• Understanding Autism from the Inside

    “Academics came easily to me. The rest of life—not so much.”
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Aspie Writer on Loving Yourself

Autism and Loving Yourself
Thanks to a wonderful commenter on my WordPress blog where I am blogging my book, Twirling Naked in the Streets—and No-One Noticed, a book about growing up with undiagnosed autism, I have found the Prolific Living website/blog.
I have become engrossed in the writing and ideas that the author shares about life, goals, and being true to yourself—something I seriously struggle with, and suspect many others on the autism spectrum do as well.
I came upon this at a timely part of the year, the time of year that I always re-evaluate and say that I want things to be differnet—to change.  Mostly, I want me to change.
I’ve never had much in the way of self-image, and self-confidence seems fairly foreign as well (although I am working on it). A lifetime of guilt and blame will do that to a person—kill any budding of self-confidence that tries to sprout. That was the biggest downside about growing up undiagnosed.
Last year, I decided to try the27 day Journal Challenge—journaling my way to better health. I hate to admit that I didn’t even make it through half of the journaling exercises before I quit, or the insights into myself sent me into a deep depressive state.
I want to try it again…but frankly I still fear failure.  Maybe I will try it publicly, like I am doing with writing my book—maybe I will blog the journaling, and in that way have you all keep me motivated.  Maybe I will do it if I know someone is watching….isn’t that terrible? Not being able to accomplish even a simple goal without some outside help.
It actually drives me bonkers! Now at least, I am armed with the knowledge that it is not a horrid character flaw of mine, but that I struggle with executive functioning, the process that regulates our ability to work towards and complete goals.  It’s same process that makes sequencing tasks to accomplish goals extremely difficult.
This year, after clinking around on the Prolific Living site, I decided to sign up for the free email course on self-confidence. Yesterday, I received my first installment, and what do you suppose it was about?  Loving yourself—of all things.
Loving myself?  I have spent the majority of my adult life absolutely hating myself!
I hate the way I can’t complete anything I set out to do, how I lose interest in things easily, and how I cannot focus on something I hate no matter how hard I try or how important it is. I hate that I can’t manage to keep the house clean enough, or organized, and that we are late for absolutely everything. I hate that I always feel like a failure as a parent because everyone else’s kids seem to be able to sit still and quiet in restaurants and I can’t take mine out in public!
I feel like a constant failure—constantly striving for things that are out of my reach, and being embarrassed and scorned by the world. How then, can I begin to love myself? I must want to, since every year around the New Year I try something.
Being undiagnosed for the majority of my life has taken its toll—don’t get me wrong, it hasn’t been all bad. I have tried more things, and failed at more things, and then most people ever think about. I didn’t always fear failure; that came with time.
This year, armed with my new life (with the knowledge of my neurology) I am going to be working on letting go of the things that make me feel terrible about myself and work on doing things for me!  My goodness—this may be the hardest thing for me to do because I consistently feel guilty about trying to do anything for me.
I know that I am not alone in this. From the short conversations I have had with others on the autism spectrum, I realized that many do not love themselves. In fact, I don’t think they like themselves all that much most of the time. I know I didn’t.
So how am I going to love myself? Where can I possible begin?
Farnoosh Brock, the author of prolific living, in her 21-Step Confidence Building Series offers these Five Steps to get started:
 “1. Smile at yourself often – either in the mirror or just to yourself and really feel the happy feeling that comes from that. It has great power. This also releases tension and ease you into whatever you are doing.

2. Put yourself first more often – If you are used to putting everyone else’s desires and needs before yours, it’s time to switch things up. Be gentle and firm about it and go for it. You matter just as much as everyone else.

3. Look at your body with acceptance, not criticism – This doesn’t mean that you are in the best shape of your life and should never seek to change. It just means that self-criticism won’t get you to change and it actually makes things worse, so accept where things are first with love.



4. Fill yourself with kind words and thoughts – You become your thoughts, and we talk about this more in the program. For now, love yourself by replacing the self-critical chatter in your head with the opposite – with kindness, and gentleness, and with a big proud “oh yeah” praise for who you are.

5. Do something just for yourself – And do this without feeling an ounce of guilt or shame. This can be ordering something, enjoying a luxury alone, or indulging in solitude with your favorite cuppa tea and a book. Do it feeling worthy of it because, well, you just are! “

Wow! I have a lot of work to do.
I struggle with everyone one of these steps, as I suspect many of us do. The hardest thing by far, is doing something just for me—followed closely by putting myself first.  These two things bring on a tremendous about of personal guilt that I NEED to shed!
I think I want to go lay in a tanning bed for a little while (I know—not the healthiest choice). I have not done that in at least eight years. I love the way the top pulls down when I hop in the bed surrounding me in a capsule of light, and how the bulbs warm my whole body at once. It feels like I am warming my bones…15 minutes of warmth, and quiet.  It is soothing for me. Tanning session, that is what I think I am going to do this week for me.
What would you like to do that would be just for yourself? Do you find it difficult, or struggle with guilt when considering doing something for yourself? Of, is it just me?

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.