There is a phenomena that seems to happen for a lot of late-diagnosed/late-discovered autistic folks. We learn that we are autistic and that self-discovery actually unwinds a tightly wound string that has been keeping our mask tightly in place. It is starts to loosen and with it, our ability to mask our pain and suffering from ourselves. We begin to notice how doing simple tasks are even more excruciating than we realized. We begin to actually know ourselves.
And this can be quite painful and debilitating. A lot of newly diagnosed/discovered autistics begin to feel burn out for the first time in our lives. We wonder “how is it that we have survived this long and all of the sudden we can’t do simple tasks now that we know we are autistic??” It’s mind boggling. But that’s what tends to happen when we learn that we are actually autistic. We start to see the cracks in the armor and see the damage that has been done by constant masking and suppression.
In many ways, learning you are autistic is like a dam finally breaking open. Maybe we noticed leaks before but now it is undeniable that being a human is extremely hard for us. We are constantly bombarded by assaultive stimuli that cause us all sorts of discomfort and pain. Now that we know we are autistic, it becomes impossible to ignore how we feel. And boy, do we FEEL. We feel everything. Deeply. And it’s freaking exhausting.
So where do we go from here? With this new awareness comes hopefully some new accommodations and acceptance of who we are. We can learn to modify our environment, set better boundaries, and be better gatekeepers of our experience. We can find each other and co-create a community that is safe and helpful for us. We can begin to grieve, rage, cry, lay down, and allow ourselves to fully stim or meltdown. That's at least what I am doing and what I encourage my clients to do. The dam is forever open now. Therefore, we must learn to navigate these new waters.