Appearances can be deceptive. Outwardly, to the bystander, I’m the smiling, friendly blonde lady who is confident in herself and still retains an appearance of youthfulness and some of the good looks she had in her late teens to mid thirties. The smile is aided by partial dentures now, but otherwise it is still just as broad and genuine as it always was before my operation. I exude passion, exuberance, love and fun from every pore.
Yes, this is me, right here. Perhaps I’m getting on a bit (to some) but I’m still looking to be in pretty good condition. Obviously the bloom of my youthful beauty is long gone, but “quietly attractive” sits quite well with me.
And yes, I am that person. I enjoy the company of good friends and love to make people smile and laugh. To many people I am a likeable eccentric and I am proud of that distinction.
Here Is What You Don’t See:
You don’t see the tears that flow when a social situation leaves me looking like a fool because I don’t know how to handle it. You don’t see me rocking backwards and forwards in the corner of the sofa, screaming and crying because the entire day has proved to be too much, and I am experiencing sensory overload.
You don’t see the fear in my eyes, or the physical panic attack, when I’m confronted with numbers. I can never fully explain just how much numbers and mathematics terrify me.
You don’t see how somebody else has to plan my day for me so that I can get anything done.
I can’t explain to you how certain noises physically hurt me. Drills, roadworks, any sudden noises in the house… you will find me curled into a ball with my hands over my ears and my eyes squinched shut. Sometimes I’ll even growl, and when noises are hurting me it’s not a great idea to touch me without warning. I will flinch and scream louder.
You don’t see the anger, frustration and disappointment if I am prevented from doing whatever it is that I am currently fixated on. You don’t see how I tend to over-react if I put just one stitch wrong or can’t think of the word I want to use.
You don’t see me crying ugly tears for no reason, stimming, laughing uncontrollably or thinking I’ve seen something that isn’t there.
You don’t know about the nightmares that I have to endure. Real slasher movie stuff. Sometimes I am actually too afraid to sleep, because when I do I see blood and feel pain. Sometimes I twitch a lot in my sleep during these episodes; other times I wake up screaming or crying. D has to comfort me and monitor my behaviour every single night.
You don’t see any of this. Because I hide it well, in order to attempt to “fit in”.
There are some aspects of my autism that I embrace. The good stuff, after all, far outweighs the bad.
Having said that, I’m writing this because I need people to understand. Not just to understand me, but to understand autism in all of its many different forms.