Autism | A reminder that we are gifts… not burdens

Picture of me wearing a handmade bow and lying under our Christmas tree that’s lit up

Everyone is diving deep into the holiday spirit now but for a lot of autistic people, the holidays can be stressful for us to process. Between all the noise and lights and family gatherings, it can all be overstimulating. A lot of autistic people, including myself, sometimes feel like our needs during this time of year causes way too much inconvenience to the people around us and some of us may find ourselves feeling shame when having to ask for our needs to be accommodated during a time where everyone is expected to be having a good time. A lot of us mask our autism heavily during this time in fear of people seeing us as burdens and annoying. We don’t want to be seen as the party poopers.

This blog post is to remind myself and the rest of the autistic community that we are not burdens just because we have specific needs. This Christmas I want you to know that you’re a gift, you are valid and I see your needs and I want you to freely express them with no fear. Don’t force yourself to tolerate anything unpleasant for the sake of others. Do as I did in the picture above and place a bow on your head and get under that Christmas tree because you are the most precious gift. We’re able to see the world in ways neurotypical people cannot and that’s what makes us special. Being different is so beautiful and I want you to embrace your quirks.

I hope this blog post was able to reach whoever needed to read this. I hope it uplifted you in any way and I want you all to know that you’re not alone.

What it’s like being autistic and becoming a mother

I know a lot of my followers have been looking forward to this blog post for a while now and I’m so happy I was able to get to it for you. In this post I’ll be talking about being autistic and pregnant and my transition to motherhood. I think it’s very important I talk about this because even though I was able to mask almost every external autistic trait about me, I still couldn’t unfeel the internal part. My loved ones may not know the whole extent due to me masking and I’m sure they would love to know my perspective on things.

I got pregnant with my first child back in July 2014. At the time, I didn’t even know it was possible for me to get pregnant in the first place. My doctors told me I had Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome and even though it was still possible to get pregnant, they made it seem like it would take a long time to conceive. We weren’t planning to have a baby just yet as that was my first month living with my then fiance (now husband). So to have ended up pregnant in less then a month without even trying was such a shock to me. My mom and husband seemed to know I was pregnant before I even knew. I decided to take a test and sure enough, it came back positive. I sometimes do see double so I thought it was just my vision messing with me so I sent a picture to my best friend at the time and she confirmed it was a positive test. I was so happy but also scared at the same time.

My second child was planned but it took us almost a year to conceive her. Much longer than me fast unplanned firstborn. I started to lose hope and figured we would never have another child together. I did end up pregnant in May 2019 but unfortunately it ended as a miscarriage. I ended up pregnant again shortly after with my rainbow baby. It was bittersweet having to grieve the baby I lost all while feeling blessed and ecstatic about the new baby I was carrying.

I had some complications during the pregnancies that were completely unrelated to my autism. It was more medical related, like increased asthma attacks, seizures and fainting. As far as the sensory processing aspect, I feel like it amplified all the normal pregnancy discomforts. Pregnancy hormones combined with sensory processing issues is such a struggle. My emotional dysregulation was more intense during my pregnancies. With my first, I was excessively emotional and with my second, I was excessively irritable. Naps was my best friend and fulfilling my cravings were very crucial to keeping me content. I did enjoy the baby movements and really felt deeply connected to both my babies from the moment I realized they were in my belly. With my second, I was more hypervigilant and paranoid in fear of losing her too. I wasn’t able to calm my nerves down. I really fixated on keeping up with the movements and even made trips to the hospital every time I had a scare just for peace of mind. The miscarriage really affected me emotionally. I was so afraid!

