Sunday, 2 April 2017

World Autism Awareness Day 2017

There's plenty of awareness of what autism is and isn't nowadays. However, for me it still feels like I'm supposed to be either symptom-free and fit into the world with no problems, or too impaired to function as a non-Asper. The reality is that a lot of the time I fall in between these two. I see a lot of articles highlighting that people with autism are great workers, then the article shows that person working in a job with little social contact. And that's great for those people, but I feel that there still isn't much awareness of how autism affects those of us living a social life and working in social jobs (I'm training to be a psychologist, what's more social than that?).

Sometimes I feel a bit down when my social skills aren't quite up to par. Then on March 5th I got an email that helped me to put things into perspective and think about how I'm progressing.

A few years ago I came across the website FutureMe, where you send an email to be received in the future. Occasionally I'd remember that I'd sent myself one or two - I'd expected that I've have sent one for my 25th birthday and was a bit surprised that one didn't arrive - but had largely forgotten about it. So it was a surprise to see an email on March 5th titled "'tis I from 2013!" and to read how I felt back then, and what my hopes were. I'll share here what I wrote to myself back then:

Dear Catherine,
It's 5pm on March 9th 2013. Yesterday I finished my placement at Rowan House Hospital in Norwich, my first job. I'm sad that it's over now, I felt that I did well there. I had a debrief with my supervisor yesterday, I came out of it feeling low - it felt that while my work was good, I hadn't been social enough, despite her and my officemates knowing that I have Asperger's. I thought that they'd understand better than most, but it seems that being me - quiet, reserved, not speaking my mind to strangers - right now is not good enough. That hurts a lot.
I'm sending this email quite far in the future, so that hopefully I can read it and smile at how I was back then. By now I'll have had more placements and opportunities to work, and I hope that I'm somewhere where I'm appreciated for being me, and that I don't feel that I fall short for not being 'normal'. It's okay to be me. Remember Katawa Shoujo, how Rin's path ends with her stating that she's realised this? I'm trying to be like that, but at times like now it's hard. Still, I'm not going to lose myself, if others have an issue then they can tell me and I'll do what I can.
I've learned a lot from my first placement, and from moving to Norwich. I found a place to live, and when it wasn't good enough I had the guts to say that. I found a second place to live, and am settling myself. It doesn't feel like home, but I'm accommodating. I managed 8 weeks of early mornings and focused work with few breaks. I managed to get liftshares with my coworkers, and managed (albeit in my own way) to talk to them. I went to a care planning meeting and said my name to the group. And I did great work, with such little direction from my supervisor. Dad told me that I've learned how to not be a supervisor from her - he said that it would be like him becoming a foster parent, he has the room in the house but not the time and resources to devote to helping a new child. I did my best, I moved away from the people I love and care about in Coventry to come here, and while I haven't yet found friends here, I managed. And am still in one piece. True, I've broken a couple of times, but it's been managed well.
Hindsight's a great thing: I could have done more with what I know now (namely chase your supervisor!), but then it's been a learning experience. And while I might not have done as well as others could have, for a 22 year old Aspergirl I've done amazingly. For Catherine, I've done brilliantly. I just need to tell myself that.
I tell you this, 26 year old Catherine, so that you can smile at the young inexperienced person that I was. And remember that even if it seems that others are doing better in some respects, for someone so young and with social difficulties you are doing wonderfully. Please don't forget that. And don't forget that you are loved, so much loved, by friends and family. And that new people can like you too. My supervisor told me that I'm not imposing on people: please remember this, but don't push yourself so hard that you break.
So be yourself, show others how much they mean to you, and remember: be happy, if not overall happy then change situation/outlook, and accept that not being happy 24/7 is okay too. Look after yourself, try to not beat yourself up over things, and when things are hard talk to someone, or do something nice for yourself. It's okay to do that since you;re not hurting someone else. Be honest to yourself, recognise your limits, and try to let others know these limits.
I'm not a neurotypical, so I have issues in some ways. I keep trying to overcome these, and I improve every time a situation comes up. Don't give up improving yourself, not to please others but to help yourself to grow. And the people who matter will realise this.
Take care, will I send another letter to my future self on reading this? I hope so, receiving one yesterday from myself just before I started the placement helped. It ended by reminding me that I am loved, and to not lose myself since I am awesome. It's true, please remind yourself of that.
22 year old Catherine

I feel I've come a long way from the person I was back then, and even further from the person I was when I started this blog. I'll put some thought into what I'll write to my next future self, and let her know that she's doing well, wherever she might be at that point.


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