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I Am Autistic. Am I Mighty?

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I don’t feel mighty when I wake up in the morning, still exhausted from yesterday. Even though yesterday was a regular day. Even though I’m eating well. Even though I got nine hours of sleep.

I don’t feel mighty when I walk through the crowds in the farmer’s market and the noise assaults me like a waterfall: pounding out all the energy I have to manage myself and drowning me in the pool of my own world.

I don’t feel mighty when I can’t handle the curry at a chili cook-off. Yesterday was fine. Why must I be so sensitive today?

I don’t feel mighty when I fail to communicate how much I need to go someplace to calm down. Or when I don’t go take care of myself, even if that means ditching the person I’m with. I hate feeling that it’s wrong to leave to take care of myself.

I don’t feel mighty when I come home, lock the door to my room, and cry. I don’t feel mighty having a meltdown. How could anyone feel mighty in that dysfunctional state, where what’s inside doesn’t come out right and what’s inside is a filterless mess of thoughts?

I don’t feel mighty when I’m told that I should be careful of how I act in a library, considering it’s a potential place of employment for me. It’s good advice, but the reminder cuts to the core of my underlying terror. I’m afraid others are compounding the stringent judgment I’ve laid on myself, simply for not being able to handle myself on a normal day. Somewhere in my mind I’m still blaming myself for the fragile state I was born in, and blaming myself for not knowing how to care that fragility when I ought to be astounded that I have an inkling as to how I can care for myself.

But maybe the mighty don’t need to feel mighty to be mighty.

I am mighty because I get up in the morning, even when I’m tired. I adjust my day according to the energy I have. And at the end of the day, I take care of myself by going to bed on time.

I am mighty because I know what things will make me feel soothed as much as other things disturb. I am mighty because I use those things to calm down and keep me in a safe place.

I am mighty because I leave. When it’s too much for me, sometimes I do leave, shoving away all of the false thoughts of failure. It’s not wrong to leave to take care of myself.

I am the mighty because I choose to take the time alone to cry and do whatever else I need to do to reset. I suppose if I have to break down, there aren’t many safer ways of doing it. I am mighty because my life isn’t as dysfunctional as it feels like it is when I’m in a meltdown. I’m using the skills I have learned to manage myself to be able to live on my own, excel in school, and somehow still manage to make and maintain meaningful friendships.

I am mighty, because I can celebrate the small things that are actually huge steps for me, like being able to participate in a group setting. I am mighty because, in spite of my fear, I’m learning to say, “This is overwhelming, I need to leave.” I’m learning to gently care for my fragile self: to forgive what I lack, to have patience with what I’m learning, and love myself in whole, even the dislikable parts. 

Yes, the mighty do not have to feel mighty to be mighty, because mighty has become a name to be used for the people who survive panic attacks, wade through the drought of depression, and live with chronic illnesses. And yes, even me, an autistic, who breaks down every once in awhile after doing a phenomenal job of taking care of herself.

I am a part of the mighty.

Image via Thinkstock Images

Originally published: September 27, 2016
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