Autism and Privilege

I feel privileged to live in a country where healthcare is paid for by taxes, so you don’t have to worry about health insurance or whether you can afford a simple doctor visit. Regardless of your income, you will still be entitled to healthcare.

As a fourteen year-old, we began the diagnostic process for autism, after years of mental health issues and struggling to fit in at school. I was still classed as a child so got to go through CAMHS, the child mental health service in the UK. I will say I had quite a nice team of people who diagnosed me. As an adult, I have found adult mental health services to be lacking compared to child mental health services. There is a lot of help I am not entitled to simply because I am autistic and they don’t know how to help autistic people. It took a year long waiting list before I was diagnosed, which I thought was pretty long as I was a child and ever closer to ending school life. The length of the waiting list meant I wasn’t able to get as much help for my final exams at school as I wanted. However, others getting diagnosed can have even longer waiting lists.

I feel because of the waiting list, lots of people choose to go private when seeking an autism diagnosis. This is, of course, if they can afford it. I had already missed out on the chance to go to a school that better understood my needs, so the diagnosis was a means to get help with my exams, but even then it was too late to get most of the help I needed. I was only given a separate room which wasn’t that separate as they put all the kids who needed a separate room in the same room. I think I would have done better completely by myself. I didn’t get the computer I asked for to complete my exams, which meant that I had to battle with the anxiety inside my head telling me that the examiners wouldn’t be able to read my awful handwriting. My handwriting was pretty bad and I already had a dyspraxia diagnosis so I don’t know why they couldn’t get me a computer in time.

I feel thankful that my mum could advocate for me at the time because, without her, I may not have gotten the diagnosis at all. She advocated for me even though she was going through cancer treatment at the time. She kept telling the GP to refer me, even when they told her they didn’t think I was autistic (despite having no experience with autism). As soon as CAMHS saw me, they could tell I was autistic.

I have been thinking about all the people that are told they can’t be autistic, that self-diagnosis isn’t valid, and I remember my own story. People live in countries where healthcare is expensive and so many of them can’t afford it. People live in countries where women having autism is still not recognised. People live in countries without the privilege I have: the privilege of accessible diagnosis, the privilege of being white, the privilege of a supportive mother who advocated for me. Not everyone has that. Not everyone has an advocate. I lack a lot of privilege in other areas but I remember where I have privilege and why I am so privileged to be acknowledged by my own healthcare system, the wonderful NHS, as being autistic.

Before you doubt someone’s autism, remember that you don’t know how hard it might have been for them to get a diagnosis, or how they may not have been able to get one at all. No one wants to be autistic, it is not a trend. It is a reality for so many people and just because someone doesn’t look autistic or seem autistic doesn’t mean they aren’t. Autism is such a colourful spectrum full of beautiful shades and hues, but we shouldn’t forget the shades of it that aren’t so pretty. They’re there and they’re real.

Thanks for reading,

The Autistic Panda

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Autism and Rules

A lot of people believe that autistic people love rules and are great at following the rules. This, however, is not always the case. I know that I do like following rules but only rules that make sense to me. If the rule doesn’t make much sense, I detest following it, and might even rebel against that rule.

An example is that you are at a college and you are told you can only wear black clothing. (This may or may not be a real-life example.) I have no idea why this rule is in place. No one has explained it to me, but I feel like I have to follow it because certain people put pressure on me to follow it. But I don’t understand it and it infuriates me that I have to follow this rule that I don’t understand. I normally wear black anyway, but I also like to wear black and white, so this makes me a bit sad that I cannot wear all of my favourite outfits. It is not school anymore; why is there a uniform in place?

There are lots of rules this has applied to throughout my life. If a rule just doesn’t make any sense, I do get a sense of anger about why that rule is in place. I remember feeling angry about sexist rules when I was at school, despite the fact I never wore anything that would be seen as revealing. It was the fact that there was a rule in place that made it clear girls were more restricted than boys. That made me angry, even though I was never told off because I never went against it.

Some rules are just completely nonsensical. I will follow rules if they make sense to me.

How are you about following rules? Do you agree with me?

Thank you for reading,

The Autistic Panda

My Hobbies!

I love puzzles. I’m always working on a new puzzle, but I need frequent breaks when working on a puzzle. I have worked on several puzzles and just love them. Unfortunately, due to my depression in recent years, some of my other hobbies faded, but this made way for new hobbies, which has included puzzles. I used to be such an avid writer, I didn’t even have to think about writing: it just happened. Recently, however, it’s been very hard for me, so I’ve been working on puzzles instead. I’m maybe not the fastest or most efficient puzzler in the world but it makes me happy. The featured image is one of the puzzles I finished of a baby and adult unicorn.

