U is for Understanding

by Cat Walker from A is for Autiste

With understanding comes responsibility.

Not broken.

Not bad.

Not wrong.

Autistic.

Spending my whole life thinking I was broken, bad and wrong have certainly taken a toll. I sought out a formal diagnosis because I was conditioned to believe that people in positions of authority knew better than me. I saw my own self diagnosis as invalid because I am certainly not a doctor- what could I possibly know about it?

I have learned a lot about myself these past nine months since I was formally diagnosed. I’m not as quick to dismiss myself for being unable to do certain things and I have a much deeper understanding of my sensory needs. Undoing a lifetime of shame and self doubt will take time. I honestly don’t know if I would go to all the trouble of trying to work through this were it not for my children. Remnants of a lifetime of no self esteem I suppose.

While I am very, very happy to have my diagnosis, it feels at times like a double edged sword. I have this beautiful self awareness and understanding, but with it comes the inundation of all that is wrong and bad with me and my autistic friends. Very rarely do I come across anything promoting the neurodiversity movement let alone anything positive to say about autism. There are days when I carry the weight of this burden and can carry no more. It feels, at times, insurmountable.

With this new found understanding comes responsibility. I refuse to sit back quietly and raise my children in a world which does not accept us. One that repeatedly excuses our murders and victimizes our murderers instead. What kind of legacy is that for my children?

I am still fumbling through what it means to be autistic in this world not made for me. I struggle, at times, to own my new identity because it doesn’t feel safe. And I hate that. After all these years of feeling like an outsider looking in, I finally have a name for who I am, but I am shackled by fear and shame of sharing it with the world. What kind of example does that set for my children? I want them to be proud of who they are. I don’t want them to feel ashamed of it.

It feels like this self understanding will be an ever evolving process for me. I want to make the world a better place for my children. When they are my age, I don’t want there to be horrible organizations spewing hate and intolerance of autistics, inciting fear and lies at every turn. Perhaps this vision is unattainable, but I hope for the sake of my children that it isn’t.

This is part of a series of posts addressing themes from the neurodiversity movement and paradigm which will be published during the course of April 2016. To read the rest of the posts, please click here.