April 21, 2014

How My ASD Diagnosis Changed Me

It has been just over six months since I got my official ASD diagnosis. It feels longer for some reason, but not in a bad way. It's amazing how much I've changed in the last six months.

I have embraced my diagnosis with open arms, using it as a catalyst for self-discovery and new levels of self-awareness. Mostly, I have felt empowered by it. I feel authentic. I no longer feel ashamed of myself and because of that, I feel I can live more like my true self. I am allowing myself to be me, just the way I am, without negative judgment. And that is so freeing.

I know a lot of people say they feel like diagnosis makes them "act more autistic." I guess I can say a similar thing, in the sense that I am allowing myself to be naturally, quirky me. I no longer try to hide my stims. I accept them as needed and helpful, for the most part.

I "came out" at work, which has been both good and bad. Good because it has given me a way to fight for acceptance and bad in the sense there is still a lack of understanding of what it really means to be Autistic. However, I guess I can't accomplish everything in six short months. Still, there is hope for improvements and I don't regret doing it.

I have felt more empowered to stand up for myself and my family. I would have said I was always a strong person, but truthfully, I lacked certain skills when it came to dealing with my mom. I came to the realization that I was still doing things simply to "keep the peace" or make her happy at the expense of myself and my family. I finally found the courage to put my foot down. Case in point, normally I would have gone to her place for Easter dinner, not because that's what I want, but because it would be what *she* wants and I would suffer through it. She is just a very negative and controlling person and being around her makes me anxious a lot of the time. I refused to go, which of course made her angry, but she'll get over it. Instead of turning my life into chaos and bending over backwards to make it work for her, I've had a very relaxing weekend with my little family at home. That peace of mind is priceless.

I have become better able to let anxiety and other stressful emotions wash over me, rather than panic. I think understanding that my anxiety stemmed mostly from over-stimulation of the senses and learning to listen to and accept my limits, means that I am a much happier and calmer person. Before I didn't really understand what I was panicking about, which can be pretty scary. Now I am more aware of my sensory issues and finding ways to work with them. I accept that I can take time-outs for myself and I can find ways to recharge and cope. I no longer blame myself for what I previously perceived to be "failings" or "weakness."

On this day, which also happens to be my 13th handfasting anniversary, I think back to the vows we wrote for each other. One line was, "to delight in who you are becoming." We knew over time we would both change and we decided to accept that off the bat. I know my husband still delights in what I am becoming and I delight in his changes as well. But I can also say that I am also taking great delight in who I am becoming.

As I sit perched in my new hanging chair - which my husband worked hard to mount for me, knowing it would calm my sensory issues - I can't help but delight in the whole process of becoming more me. 

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