I have some Sylvanian families and earlier this year, I got a dollhouse for them. I have been enjoying buying furniture for it and playing around with them. It’s been fun.

Although I am not the writer I used to be, I still frequently write poetry and enjoy it because it gets emotions out. I can say anything I want with a poem. if it’s about something I’m worried about, I might just use a lot of metaphors so no one can work out what it’s about.

I enjoy gaming and have a Nintendo switch lite. Recently, I’ve been enjoying playing Warioware on it.

I’m also a bit of a collector. I like collecting things, especially coins and stamps, as my parents gave me their large collection so I want to add to it.

These are some of the things I enjoy doing. It can be really hard for me to enjoy things when I’m feeling depressed, so sometimes I have long gaps where I don’t want to do anything, but I can always come back to the hobby in the future and it will be waiting for me.

Thanks for reading,

The Autistic Panda

Cornered Mind (Poem)

Sitting in your room, weighted blanket
cuddling you like a neverending hug,
the only safety I’ll ever know,
for people have cornered minds,
unable to leave that little quarter
of the room, unwilling to see the
wind, and the sea, and the sun
and the storm, they just stand there
thinking the same thoughts, stubbornly,
as you cry and cry, but they won’t move,
even if your tears are flooding their house

Excluded, Again

I have been excluded from things my entire life. I know that a big part of this exclusion is the fact that I’m different and autistic. Recently, I was excluded from something by someone I would have least expected to be excluded by: my own dad.

It was a big birthday for him and he did have a meal out with me, my brother (+ girlfriend), and my mum. I was okay with him having a party celebration and not including me, because I was under the impression it was for his friends only.

Weeks afterwards, I have only recently discovered he hid deliberate details of the party from me. I think he did this to spare my feelings because he knew I’d be hurt if I found out, and I was. He invited literally everyone in his family except for me. Over a year ago, he and my mum separated, so she is no longer technically part of his family, and he did invite her, but she politely declined. I found out through my brother’s late Instagram post that he had been invited and went. I found out that my cousins had been invited and went. I found out I was the only person who wasn’t there in his entire family.

I know people will defend him and I know I’m supposed to forgive him, but this isn’t the first time he’s hurt me recently. I will forgive him because I have to, but I’m really sad about it still, even after we kinda made up because I didn’t want to hurt his feelings anymore.

My mum rightly said to him that I have been marginalised my entire life and that the one thing he could do is prioritise me and put my feelings first because not many people will in life. She said he needs to act as if they are still together when it comes to me because I would have been invited if they were.

I’ve been struggling so much with my mental health lately and this brick on top of all the other bricks has created a house of depressing and anxious thoughts. I have tried so hard to get help, but everything takes so long, and in the meanwhile, people keep hurting.

I know he didn’t mean to hurt me, but that doesn’t change the fact that he did. I have to try and pretend I’m okay in front of him, maybe, but in reality, I’m wondering why I was the only one not there. What makes me so uninvitable that people will keep excluding me from things, even after I’m an adult?

It stings. A lot.

The Autistic Panda

Anxiety Can Evolve

I first experienced anxiety as a child, wondering why no one liked me, what I was doing wrong. It was mild at that time; just a persistent thought in my head. It didn’t change my behaviour. It grew as I got older and changed my entire personality.

I realise now that this anxiety is attached to my autism. It isn’t a separate entity but rather, a part of my autism. A lot of people don’t understand this and think that with certain changes to my life, I can get rid of this anxiety. I have tried many different ways to erase my anxiety, but they have all failed, and this is because I didn’t realise that it’s connected to my autism. Other anxiety might be easier to get rid of, but anxiety connected to a lifelong condition that can’t be cured isn’t that easy to get rid of.

My anxiety has evolved, to the stage where I am incapable of doing things I once did without thinking. Whenever a negative thing in life has happened to me, it has impacted my anxiety. A lot of negative things collecting up contributes to greater anxiety.

I know this anxiety will stay with me for the rest of my life, but the most I can do is try and suppress individual anxieties. I no longer say exactly what I am thinking to people because this can hurt them. I used to convince myself that everyone hated me. Now, I realise that it doesn’t matter if they hate me. I still have at least someone in my life that doesn’t. Even though a lot of people I considered friends have shown me through actions that they didn’t care for me (which built up my ‘everyone hates me’ anxiety), I realise that is their fault for not realising what a valued friend I can be.

I don’t have many friends. I have drifted from a lot of my friends which makes me quite sad. My anxiety prevents me from reaching out to these friends because I see myself annoying them. My anxiety is always there. However, I know that I have my mum and my pets, and they are there for me when I feel like I have no friends in the world.

