Monday, 13 August 2012

Going Beyond the Shame

A few days ago I wrote about autistic shame. But, I realised, it’s not enough simply to acknowledge that it exists. Where to from there?

As I said in my earlier post, I believe that becoming part of the autistic community – even if it’s only online – is essential to ridding ourselves of shame. When we first join it, no matter how tentatively, we start to read the stories of others on the spectrum, and compare notes - and to realize we are not the only ones who ever did this, felt that, had this or that reaction. We experience being accepted and understood for the first time. Eventually we start to think, hey these people are just like me, and yet they seem pretty okay people, in fact more than okay… Maybe I’m okay too…

Because it’s in this talking with others on the spectrum, that we start uncovering what exactly about our autism/aspergers make us feel most ashamed, and in doing so, to drain those deep wounds, and let them begin to heal. Those wounds may be caused by any number of things. Our executive dysfunction disorder, or our need for absolute order and rigid routine. Our sensory or emotional ‘over-reactions’. Or the social difficulties – our sense of isolation and rejection, how we can’t seem to make or keep friends, or find a decent/any partner. Our difficulties finding, keeping or simply enduring jobs. Or simply that feeling of being ‘not normal’, of being a square peg in a round-holed world, a reject, a lemon on the human production line. Or all of the above. And more, and more. And each time we felt that way, it carved a deeper notch in our souls.

But with the aid of our new contacts and friends, we start to see that what we thought for so long were signs of our hopeless inferiority are in fact simply part of our being autistic/aspergers. Then comes the final step - we begin to stand up for ourselves with the rest of the world. It isn’t necessary or even possible for all of us to be hot-shot political activists. But we can start to set limits with the people in our lives, to explain our reactions, and why we act the way we do, to be ‘self-advocates’, in effect. And when we do, things begin to shift for us. We begin to breathe easier, walk taller, stand prouder. And we can only do this too with the support of other aspies/auties, who form an essential ‘net’ to catch us when we fall, and help us back on our feet again. This is where we save each other’s sanity. Where my sanity was saved. Community makes the essential difference. Without it, we’re simply struggling on all alone - and we already know, all too well, how hard and impossible that can be.

Note, I am not making light of how difficult it can be to make changes in our selves, and our lives. But remember this – you are all incredibly brave just to have come this far. All of you have endured huge hurts, and survived. We continue to daily endure an unaccepting and often hostile world, one which is not set up for us, does not understand us, does not even like us very much, and a large part of which would prefer we didn’t exist. Which bombards us with negative messages, and relentlessly pressures us to be ‘normal’.

But you are not what the world thinks you are, or tells you that you are. You are not a failure or a reject, but an exceptional human being in your own right. You are worthy of being treated well, of treating yourself well, and demanding, expecting, that others will do the same. You are beautiful, and worthy of loving yourself, your true self, just as you are. Arohanui (much love), my friends.

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