… I loved the person I wanted to be
I have always been autistic, it is what I am, but I have only been aware of that for under six years. I grew up not only not knowing I was autistic and not fitting in. I did not have many friends, I cannot think of a time when I have had more than two or three close friends at any given time.
What I became good at was mirroring, acting like the people I am with, copying their mannerisms, but it was all a mask, this was not the real me. I have always been drawn to cats, I think cats may understand me better than my fellow humans.
Masking did not work. I was thought of as the weird kid. Even my own family thought I was on another planet when I was lost in thought and I was accused of being anti-social: I am not anti-social, I love to be with other people but being brought up in a household of six children there was always several conversations going on and the TV or radio trying to get through over the top. It got too much at times. I was not anti-social, social is anti-me.
I longed to be normal, I longed to fit in, I wanted to be popular and mostly I wanted the bullying to stop. Including the ridicule that happened now and again from teachers. Hindsight now tells me that being popular would not have been good for a brain that has trouble filtering out clamour. Give me four or five people talking over a pint or two and I can be as social as anyone else.
Because I did not fit in I fantasised, I invented a new-me in my head, the me that would fit in, the me that wasn’t being logical when I should have been sympathetic. I loved this New-me, I wanted to be this New-me, I tried to be the New-me, but New-me wasn’t me. The real me had been pushed back. The more I loved New-me the more I hated Real-me.
That is how I grew up. Not liking who I was. Living on Fantasy Island. Until 2013 at 59 years old I was told by a psychologist that I probably had Asperger’s syndrome. That made a lot of difference, not straight away, but gradually I began to get confidence in who I am, autism included. I am learning to love who I actually am, and without a mask, I am being accepted for what I am too. I have wanted to be normal, I have learned that I am normal, just a different kind of normal.
But I get stuck with my empathy filter, I empathise too much it overwhelms me walking into a room full of people. I like to turn up early so that I’m meeting people one or two at a time, or sneak in late so that I don’t have to face people. This is an area that I still mask, just so that I can have a little control, the tiredness caused by masking or the tiredness by fighting off meltdown cancels out anyway.
That’s me then. As always remember that autism is a spectrum condition, other autistic people will vary, some will be wildly different to this.
Disclaimer: Self-hate is not part of autism, a lot of autistic people go through life with no self-hate. This is a personal story, of how and why I hated myself. It is not to be taken as typical autistic behaviour, which it is not. But it is part of my own story.