Why am I lazy?
Why can’t I do what others can do?
Why do I need so much rest?
Why is it so hard, and not so hard for everyone else?
I’m no good.
I’m a failure.
It’s 10:18 and I have a meeting to prepare for. I have a peer support session at 11am. I haven’t eaten, I need some exercise. All I have done is help my partner get the children up and put to school and get dressed and make the bed. My brain is foggy, I can’t get any thoughts to come together, anxiety is super high, I feel tearful. I feel exhausted after 8 hours sleep. Why?
I’m an educated, capable woman, my brain can run rings around most people and events in life when it kicks into gear. I am a step mum to three children, a cat mum to a rescue, an award-winning business owner, a loving partner, we run a home together.
And yet I cringe as I write those sentences and still the sentences at the start of this article have run through my head at least once or more this morning. Compounded by thoughts such as I’m not that good a step mum if I can’t be at the school gate, I’m not that good a cat mum if I struggle with the vet, my business is small and unfunded other social enterprises are growing fast, gaining kudos and making change.
I’m not doing enough because other people are doing more.
Familiar? I hear it in nearly every peer support session from my autistic peers, ‘I am lazy’ or ‘I thought I was lazy’. It is so very sad to hear, but necessary to voice. So common, but so untrue.
Perhaps you are like me?
I’m autistic. I wasn’t recognised until I was 36, a lifetime of ignorance. A lifetime of my body and mind being overloaded and traumatised. A lifetime of damaging physical and mental health care. A lifetime of rejection and misunderstanding. A lifetime of internalisation and guilt. A lifetime of trauma. I carry that every day.
And today there is heavy machinery grinding away constantly outside my office window. Today I’m awaiting an important phone call at any time about my health that is creating much anxiety. Today I’m in pain from oral surgery. Today the light coming in the window is a bit too bright. Today I don’t understand the parameters of the meeting and what I need to prepare, it’s to be figured out unspoken. I’ll get it wrong.
And therefore, quite logically I feel tired, anxious and unable to concentrate. Quite logically when you learn from birth that the only way to survive in the world by copying others, masking and mimicking to fit in and not be castigated then you also learn to measure your self worth against other's efforts and achievements. I'm not good if I'm not like them.
I’m four years post diagnosis and I’m still having to really challenge those thoughts and feelings. I still need to reframe this because life still carries on at a pace I’m not built for. Life and society still measure worth and success by salary, external show, kudos, busy-ness and rewards those who shout loudest and play the game.
I'm autistic. And inherently I don't measure life that way. Therefore, the loving relationship I have built with three children and the place I have in their life is good enough, who really judges being at the school gate as a validation of a being a good parent? I can't relate with that mindset. They trust what I am to them, and they trust I’m there for them when it really matters no matter what, because I know what it is like to have artificial people in my life.
Therefore, my partner can take the cat to the vet, and I can be happy in the knowledge that I took in a malnourished frightened rescue and nursed her into a healthy rascally cat who rules our hearts and our house, because I know what it is like to be frightened and alone and not understood.
Therefore, I can be happy that what wasn’t here before is here now with Aupeer and if it helps 1 peer or 50 it’s worthwhile. I’ll follow my own pace and do it my way because I know mirroring others doesn’t work for me and I don't usually agree with the way things are done anyway! Can we say things are good doing it the neurotypical way?!
Why do I write this? As a letter to myself, as a letter to you. So that you may feel less alone. So that I may feel less alone. So that you may be able to have the same conversation I have had with myself and perhaps eventually begin to reframe those thoughts. It’s peer support via the written word.
Self-identification and diagnosis give us a chance to reframe these awful assumptions about ourselves, to recognise the external causation and celebrate our reality, celebrate what we do achieve while carrying the weight of being autistic in a neurotypical world, but it’s an ongoing process and you need others to say ‘I feel this too’.
Remember it's not reality, or at least it’s not the full reality. It is hard and you probably do need a lot of rest, you likely do work at a different pace to people around you. That's right for you.
I'm not lazy, not weak, I bring good and I’m not a failure. And nor are you.