I ended up with really bad postpartum depression after both babies. That alone was difficult to manage. I definitely feel like the amount of masking I had to do most likely contributed to the extent of my depression. All my meltdowns had to be suppressed to make sure I don’t injure myself and the babies in my belly. I had to try so hard to contain my emotions that I couldn’t even regulate because I needed to keep stress levels low. I honestly suppressed a lot of my stimming as well because I didn’t want the doctors to assume I’m mentally unstable and then I end up with my babies taken away from me. I’m living in a world where autism is not accepted as it should be and a lot of people assume autistic people are incapable of functioning. I shouldn’t have to fear losing my babies just because of my different neurotype. Some may feel I was just overthinking, but unless you’ve tried living life being autistic, then you can’t possibly understand all the struggles, stereotypes and stigmas that are attached to being autistic. There’s organizations that literally want to eradicate autistic people so I highly doubt they would be happy if we’re happily living life and procreating and possibly passing down autism to our children since it is genetic.

As a mother, I’d say I’m actually very patient despite people’s assumptions of autistic mothers. I’m not perfect though. I do have many days where I run and hide in a dark room where I have little to no sensory input. I get overstimulated very easy but I have never been a danger to my kids under any circumstances. I’ve always been able to make sure the kids are in a safe place where they won’t get hurt or where I can see them from a distance and take my break as needed. I still find myself suppressing meltdowns because I can’t always make sure the kids are distracted and away from me and my main priority is to keep my kids safe. I have many coping skills to offset some of my bottled up emotions. Those coping skills are my special interests which I’ll talk about in another blog post.

One of the biggest reasons I started to unmask my autism is because both my kids were diagnosed with autism as well. I don’t want them to feel like they need to mask who they are to please people around them. I have to set a good example for them so I had to go out of my comfort zone and find my true self again and be her which was very difficult since I’ve masked for so many years. I’ve noticed I’m much happier when I allow myself to be myself without holding anything back. It feels so great to see my kids be themselves while watching me do the same. While in the process of finding myself and unmasking, I learned all about which accommodations work best for me in order to live a more effective and functional life. I purchased a bunch of stim toys to play with to counteract all the triggering sensory input. I also have noise cancelling earplugs when I need to block out the sensory input from noise as I’m very sensitive to it. If I’m too touched out, I ask my husband to take over for a few minutes and I’ll take a break. Now I have a sensory swing I like to cocoon myself in which has been tremendously helpful for me. With the right accommodations specific to my support needs, I’m able to function with very little issues. I have good days and I have bad days and that’s ok. I’m a great mother and my kids adore me. I have a very deep connection with them that no one else has. I feel since I’m autistic and so are they, there’s no better place for them to be than with me. I understand exactly what they need to thrive. It’s my job to pave a positive and healthy future for them and I feel like for the most part I’ve done an outstanding job. I still have a lot to learn but we can all learn together.

As I continue my autism journey trying to find myself, I hope my kids NEVER lose themselves. I hope to someday completely be unmasked. That’s still a work in progress but I’m getting there little by little.

The next blog post I’ll be talking about what it’s like being autistic and married to a non autistic person so stay tuned.

Masking Autism

I’m back again with another important blog post. If you’re reading this, thank you so much. This blog post is about masking autism. Autistic masking is when a autistic person hides their autistic traits to blend in with neurotypical people. There’s many reasons why a autistic person resorts to masking and in this blog post, I will go over all the reasons I personally masked my traits.

When I tried explaining masking to a neurotypical friend of mine, she implied that everyone masks. While it is true that everyone can pretend to be someone they’re not or even pretend to get along with someone they don’t really like, autistic masking is much deeper than just pretending. When autistic people mask, it’s not just one incident or situation. It is literally an entire shift in their whole personality. When I mask, I suppress meltdowns, avoid stimming in public or around my loved ones, avoid using echolalia as one of my form of speech, force eye contact even when it doesn’t naturally feel good for me, bottle up my emotions so I don’t have to hear others tell me I’m too sensitive or over exaggerating, and force myself to stay in a environment that I know is causing sensory overload. The list goes on…

I can pass as a neurotypical when I mask which is why I get comments all the time like “I didn’t know you were autistic” or “You don’t look autistic” or “I would’ve never guessed”. What people see in public is not who I really am. I altered my whole autistic personality just to be accepted in this world because autism is not truly accepted no matter how much you preach autism acceptance. There’s still so much ableism going on.

