Six months after I was diagnosed as autistic, I had an epiphany on the train as I made my way to work. This is what I hastily captured as a note on my phone as I sat on the train. The past year has been such a big personal journey for me, and I am still working out what things mean for me. The one thing I do know is that I feel much more settled and in control of my life now that I am embracing who I am.

I finally get it. I didn't need a diagnosis to make a change in my life, but it gave me the courage to be open about the things I struggle with and helped to inform discussions around changes that I needed to happen in order to become the person I was meant to be.

I just needed to feel empowered to talk to the people around me. To acknowledge the things I struggle with, without feeling like I am coming up short or failing in some way. To be able to say "yes, I do struggle with this .... now, how do we work together to work around it". This is so different from "I will work hard to change who I am, and try to improve in the future"

yes, I do struggle with this .... now, how do we work together to work around it

I have the language to help me explain to people why I struggle. It is not that I choose to be difficult ... in fact, I want the complete opposite but often can't control it. In the words of Lady Gaga, I was born this way. My brain is wired differently and my ability to cope in certain situations requires a huge amount of effort which people don't see.

It's a bit like breathing as you climb a mountain, the higher you go ... the harder it is to breathe. This is because the air gets thinner and you need to work harder to get the air in. From the outside nothing looks different, you are still a person breathing air .... but you tire so much more easily and your ability to hold a conversation can be impacted.

Climb high enough, and you may need oxygen tanks to help you breathe. Without this help, your ability to function will come to a stop and you will collapse. Even once you descend, you may continue to be impacted for a while as you recover from the lack of air.

This is what it is often like for me in social situations. The complex the situation (large gatherings of people, group discussions, conflict resolution, dealing with differences of opinion), the harder it is for me to function. This can often lead to me losing the ability to hold a conversation, think things through, and if pushed I am likely to become confrontational.

It is a physical limitation, not something I choose to do. I can’t switch it on or off, just like people can’t force themselves to breathe when the air is thin.

Some days I just need a little time to acclimatise, other days I may need an oxygen tank and sometimes I may need to head back down the mountain to catch my breath.

Being true to myself has allowed me to be true to others. To be open and honest. No longer do I feel like the solo mountain climber facing the elements on my own. I now have my support crew who know the tracks of the mountain, can help me plot my journey and are able to step in to support me when I most need it.
Embracing Neurodiversity, building a community of neurodivergent thinkers and allies to drive change

So much can happen in three months. For me the last three months, since I last shared a post with you, have seen me start something new. Something that I am quite excited about. I have taken the bold step and launch a new initiative call Me.Decoded - it is focused on providing a platform for others to share their personal thoughts and experiences, with the goal being to promote Neurodiversity.

It is not just focused on autism (though of course, this is a big focus). Being about Neurodiversity, it also includes dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia, ADHD, ADD, OCD, Bipolar, Sensory processing disorder and all other neurodevelopmental differences.

The launch of Me.Decoded has been greater than I could have hoped for, and I have had so many people get in touch about sharing their stories and becoming regular contributors to the site. I also shared my own personal story, where I shared parts of my life that I hadn't previously shared publically (especially about my growing up). As with most blog posts that I write, I had my heart in my throat as I pressed publish. I was worried about my mum's reaction to sharing my story and wondered how others would react. Once again, my sharing my story allowed others to feel a connection (albeit virtually) and understand that they are not alone in their struggles.

I cried this week when I was sent a message from someone who said that in discovering Me.Decoded, they had "found a sense of belonging". This is what I think so many people are looking for. To feel understood, and feel like they belong. I hope that as more people choose to share their stories on Me.Decoded, this sense of belonging can be felt by a greater number of people. There truly is a power in the sharing of personal stories.

So what does this mean for Life and ASC? It means that I will not post as often as I have done in the past, but I do still plan to blog. I have set myself a goal of trying to post at least once a month, as there is still so much I wish to say and I don't want to say goodbye to Life and ASC which has been such a big part of my life for the past few years.

I do hope that you will pop over to Me.Decoded and let me know what you think. Also if you, or anyone you know, is interested in sharing your story / thoughts/ or tips for Neurodiversity then please do get in touch.

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