I have changed a lot over the years because I have faced a lot of negativity in my life. There was always that ableism that came with being different. Even if they don’t know you’re autistic, I have learnt that it is still ableism, because they are mistreating you for being different.

I will have anxiety for years to come but I can always rely on a few truths in my life. I have family, a dog who licks everything, a cat who goes on adventures, and a house that I live in. I am trying to get help for my mental health but it can take a while so, until that happens, I will just remember the truth in my life.

Thanks for reading,

The Autistic Panda

My Autism Diagnosis

I was diagnosed with autism when I was 15. As a female, this is maybe not a late diagnosis or an early one. I know many females who were much older when they got diagnosed. However, the age at which I was diagnosed did not help me with anything. It was early enough that I thought I could be entitled to exam help, but too late for them to actually implement what I needed to help with my GCSEs. It was too late to go to a specialist school, but early enough that I still had to finish my mainstream education, which I hated. It was too late to get any child help, but too early to be entitled to adult services. Early enough to get a CAMHS diagnosis, but late enough that CAMHS didn’t give me any actual help apart from that.

It was a struggle, being diagnosed as a teenager. My mum was my advocate and she had gotten me the diagnosis that we thought I needed to get the help I deserved, but it was a year long waiting list which is a long time when you’re a child. A lot changes in you in a year. She had previously gotten me my dyspraxia diagnosis, but had realised dyspraxia could not explain away everything that was going on with me. That was when my cousin got diagnosed with autism and a lightbulb went off in her head. That I had autism too.

Coming to terms with the fact I had autism wasn’t difficult or easy. In fact, I felt nothing. I felt the same as I had the day before. Sad and lonely. The autism just confirmed my realisation that I struggled making friends and would always struggle. I had been bullied for almost my entire school life, I was an outsider, a weirdo; a diagnosis of autism wasn’t going to fix this. Especially as I didn’t have any desire to tell anyone about this diagnosis, at least at the time. It would make them less likely to like me. Even when I did tell people, they used that information to manipulate me. They knew I was easy to manipulate and they did so. Although I am very open about my autism, I am not okay with you using me because you can. I am easily used and it sucks to realise that someone was never a true friend.

I am autistic and that is who I am. I may be used, tricked, lied to, and deceived, but I’m not going to do the same back. I will tell people about my diagnosis and they can do with it what they want. I once got ghosted by an animal sanctuary after telling them about my diagnosis. People think I should hold it back, that it makes things more difficult, but it’s a huge part of me and it’s their loss of they can’t see what an asset I would be. They would find out eventually anyway, once they saw how I was around humans. But the role was to be around animals… not humans.

It’s hard knowing the world is ableist and not everyone will accept my autism, and it’s hard not having a stronger voice. I can be used because I can’t be my own advocate, but when I’m with my mum, she advocates for me. It’s hard knowing I will never have many friends at all. I feel lonely so much because I don’t have many friends, especially not ones I can see often, due to my travelling difficulties at the moment. But my autism is here to stay, so deal with it.

Thank you for reading,

The Autistic Panda

Disability in Film

There has been a lot of discussion about non-disabled people playing disabled roles lately. The main argument for them playing the role is that ‘it’s acting’. In my opinion, if people are so concerned about it being acting, then that is entirely why disabled people should play the role. No non-disabled person can portray the role better than someone who is actually disabled, and they often portray damaging stereotypes. There are several films and TV shows that portray disabled people in a way that just isn’t accurate or makes us appear a certain way that is quite damaging.

In terms of films doing things right, there is ‘A Quiet Place’, which has a deaf actor portraying a deaf character, and this actor is in the centre of the storyline, even more so in its sequel. That is how disability should be portrayed: by the people who know it best.

I am autistic and I have yet to see a film about an autistic character where the main autistic character is portrayed by someone who is actually autistic. Most of them portray outdated stereotypes and stick to the white male image, when other people can be autistic too (though no one would know this based on these films!). I won’t name the films that are damaging as most blogs do, because I don’t want to promote them, but there are a lot of very famous films which have quite awful portrayals of autism, and each of them portrays autism in the same way, which is really not how it is. Autism is a spectrum and everyone is different; it would be helpful if we could see these different sides of autism, portrayed by autistic actors.

When portraying any disability, you need to consult people who have that disability. It is no use contacting a charity that doesn’t have any disabled people on board. They will not know the disability better than disabled people. They never will, and this is a fact. It is good to consult disabled people, and to give them the leading disabled role, not just as extras, like some films do (then claim they do have disabled people in the film, just not in the main role…).