I started masking from a very young age. Even though I was diagnosed a little late at 11 years old, I still knew long before then that I was different but didn’t know exactly why. I was bullied for being the weird one in school and other places. I was abused at home by my mothers now ex husband for most of my autistic traits. I was abused for refusing to eat foods that were triggers for me due to my sensory processing issues. I was still forced to eat the food and abused when I puked it because I couldn’t tolerate it. I was abused for making simple mistakes because the instructions weren’t broken down step by step for me. I was abused for my echolalia because he thought I was mocking him or talking back. I was abused for having meltdowns because it was seen as just a tantrum and bad behavior. I was abused for sensory seeking behaviors. I was also abused for not giving eye contact. I was forced to comply with the neurotypical standards that were being pushed on me. I was never able to be my true self without being abused or bullied. I didn’t feel safe at home and didn’t feel safe at school either. I never did well with social cues so making friends wasn’t really easy for me. I was often called the R word and made fun of. It was mainly because I was the only autistic person in a mainstream class filled with neurotypical students; so of course I was the perfect target.

I remember when I was about 9 years old, I went to the park to play and try to make new friends. Due to the fact I struggle with social cues, I didn’t understand that these 2 older girls didn’t really want to be my friend and that they weren’t laughing WITH me, they were laughing AT me. So they lured me to the woods and they both grabbed me and tried to toss me over this concrete wall where the train tracks were and a train was actually coming. Luckily I managed to fight and squirm my way out of their grip and was able to run away. I couldn’t even tell my mom what happened because I had already learned to bottle up my emotions and stay quiet. I wasn’t going to be taken seriously. After all, she didn’t take the abuse I was going through seriously because in her own words, “love is blind”. I basically almost got killed for being so different when all I wanted was to be accepted and to make friends.

After the abuse at home went on long enough, I told a girl at school which she then relayed the message to the teachers aide which then was passed down to the school principal. Police and child protective services were involved and I eventually got taken away from my mom and my custody was given to my uncle in New Jersey. So I went to live with my uncle and grandma. I had to start a new school which I was bullied there too. Living with my uncle and grandma was a whole other set of complications because they didn’t understand autism either. But I do have to say, that I probably still would not have gotten my diagnosis if it wasn’t for CPS getting involved. They ordered that my uncle and grandma take me for a psychiatric evaluation which resulted in me getting diagnosed finally. The diagnosis process is for another blog post maybe.

So to sum everything all up, I masked my autism, to protect myself. Masking was a trauma response. I’m not proud of it at all because it has caused major issues for me and my mental health. It has led to me attempting to commit suicide. I started self harming. Even now, I’m still having an identity crisis because I lost myself. Trying to find the real me again is so hard and exhausting because I still have so much pressure on me from neurotypical people who still don’t understand my struggles and they try to invalidate all my emotions and my perspective on things. I still mask my autism today but I can honestly say I have unmasked quite a bit. Masking for so long sent me into a autistic burnout. If you want to read more about autistic burnout, I have a blog post about it here.

I hope that someday I’ll be able to be authentically and unapologetically autistic. I’m happier when I’m my true self than when I’m masking. I need to do what is healthier for me and not care about how uncomfortable it makes others feel. I’ve been uncomfortable all my life trying to be a people pleaser. It’s time that it stops and I focus on myself. If people can’t handle me, then they’re the wrong people to be a part of my circle. I don’t need people who don’t accept me for who I am. I don’t need people who constantly invalidate me when I do try to show the real me. Also, when a autistic person tries to explain to you about masking and why it’s so harmful, please don’t downplay their struggles by saying “everyone masks”; because not everyone is autistic so you can’t possibly begin to know our struggles. Autistic people process the world differently so we are not the same as neurotypical people and our struggles are not the same either. Please be mindful and respectful and all should be fine.

I’ll end this blog post here by saying that I have added a merch page on my site where I’ll be offering all my handmade/custom made autism items. I figured since I mentioned in this post about being unapologetically autistic, it’s the perfect time to tell you that I have a “unapologetically autistic” shirt available along with other shirt designs if you would like to check them all out. Click here