It wasn’t until I was home again and took off my handmade brooch (pictured above) that I made the connection between the powerful congruence I felt at #InsideOutAutism and wearing it on both days. I’m still processing why this act of making and wearing felt significant. I’ve never been one to wear text on my body in any form, perhaps because my identity has been at times uncertain and under siege.
But my self-fashioned brooch was different. Here was an artefact, crafted over time and without conscious purpose, redolent of my journey as an autistic woman in reclaiming the language used about me, and my people. So antiquated is the text that I am unfamiliar with some of the words, and it acts as a curio, or something I could have inherited. I feel I have. It holds a familial feeling, and when I peer at its loveliness I hear the ancestral whisper – we were once like you. If an object can be joyful and witty, it has those qualities. Have you ever bounced on a trampoline? My brooch is the rebound which tosses your heart in the air. It gives me abnormous joy. It trumpets confidence. That zing-a-ling feeling that I’m A-okay.
I recognise that in some profound and irreversible way I’ve unmasked myself, and that yet in doing so I’ve hardly faltered, feeling that it is worth it for my community and for the future I want for my children. But it’s not all about altruism and social change.
I’m an autistic person who embraces my disability as identity (not all of us do), and finds the ‘label’ liberating. The more I push through the better my life gets. I only struggle when confronted face to face with people who are patronising, angry, or want to deny my struggles. I chose to paddle away as quickly as possible. I’m too old to spend my time engaged in this kind of nonsense. I’ve spent too much of my life confused and wrong-footed.
Let’s see what this week brings. I’ve already been more vocal today than I have been in months. Perhaps the value of such blighted awareness campaigns are that they can make us think about how to do something differently.
It’s perhaps important to conclude with the view that faux enablers are not necessarily ‘bad people’ per se. They may have good intentions which are simply maladaptive. This is tricky, because the truly malicious may be easier to discern and disengage from. In the end it doesn’t really matter – the only thing which does matter is you.
But unmasking means changing habits and changing thought patterns too. Unmasking means I can begin to find my own contours and stay me shaped for longer. This makes it easier to locate myself if I have to mask. I can recover more quickly too.
I’ll put it out there – I’ve had a very challenging time of it recently. It’s a funny thing finding out you’re autistic late in life. I still sometimes wake up in surprise at my ‘newfound’ situation – and lately find myself astonished at some random moment in my day when my autism is revealedContinue reading “Face it! #prosopagnosia #autism.”