Warning, animated GIF ahead.
Sometimes the best place to be is under a blanket.
I was diagnosed with autism twice as an adult. But I was AFAB, socialized female in the 1980’s, and my biggest most encompassing interest is theatre. I learned to blend in, but it always takes a conscious effort and I can’t keep it up 24/7.
My initial diagnosis was a huge relief to me. I was in my early 20’s, struggling to even organize a tiny bit of my adult life. It gave me an answer as to why some things were so confusing, why I kept making the same miscommunications over and over, and even why I didn’t seem to have the same type of friendships everyone else had.
Unfortunately after that, I ran into misinformation. In the past five years or so I’ve run into many doctors who don’t believe an autistic person could work in theatre, or that if I can communicate as well as I do I can’t be autistic, or if I’m able to make eye contact, I can’t be autistic. I can make eye contact. It is very uncomfortable and I likely won’t be able to keep track of anything else. Because I have to focus a lot of mental energy not just on making eye contact but on the appropriate intervals to look away, I don’t have energy for actually participating in the conversation.
I didn’t have any support in place and I was forcing my autistic behaviours underground, I wouldn’t even let myself stim at home. I’m just starting out in my career and I thought the only way to be successful would be to act exactly like everybody else. I mean, I’ve been studying people and emulating them for so long just to fit in. What’s the harm?
That didn’t turn out very well.
First my anxiety spiked so high that it felt like the world was ending. Then I started isolating, I couldn’t handle the outside noise or the bus noise or the crowded room noise so I just stayed home. Multiple trips to the psych ER. I felt like my career was slipping through my fingers, but the harder I grabbed on, the worse I felt. Nobody knew what was happening to me. Autism wasn’t even on my radar, becauseEventually I just crashed. I spent a lot of time in the dark, wrapped in a blanket. I had to reset my system, I had pushed it to the point of collapse.
And when I was ready to open the curtains and let some light into the room again, I had to acknowledge.
I am autistic.
I’ve read about burnout among autistic adults who are forced to hide their diagnosis, and I’m pretty sure that’s what happened. I’ve been forcing myself to appear neurotypical and that’s just not sustainable. Now I need to learn to navigate my world as an autistic person.
It’s scary. If I stim in public or don’t make as much eye contact, people might ask “Why are you doing that? You never did that before.” People might think that this new me is fake, but there’s no fake, it’s all me. It’s just I need to find my own way of operating healthily, and that involves trying new strategies.
In the end I want a life, and I want a career. If I continue to try and achieve that the NT way, I will have neither. I know I can accomplish some really cool things if I’m just allowed to be myself and do it my way. Just because it’s different doesn’t make it wrong.
You might have come here from my previous blog, “No Longer In A Box”.
You might have found me another way. In any case, welcome to Smelly Hotdog.
As my knowledge and experience with autism has grown, I wanted to rebrand the blog.
So why Smelly Hotdog?
When I was probably about age 10, I was playing hide and seek with my brother and sisters in the basement. I wasn’t very good at finding anyone, so I figured if I said something weird, maybe someone would laugh and give their spot away.
For the entire round, I chanted “Smelly hotdog, hotdog smelly” and I found every single person. That was also my favourite vocal stim for at least the next few months. It appealed to me because “Smelly hotdog” made sense and “hotdog smelly” also made sense – in our house, “smellys” were farts. So yes, I was making jokes about farts to try and win a hide and seek game.
Why is it here now?
I posted on No Longer in a Box sporadically over the last few years because I’ve been struggling to find support for my diagnosis. I’ve been officially diagnosed twice, but I also grew up in the theatre. I studied how to “play” normal and was pretty good at it. Until the stress of suppressing my natural responses led me into an utter burnout – but that’s another blog post.
From here on out, I’d like to grow the blog and update much more often. Thanks for following us over!