As the year comes to an end I always tend to realise how much happens over the course of 12 months, even if my sense of time makes it feel like a whirlwind. This year has been one of constant change, much to the dismay of my Aspie self. So to recap the year, I want to talk about change, growth and most importantly recovery.
Let’s start with changes. One of the biggest was, of course, moving house. I moved from a suburb I had been in for 13 years to one that I hadn’t been to before. To a different train line, a different gym, a different pool (Ah!), and to a whole different council. I was justifiably terrified, but the new house meant a working shower and toilet as well as no stairs, which was a significant bonus.
The other major change was in my education, I’ve talked about this before, but I changed from going to a mainstream high school to doing my schooling via distance education. This change was huge, it meant leaving friends, learning how to set my own class schedule and remembering to eat regularly on my own.
Both of these changes ended up changing my life for the better and giving me communities that I never would have had before. The move allowed me to change gyms, a change that ended up landing me a job, as well as putting me in the right council for a local lgbtq+ youth group that has given me opportunities that I couldn’t have gotten on my own. Leaving school allowed me to recover and rehabilitate myself from the daily masking, falls and general strain that came with attending school, enough so that I will be attending a physical school again next year.
Next is medical and disability stuff, however, in this paragraph, it is specifically NDIS and physiotherapy related. The NDIS, as we all know, is a pain in the ass; a helpful pain in the ass but a pain none the less. This February I made an Instagram post talking about my NDIS renewal meeting, and then later on I talked about how a change in reviewers lead to my plan being gutted to almost nothing. The plan was changed early, my routine went from having support workers to help me work on independent living skills and twice weekly physiotherapy to having almost nothing. For months my social interaction was limited to appointments, my mum and the small monthly excursions I could cope with. My only friends being the people I play DnD with (more on them anon though). I was fairly isolated, only going to Pilates and the gym once per week each as we now had to pay more of the fees out of pocket. I would like to thank Watsonia Physiotherapy, Podiatry and Myotherapy for helping me (and my family) so much over the years, but even more so in this one, as they worked around everything and were super considerate all year to make sure I stayed on my feet and functional. The NDIS, after 6 full months of bargaining, came through with help. A functional fitness assessment proved I needed assistance and the new plan got me funding for a support worker to help me get home from work and OT to help me further develop strategies to cope with the world.
As I mentioned in the beginning, this year for me has been one of growth and recovery. I worked through a whole lot of internalised trauma that I had been holding onto; a big part being the fear that my disabilities were all that I could be and I would continue to lose pieces of my life as they progressed. Disability and chronic pain as a young person is hard to deal with. Comments and slurs get thrown around a lot and the schoolyard is no exception to that, but I have been learning not to hide my conditions for the sake of others. Being autistic has always been the largest point of internalised ableism for me, and I mask well enough that sometimes other people can forget it’s a part of me, but it is and I have to accept that. All of my immediate family is autistic, my parents and sister, so I knew my feelings of unease with being didn’t come from any lack of acceptance there (they are wonderful) so being able to take the time to unpack it is a luxury I am thankful for.
Being isolated, although hard, gave me the space to consider that the issues I had with me being Autistic aren’t actually based on my views of Autism, but on how the people at school had been talking about it. I worked on removing the idea that somehow being Autistic made me lesser or stupid by using condition first language, which is the same strategy I ended up using when accepting my other conditions. I started saying to people “I am autistic” when asked about myself, without hiding or looking away in shame, because it isn’t something that I ever should have been ashamed of. I still say I have BJHS rather than I am it, because it is separate to me as a person; I did start saying “I am disabled”, because contrary to common belief, disabled is not a dirty word.
One of the most helpful things with the process of acceptance for me has been actively putting related positivity into my social media feeds. Online creators such as Megan Jayne Crabbe (bodiposipanda), Jessica Kelgren Fozard, Annika Victoria, and DislocatingFairy have been a big part me accepting myself. Hearing similar experiences to mine from young people in similar situations, having what I feel seen and validated, all from someone who I look up to (because who wouldn’t look up to disabled lesbians in 50’s fashion) has been a great way of reminding myself I am not alone in my experiences, and I never have been. Body positivity has been a great tool for accepting a body that doesn’t always work, and tags like #babewithamobilityaid and surrounding yourself with body positive influences is where I started. Surrounding yourself with supportive people isn’t just online either, my DnD group who I mentioned earlier are some of the most supportive friends I have had, which is super important when you are working on accepting yourself. And of course to top it all off, Cyra Noavek from the Carve The Mark series, she’s so cool.
Now, to conclude this (far too long) post, I would like to remind you to take care of yourself. Progress takes time, the contents of this post occurred throughout the year and wasn’t easy by any means. Self love and discovery takes more effort than anyone is truly willing to admit so don’t be afraid to ask for help along the way. Happy holidays and early New Year.