Disabled people have suffered from discrimination for a long time and they have voices that need to be heard. Listen to them.

Thanks for reading,

The Autistic Panda

Faking Autism? Really?

I sometimes see this assumption that people are faking being autistic or lying about it or exaggerating it. This really irks me. What proof do you have that they are faking it? I like to always believe someone is being truthful until I am given hard opposing evidence. Like, there have been cases of people faking autism, but they are most definitely in the minority.

Sometimes, I even see the opinion that someone is lying about autism because they are a girl and girls cannot have autism. I did not know this opinion still existed, considering all of the countering evidence that shows girls can, in fact, be autistic.

I think it is a very negative thought to assume someone is lying about something so integral to their identity. Autism is a huge part of me and I am not more autistic than before I was diagnosed, I just have a reason now to be myself more. I think assuming someone is lying because their autism doesn’t present how you would have expected, or because it presents ‘too much’ like how you expected it to is a really weird opinion to have.

Why do you care so much about someone else? For me, I have severe anxiety, so I am so wrapped up in how I seem to others, I don’t have any time to worry about whether they’re faking a very big part of their life. Sometimes, I wonder if people were misdiagnosed, as that can be common in the autism community, but I don’t say anything to them about it, because I may be wrong or I might upset them, and I would never intentionally cause upset. There are some people that are so different to me, I laugh about the fact we both have an autism diagnosis. Then, I remember, autism is such a broad spectrum and they may be an extroverted autistic (they do exist!).

Autism is a part of my identity, it is a part of many people’s identity, and I don’t think anyone has the right to take that away from them. With just a few stinging words, you can make a person doubt so much. I have seen multiple instances of ‘you’re faking it’ with autism and other conditions. Fortunately, I haven’t been on the receiving end (at least, not to my face), but it would upset me a lot if someone did say it about me. It’s just not nice.

Thank you for reading,

The Autistic Panda

Anxiety

I have pretty bad anxiety about most things. I have tried to calm it down, but when you have anxiety, you know it is irrational. It’s like when people have certain phobias; those are irrational too, but they still have them. You can’t control your anxiety, but you can learn to try and not let it ruin your life. My anxiety has caused me to ruin good things in the past. I have severe anxiety around abandonment due to bullying and, so, when people do things without me, I feel like they don’t see me as a friend and want to exclude me on purpose. The sad thing is that sometimes this is true. I cannot differentiate between when it is true and when they mean well. That’s the stupid thing about humans: some of them are two-faced and so you start to assume everyone is, but some people are genuine.

I have anxiety about speaking to strangers, due to selective mutism. This makes me unable to travel by myself, currently, because I am anxious of people speaking to me and asking me questions. I cannot go to a shop alone because of this problem aswell. I know that I might be able to purchase something without having to say anything, especially with self-service checkouts now a thing, but I struggle with the thought that a problem may occur and someone might say something.

I have anxiety about sudden changes. They terrify me and can cause me enormous stress. It can literally send me into a depressive spiral when a sudden change occurs, especially when it is caused by a person who knows I’m autistic and had the option of telling me beforehand. The fact that they didn’t think about telling me the change of plans really upsets me, when they knew about it.

I am anxious of every social situation ever, scared of being hated, of messing up but my biggest fear is of saying something wrong. I am constantly saying ‘I don’t know’ to questions because I don’t want to say the wrong thing. I have such low confidence in myself that I even let my mum answer these questions for me, because she knows that I do know the answer, I’m just scared of saying it. I also apologise when I hurt myself because I don’t want to cause annoyance to other people by being in pain. Like, I’ll trip up and graze my knee, and I’ll pretend I didn’t, and say sorry to anyone who saw because maybe I ruined their day by being clumsy (dyspraxic).

I am so anxious, and yet I get by the day. I express these anxieties with my mum and sometimes, she will offer me support and tell me that no one hates me, that they just haven’t replied because they’re busy, that they aren’t doing it on purpose, that it’s going to be okay. Because I also have anxiety about people not replying to me.

It’s okay to have anxiety, and sometimes there is no easy fix for anxiety, especially if you’re autistic. It can come with the territory. What I am trying to do now is to not let it ruin my life like it used to. If someone doesn’t reply to me, I won’t send them a long message about why they must hate me. If someone leaves me out of an event, I’ll accept that maybe they do dislike me, but that’s okay. Not everyone will like me. Maybe my autism is exactly the reason they wanted to exclude me, but that will always be a part of me, and I am not going to change who I am for them.

Thank you for reading,

The Autistic Panda