Behind the Mask

I was the little girl who my mother didn’t know she had. I would happily play on my own or I liked being around adult company. I had a few friends at school; I was never part of the crowd though. I liked being with the dinner ladies or the teachers, they made me feel safe whereas my peers were unpredictable. I have memories of coming home from school and locking myself in the toilet so that I could replay back every conversation I had that day, every social encounter. I would be playing pretend in my mind whilst my hands would be in a world of their own, flapping every time an emotion ran through me. The bathroom would become my sanctuary, the only place I could lock myself in and make everything go away, I could be in my own little world and no one would know.

Fast forward twenty five years. I have two children of my own. My girls are Autistic. N is my beautiful social butterfly, a people pleaser, a worrier, her hands can move like mine, she is like me. M is my sensory seeking beautiful rainbow bubble, classically autistic, diagnosed at twenty one months old, never happier than when she is upside down watching YouTube.

Then there is me, Alison. I’m now thirty six and I’m Autistic. I’ve always been Autistic, but I received my diagnosis at thirty four. At fourteen I was diagnosed with anorexia and anxiety disorder, I was given numerous medications and therapies. Did they work? No. Why? Because I was Autistic. Anxiety disorder wasn’t supposed to make you shut down, it wasn’t supposed to make you over analyse every social interaction you have. It wasn’t supposed to affect your daily living skills meaning you can’t drive or plait your child’s hair. I have co-ordination difficulties, I have sensory issues, I like to control every situation and people generally confuse the hell out of me. 

I now have a diagnosis, what does that mean, do I ask for support? Not quite, when you have masked and hid your difficulties for over thirty years it is hard to take off that mask. It is difficult to ask for help, it is difficult to admit that I struggle with basic skills. The difference is, now I know why I think the way I do, I have finally accepted that it is okay to ask for help. It is okay to self regulate (stim) by moving my hands or pace as this helps me to regulate myself. 

I set up “I am her voice – Our Autism Journey”, in January 2019. I initially set it up as a hobby to share mine and my girls Autism journey. It has become so much more, it has helped me help myself, my children and potentially others from being lost. I offer support to help children and adults express themselves, and to help them find ways to regulate their senses and emotions.

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