Dazed and Confused
When I first received my autism diagnosis, I didn't think much would change. To me, it was a relief to have a
reason for all the pain and confusion that I had hidden most of my life. I now know why my brain worked
differently and I imagined simply moving on and life slowly improving.
However, I've since realised that to understand myself, I have to take enormous steps backwards in the hope that
I’ll move forwards. I know some may disagree with this, but I feel I have to completely rediscover who I am and
what I have to do to survive and progress within my world.
Currently, I feel terribly isolated and permanently confused. I say the wrong things. I perform incorrect actions. I
misjudge situations on a vast scale, causing other people to be angry or fed up with me. Sometimes, when it’s
pointed out, I completely get it. I realise what I’ve done or said wrong, allowing me to apologise or understand the
On other occasions, I am left bemused by the stooshie that I’ve caused. I hear and absorb the criticism but I’m
still left pondering just what the hell I’ve done wrong. My attempts to be understood create more conflict and my
efforts to allow people to see how my brain works often results in sighs, shrugs and a distinct lack of required
At times, I imagine my mind to be an old vacant room, sheets lazily draped over furniture that’s been pushed to
the side. Aside from that, the room is open, empty, silent. The stillness is shattered by people bursting inside,
arguing with one another as they disturb the covered furniture.. The dust is kicked up, whipping around in the air,
covering, irritating and agitating everyone. The door is slammed shut, everyone else leaves, brushes the dust off
their clothes and forgets about it. But inside, the dust is still up in the air, whirling around, taking a long, long
time to settle.
The diagnosis has allowed me to be more free with my autism. My eyes are now wide open. It’s as if I’ve been
given permission to be the real me, instead of this charlatan who has controlled myself for the majority of my
life. In the past, a difficult situation posed problems, requiring the need for me to feign understanding. My
reaction would be to totally blag my way through the whole deal, reading the person’s actions, reacting nimbly to
their every move, concealing, hiding, masking my struggle as the awkward ordeal unfolded.
So little time has passed since my discovery, but it feels like I’ve left the old ways far behind already. Being able
to explain how I feel is such a relief. It’s refreshing to be able to say that I’m uncomfortable in a bar or cafe due
to ear-shattering chatter. It makes relationships easier when I am able to hold my hands up and ask a question to
be repeated or state that I simply don’t understand what’s happening. People close to me now understand when I
say that a smell reminds me of a memory, or something tastes like a sandwich I had in 1987, or a t shirt feels like
cuddling steel wool. It’s such a weight off my shoulders.
I've given myself permission to remove my mask so that people see the real me and not the 'chameleon' I've been
since I was a kid. I'm autistic and I shouldn't be ashamed of that. I never will be. I don’t want cured and I don’t
want to hear your bullshit about any form of treatment. This is who I am, I was born this way and I will die this
way. But it genuinely is really difficult to adjust. There’s so many positives, but there’s a whole ocean of
difficulties to cross, and all I have is a rickety old raft.
Sometimes, everyone else in the room ‘gets it’ and I don’t. Other times, I know I’ve said something completely
inappropriate and I just cannot figure out what. There’s situations where I feel unwelcome and a stranger in my
own existence. I'm increasingly feeling out of place. It’s almost like I don’t belong here. I feel like a man with a
fork in a world full of soup.
But there's also positives. I've realised that autism makes me amazing at my job. My incessant attention to detail
makes me a great jeweller. I know I was born to be a goldsmith. My enthusiasm for my craft allows me to teach,
talk and inspire my students and those around me. I passionately talk about stone setting, wax carving, our social
enterprise work and everything else we do at Vanilla Ink. It’s good to have an obsession.
There are ups and downs to all of this. This I know for sure. I have to keep on top of it and take the rough with the
smooth. Recently, I've felt quite smothered by the darkness. Experience tells me to try to get a hold of it before it
consumes me. It pays to have been affected by this for most of your life. But I’m dealing with it. I meditate, shut
myself off for times to 'regenerate' and have signed up to exercise more. I need therapy and accept it may take
time to find balance in my life. This is essential, a real life or death situation.
To me, it’s important to write about how I feel. It’s a cathartic experience, and one that that not only helps
myself, but hopefully others, too. It's not about autism awareness, it's about acceptance. I'm working so damn
hard to integrate my condition into today's world, and it's so pleasing to have those closest to me at home and at
work try just as hard to help me be autistic in an intolerant society.
Acceptance is allowing us to be odd. There’s nothing wrong with having an encyclopedic knowledge of The
Beatles and Oasis, a love for 2000AD comic, or being able to name a vast number of military aircraft at just a
glance. A need to twiddle my fingers when we get stressed, or always having to know what age actors are in
films, and insisting on having the right colour of socks on for certain days is perfectly acceptable. There is no
problem with having to hang our coats on the same hook each day, or always having to sit on our chairs from the
right hand side. It’s completely normal, and we must never think otherwise.
Autism is challenging, but it's far from a disaster. I'm a much better person for knowing the real me. I just may
take a little bit of time to find out who that is.