• Understanding Autism from the Inside

    “Academics came easily to me. The rest of life—not so much.”
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The Beauty of Diagnosis; Surviving the Holidays

Diagnosis Autism
In addition, to all I have to be thankful for, I am thankful for my autism diagnosis.
Thanksgiving has come and gone. I am usually a panicked mess.  I love the holidays but hate the madness. I obsess about everything being perfect, every bite of food, every part of the house, everything. The amount of stress I put on myself is immeasurable, and yet, I do it every year.
This year, however, was different. Why? I practiced the art of imperfection.
When my therapist first suggested that I “practice the art of imperfection,” I thought that it was terrible advice.  Who the heck wants to be imperfect, to do things imperfectly, not give it your all, or do it to the best of your ability.  Bad, bad, bad advice.  Maybe not—
Instead of stressing about every little thing that went wrong with my planned meal, I decided I was not going to drive myself crazy.  Company would come and go, and not know that I didn’t put chopped meat in my stuffing like I wanted to because I was too tired to run out to the store to get more when I ran out.
Normally, for me, this would have been a disaster. I would have had a meltdown. The meat was missing and the whole dinner ruined—the meat no one knew I put in there in the first place.
Some of my family drove down from NYC for Thanksgiving dinner. I was so excited they were coming, and although, I wanted everything to be perfect, I couldn’t manage it. There was too much to do, too much work to get done, too many sick children to tend to, and too little time for myself to decompress.
Before diagnosis, I blamed myself.  I didn’t try to slow down, or let things go. I didn’t let myself take care of ME. I would not take breaks from company—that was rude.  I would have never locked myself up in my bedroom for a little while just to take a rest and recharge.  I didn’t know that I NEEDED to do that.
Knowing made all the difference this year. I took small breaks, went to bed when I needed to, and didn’t stress over the little things (too much).  I was able to tell myself that I needed to be away from people, needed the quiet, and needed to sometimes let my hair down to hide the earplugs I slipped in.
I have survived Thanksgiving, but am still admittedly exhausted. I believe the exhaustion and need to wind down will last for the next few days, but now I know WHY I need that time.  Now, knowing that I truly NEED the time, and I am not just simply being crazy and selfish, I will take the time to recover. After all, I have to get ready for the Christmas madness, which I am already beginning to obsess over.
 **Sigh—small victories, and baby steps.

Jeannie Davide-Rivera

Jeannie is an award-winning author, the Answers.com Autism Category Expert, contributes to Autism Parenting Magazine, and the Thinking Person's Guide to Autism. She lives in New York with her husband and four sons, on the autism spectrum.