There is a grieving process that happens after a diagnosis later in life. But it’s not grieving for the autism, it’s grieving for the effort that you’ve had to put in your whole life trying to be someone you’re not.
It’s grief for the you that carried that huge backpack of techniques for appearing normal, without knowing why.
It’s grief for the times you misunderstood situations, not because you were stupid, but because you weren’t capable of understanding them without support. Because the rationale behind them was alien.
It’s grief for the times you thought you were going mad, when you were just suffering from a sensory overload.
It’s grief for the times that you forced yourself to interact, even though you were already socially exhausted, because that’s what people do and you didn’t want to be different.
It’s grief for something intangible. Something that you can’t even be sure was real. Grief for someone you can’t be sure would ever have existed.
It’s a strange grief unlike any other.
There have been moments when I’ve wanted to slip beneath the comforting waves of, “It’s not fair”. How easy it would be to let that wash over me. How warm and enveloping the lapping waters must be.
But whilst I paddle in them every once in a while, dropping beneath the waves would be the wrong thing to do.
There is nothing new in Heaven or Earth. But there is a necessary period of adjustment, and some of that isn’t fun.
Some of it isn’t acceptance and knowledge and togetherness.
Some of it is ranting and ignorance and unfairness.
Grief, anger, joy, elation, these are all a part of acceptance. Let them wash over you, but don’t drown in them.
Acceptance lies beyond the waves. Acceptance of who you are is not a high or a low, it’s a gentle confidence. The more you try to force it, the bigger the waves, and the further from reach it drifts.
It’d be nice if people just understood. It’d be nice if you didn’t have to splash to be accounted for. It’s that splashing that makes it harder. That new battle when you have to explain to the people around you who you are, how you’re different, how you’re the same, what that means.
And they have to go through the same stages as you, but they’re often grieving the wrong bit. They’ll grieve for the fact that you’re different. They’ll grieve for the fact that you’re autistic.
They’re not inside your head. They can’t see how you’ve always been different, you’ve always been autistic. That hasn’t changed.
The bit to grieve, is the pretence that you were neurotypical.
Because that was the harmful bit. That was the bit that made life harder. That was the bit that could have been different. That was the bit that could have been changed. That was the waste of time and energy and health and so on and on and on.
Going forward life will be different. It’s been noted that post diagnosis, autistic people often become more autistic for the simple reason that they’re not using all their energy to mask who they are anymore. They’re using it on positive things, instead of suppression.
So don’t grieve the wrong things.
Don’t grieve too deeply.
Don’t get lost in what was, when what is holds so many possibilities.
Grieve just right and we’re all there with you.