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My Struggle With Change as an Autistic Person

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I struggle with change… a lot. I always have, for as long as I can remember. This can apply to major life changes, the type that one might expect a person to have trouble adjusting to. The only difference is that my challenges with adjusting to major life changes are rather extreme. Meltdowns and breakdowns are common.

I also have a hard time with minor, particularly unexpected, changes to my schedule or routine. This is the part that others in my life do not always understand.

Change for me often triggers a neurodivergent meltdown, something intrinsic to many of us who are Autistic, have ADHD, or are not considered “neurotypical.” I experience tears, anxiety, and panic. Sensory overload tends to be involved.

I wish I could say why I am like this; for now, I am working on striking the balance of becoming less rigid and more flexible in my reactions to change and transitions, as well as accepting who I am as a neurodivergent person.

I think autism is so often associated with social and sensory challenges, that many people sometimes forget that typically part of being autistic involves this challenge with rigidity, executive function, transitions, and repetitive thoughts and behaviors. All of these components make up the autistic neurotype.

I say am not ashamed of who I am, and yet I still fear I cannot wear this label. I still self-stigmatize, even if I claim otherwise. I’ve even been told I can pass as neurotypical as well as free of mental illness — that is, until you get to know me further. It is an identity that is complicated to unwind, as there are many moving parts that interact with each other.

Ever since I was a little kid, the slightest interruption to what I expected would throw me mentally over the edge. I am almost embarrassed to still be this way at 27 years old, but I am trying not to be. As I said before, I am working on embracing this beautiful and unique brain of mine, which includes not only the treasures but also the challenges.

Does anyone relate? Do you struggle with change? Or embracing your autistic identity?

Getty image by Rawpixel.

Originally published: October 6, 2021
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