We’re always trying to love ourselves. It takes so much practice, so much time and effort. The path to self-love never truly ends. Finding out you’re autistic is like having to fall in love with yourself all over again; back to the starting line, alone. You’re the same “you”, of course, but it’s like viewing yourself through a completely different lens. You have to stand in front of the mirror, tracing and memorising these new curves and lines of meaning.
For me it was the week after my nineteenth birthday that my sense of identity shifted entirely. My usual outings became dates in which the old me met my shiny new autistic self. The two of us would talk and laugh and often cry. At times I’d even stand and watch past me like she was starring in a coming-of-age film full of heartache. Events that once held so much confusion and sadness transformed into scenes that autistic me was directing all along. Bittersweet and longing to be whole I would obsessively reframe the scenes of my past in order to build my present. Some cruelness inside thought I might be an imposter and so these reframing’s sought to bring about ‘proof’ of my existence in the world. Picking yourself apart, it turns out, does not come from a place of love or kindness. I had to mourn the girl I thought I was and embrace the parts of me that had not seen sunlight for so long because of the armour I had built around them.
The end of a film is so often the start of the next. Sometimes the sequel, the second album, the second book… is better than the first. Life is a collection of small past moments. Overanalysing these moments does nothing but tie the present into knots. Some knots keep us safe from harm, others keep us from moving towards those joyful and cathartic scenes we love so much. Being autistic is like having to fall in love with yourself all over again. Our stories are not bleak nor inspiring, they are life.