Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Autism and Self-Esteem

After a lot of reading, thinking, learning, soul-searching, and online testing, I've decided I'm Autistic.  I'm sure not everyone will agree with me.  But...such is life.

I started online texting therapy. And what sucks about that is, I was in a happy-place when I started, and now I'm less happy, because I realized some painful truths.

When I was young, I felt no one truly loved me. I felt people loved me only out of obligation. Even in my dreams, I felt unloved.

I had really low self-esteem most of the time.

In the past few years, I have believed that my self-esteem had totally improved. 

What I felt, though, was along the lines of:  I like me, but most other people don't like me.  

I almost always feel that people dislike me...the exception being is if I hide myself and just act like a supporter, cheerleader, confidant, etc.

Even writing this post, I imagine people reading and rolling their eyes. And that's the feeling I usually have when writing blog posts. 

I quit therapy, because the whole time I was blabbing on and on about my feelings, life story, etc...I felt the therapist was bored and disliking me. 

When I have courage or am feeling fearless in conversations (whether text, Zoom, in person, email), and I'm talking about myself; my life.... in the back of my mind, I think that I'm boring people, that they don't believe me, that they think I'm ridiculous, that they think I'm talking too much, etc.  

Therapy—and when I say therapy it was nothing the therapist said.  It was simply me blabbing myself to realization— made me realize I'm probably projecting my negative self-esteem onto others.

I realized I don't love myself as much as I imagined.

Don't get me wrong. I THINK I'm a good person. I think I'm a great person. I think I'm kind. I think I'm a good writer. I think I'm a good singer. I think I'm smart and imaginative. Yes, there's tons of room for improvement in many areas of my being. But I don't think I'm a bad person.

The feelings about myself, though? That's where things aren't where they should be.

A few years ago, I read my old diaries and found my past self being really. awful to my more-past-self.  

I had written:  Dad and I watched old movies. I was cute, but I seemed autistic. I never smiled.I was so weird when I was young. I was so creepy. I think I became normal in 12th grade. I still feel dorky sometimes, though.

I was such a dork my whole life. I watched videos of myself in 9th grade. Gross. I was ugly and weird. Melissa was ugly too, but she was cute. I wonder when I left my ugly stages. When I watch videos now I'm not as disgusted with myself. As long as I do not speak. 

And I had written I was so weird when I was young. I was so creepy. I think I became normal in 12th grade. I still feel dorky sometimes, though.

I do not feel very happy today. I felt worthless and a shame to my family. I feel like a freak. I think watching myself in those old movies upset me. I was so weird, and I'm afraid I'm still weird. I don't mind a little weirdness, but I'd also like to be a little normal. My parents were nice to me, though.

These days, I see being Autistic as a positive thing.  Back then, I did not. Autism was Rain Man. It was something that I'd have compassion or pity for and not something I'd want as part of my identity.

Sadly, even recently I watched old movies of myself as a young adult.  Recent-Me was almost as negative about young-adult-me as college-age-me was negative about teen/child-me.

I think what I don't like about my past self is probably related to being Autistic. I've read that Autistic people tend to have younger voices, and they tend to be less mature.  We also tend to mimic others, stand and walk in awkward ways, etc.

Would have getting a diagnosis when I was young helped prevent these self-esteem issues?

I seriously doubt it.

My parents took me multiple therapists during my childhood and teen years. One told my parents and me that I was immature. I was incredibly hurt and offended by this.  

I was ashamed about going to psychologists and psychiatrists.  

When I was in elementary school, I went to occupational and physical therapy because of fine motor and gross motor skill issues. The same people who worked with me also worked with severely-disabled people. I was ashamed about the association.

This ableism has followed me into adulthood. I see it in my old blog posts where my views about Autism had grown towards acceptance but with the attitude of, It's cool to be MILDLY Autistic, but it's probably a good idea if they find a way to prevent severe autism.

Anyway....

Now there are somethings about Autism that I am totally cool with...such as the obsession/special interest thing. I love that about myself, and I also love it in other people.

I am accepting and compassionate towards myself and others regarding sensory issues.

I'm cool with stimming and actually want to incorporate more of this in my life.  I mean I do some stimming naturally. But if there are times that I'm extra stressed and overwhelmed...I might make sure I'm stimming and if not, try to use it to make myself feel less shitty.

On an intellectual sense, I'm now fine with the immaturity and awkwardness. But I'm not there emotionally.

Now all my negativity is not just coming from watching a few old home movies.

I think some of it comes from internalizing what people have said to me or inferred throughout my life. The messages that I'm

too sensitive

too difficult

too fearful

too needy

too strange

too selfish, 

not interesting enough...

that I was pretty but my personality....

That I talked too much (diarrhea of the mouth) or I did not talk enough.

That my problems weren't important or big enough to matter. 

That what traumatized me never happened or that it wasn't that bad.

That I have too much self-pity.

That I'm not positive enough. 

It's a cycle where I internalize the hurtful things people have said to me and than almost-constantly project them onto others whether they truly feel these ways or not.

But while I'd like to put all the blame on other people for helping me develop my low self-esteem, I also have to put a lot of blame on myself. Because I have been mean to me too.

I'm not sure where to go from here.

I'm hoping that by looking at my past self through an Autism-lens vs a Neurotypical-lens, I will see my past selves as adorably quirky rather than creepy and defective.

I think it's helpful for me to read posts from other Autistic people. They say things about their feelings and experiences that make me feel much less alone. The only problem there is I imagine they're all much younger. I feel insecure about my older age.  I FEEL their same age, and then I remember that I'm probably much older than most of them.

I wonder if there's a group for older Autistic people out there....like above 40.  I mean not that I'm not going to still gain comfort and insight from the younger people. But....with my self-esteem issues, when I comment on a post, I sometimes feel...If they knew I was so much older, they would reject me.

Although I really have no idea. It would be funny if all the other people commenting were like in their 50's or 80's.

Anyway....

Thanks to therapy (in which I did most of the work) I now understood that it's not enough to like myself while imagining most other people are annoyed or disgusted with me.

I was about to write some positive, "uplifting" bullshit...but it would be a lie.

The truth is I don't know if I'll ever get to the point where I imagine people like me. Because even now, my little inner voice is saying, You can imagine all you want that people like you, but it will only be your imagination, because the truth is people really DON'T like you. Your negative self-esteem is only helping you to see the truth.

So. Yeah.

That's where I'm at.

And I might be here for a long time.