Next Year

Last week, I wrote a post based on a journaling prompt from the book The Self-Exploration Journal about where I’d want to be years from now. The next rpompt asks us to write about where, given our current daily activities and routines, we can realistically expect to be in a year.

If my daily routines and activities of the past sixteen months, living with my husband, have taught me anything, it’s that nothing is certain. I thought, after my last overdose in Ocober of 2017 that I would be stabilizing now at my old day activities and with my home support. That didn’t work out, because within months I was told I’d have to leave the day center eventually.

Now I’ve only just settled in at my new day activities placement. I am pretty content with how things are there now, but am not sure I feel excited about evnetually going four full days rather than just mornings. I mean, I still struggle a lot with overload.

At home, spending my afternoons alone, I feel awful. This could be depression sinking in again, but I’m not sure.

Realistically, based on my current routines and activities, can I expect to move within a year? I mean, I badly want to, but am even undecided as to how I want to live. Maybe next year I’ll be living in another house with my husband. Maybe I’ll be in supported housing after all. Maybe – most likely – I’ll still be holding on by a thread as I live here.

Mental health-wise, I don’t expect I’ll be doing much better in a year. That’s partly because my mental health issues are rather complex and partly because we don’t have a clear treatment plan that everyone agrees on.

I don’t expect much improvement in my physical health either, though I do hope to be a bit more in shape. Based on my current habits, I cannot expect to be at or near a healthy weight yet, but will hopefully have lost some weight.

I would really like to do some more learning. I tried to learn German for a bit a few weeks ago, but my head spun with all the information. Maybe I’ll be able to do some learning as I go by engaging with the books and blogs I read. I’ll also hopefully keep up the daily writing practise.

Dropping the Mask: Does It Take a Diagnosis? #TakeTheMaskOff

Today, the theme for #TakeTheMaskOff is diagnosis or self-discovery and its effects on masking. This is applied mostly to the experience of being autistic, but I can relate to it from a trauma survivor perspective too.

I haven’t yet read any of the other contributions for this week, but I assume the idea behind this challenge is that discovering you’re autistic, either through professional diagnosis or not, can help you drop a facade.

This is definitely true for me. When I was first diagnosed with autism in 2007, my staff claimed that I was using it as an excuse, because I reacted more to for example loud noises than I’d done before diagnosis. Similarly, my parents claimed that I was over-protected by the staff who felt I’m autistic and this led to my psychiatric hospitalization in November of that year.

To be honest, yes, I may’ve started to use autism more as an explanation for my behavior once I was diagnosed than I did pre-diagnosis. Note that I say “explanation”, not “excuse”. I don’t feel I need an excuse to act like myself, unless acting like myself were harming other people. Saying that we use autism as an excuse for our behavior is really saying that we should conform to non-autistic standards of behavior at any cost. Autism is an explanation for why I can’t conform to these standards, but even if I could, that doesn’t mean I should.

Then again, once my autism diagnosis was taken away in 2016, I did feel like I needed an excuse. And so did many other people. I was kicked out of autism communities that I’d been a valued part of for years. Suddenly, I’d been faking and manipulating and “acting autistic-like” all those years rather than just having been my autistic self. One Dutch autistic women’s forum’s members and admins were notorious for spinning all kinds of theories on why I’d been pretending to be autistic all those years and had finally been unmasked.

<PAnd at long last, I started to believe these people. I started to believe that self-diagnosis may be valid for other people, but it isn't for me. I started to wonder whether my parents were right after all that I'd been fooling every psychologist and psychiatrist before this one into believing I'm autistic.

This process of self-doubt and shame led to my first real episoede of depression. After all, if I’m not autistic, why did I burn out and land in a mental hospital? I’d been diagnosed with dependent personality disorder by the psychologist who removed my autism diagnosis, so were my parents right after all? I suddenly felt like I needed an excuse to act autistic-like, as if being autistic is indeed less than, not just different from being neurotypical.

I sought an independent second opinion and was rediagnosed with autism in May of 2017. I still am not cured of the idea that it takes a professional diagnosis to “excuse” a person from acting non-autistic. I don’t apply this to other people, but I do still apply it to myself and that’s hard.

I use this blog to counteract this self-stigmatizing attitude. This, after all, also applies to my status as a trauma survivor. I got my autism diagnosis back, but I never got and most likely never will get my trauma-related diagnoses back. I still mask, hiding my trauma-related symptoms when I can. And that’s not usually hepful in the long run.