It’s been a busy summer so my yearly autism review is a month late. My yearly reviews are complex now as my non-binary anniversary is about a week before my autism anniversary. Of course if / when I get an ADHD diagnosis that’ll be the same month too. I should move my birthday to July. Rebirthday? Petemas?
Last year I described my 3rd year of being knowingly autistic as; “A COVID year. A year of lockdown. A year unlike any other.” A fitting description for year 4 I think. It was all those things and more. Love, death and reboots.
It has been a tough year. During the winter I realised I needed to talk to someone about my depression. 6 months later I got the help I needed. If people could stop clapping and sort the NHS out that’d be super. Did being autistic contribute to this depression? I certainly wondered if I was experiencing autistic burnout last year. I’m not a therapist so I can’t say for certain but what I can say is that we never discussed being autistic in my therapy sessions. They were more about acceptance instead of endless “But what if?” The treatment programme has definitely helped with my depression.
Last year I said;
I mentally crashed and became overcome by panic. It didn’t help that this was right before I was about to go swimming and it was windy so the water wasn’t a calm place to relax. I’m not able to do this every time but there have been some small victories. I think this is a form of mindfulness. Acknowledging that something over there is a trigger, accepting it and moving away instead of towards. Exceptionally hard to do but if you keep working on it you will get better at it.
I’m still getting those crashes. I’ve had 3 or 4 in the past 2 months. I can’t say if they are related to autistic sensory overload or a form of shutdown. I think they’re going to take years of work to notice patterns if there are any. It’s the sort of thing I’d discuss with a therapist in a weekly session if only I could afford one. breathes Don’t focus on what I can’t do. Focus on what I can. What’s next?
I realised that I get inverse SAD. I say inverse because we seem to associate SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) with the winter. I get it when the clocks change. The light is more blue tinted and harsher. Days are longer. There’s more people around and chaos in the world. I enjoy the right temperature and a good sit outside but it costs me a lot of spoons to get to that point. Somedays I run out.
Recognising my own internalised ableism has helped me a little but it’s complex. It took me a while to be ok with wearing an Hidden Disabilities lanyard because I didn’t want people to see me in a certain way. That’s not good. I need to work on my own issues about what it means to be disabled and also teach the world to accept me. While I got a Hidden Disabilities lanyard I did not apply for an accessibility pass for Bluedot festival. I didn’t think I was disabled enough to need assistance at the festival. Again, that’s not good. We pay for the cheapest boutique camping pass for that exact reason. It helps me to be in a less busy camping area, with less chaos and access to a decent loo and shower. It frees up my spoon energy to focus on dealing with the crowds, food, water, and weather that the festival might throw at me. I’ll look into what options are available for 2023 but I still feel like I’d be taking a space away from someone who really needs it. I honestly don’t know if that’s me or not.
I possibly lost a job this year by outing myself as autistic. Well, they emailed and said if I’m interested they could setup a call to further discuss the project. I was interested but I struggle with phone conversations. I prefer to chat over email. Everything is logged and searchable. I can take my time to think about the details. I vastly prefer email to phone calls. This new client said they saw on my site that I was autistic and said that the job would involve a lot of phone calls and they left it there. They have to find the best person for the job. That’s completely understandable. There’s no guarantee that I would have got it had I phoned them to talk. It still left me wondering if I had done the right thing or not by disclosing my issues. Should I have muddled through?
All of these points are from a negative perspective. What issues have I had to overcome this year being autistic? There’s a lot. There’s always a lot. Has being autistic helped at all? In making this newsletter I find I’m able to research a thought quite well. I enjoy having an idea and soaking up everything I can about it. Remembering that I’m different to most helps with photography. I’m caring less and less about what others do, at least I’m trying to do so. I fail a lot. But I tell myself that I’m a trans non-binary autistic person. There’s not a lot of us in the photography world. My work shouldn’t look like everyone elses. It should be mine. How am I doing that? … Maybe come back to that next year?
This year I had a bit of a breakthrough in my quest to understand what kind of photographer I am and how being autistic helps. I realised that I need to have variety in my work. That feeds my ADHD. I’m not a single focused photographer. I have to do the work my brain wants. If I fight against it doesn’t function as well. I need that excitable energy from new and interesting things. My ADHD needs something new and that triggers my autistic curiosity that wants to know more. When those parts of me line up I’m better at writing or making photographs.
Year by year I’m learning more about how my autistic brain works, responds to the world and helps me be creative. I’m making progress.