A pastel-rainbow background with distressed white text: I’m a spectrum dweller. Things are fluid. They change. I change. This is what it takes to be me - I’m finally ok with that.

Spectrum Dweller

I’m an autistic woman. I have a long history of depression, and some hefty anxiety issues. Combine that with my sensory processing issues and
some periodic insomnia, and it means that in addition to NinjaGirl’s stuff we need to find ways of accommodating my stuff that makes the family work. It’s a balancing act that we don’t always get right.

I need regular down time to let my brain calm.

I need down time after socialising (whether that means going shopping or visiting friends, or taking the kids to the park or going to an appointment). Sometimes I need to cut things short. There have been more than a few shopping trips that have been ended half way through, and had to be finished another day.

And I need regular quiet time to avoid getting completely overwhelmed by the sensory needs of the kids. To do this, I need my partner home. It might sound a bit precious to others, but once you’ve seen me in a flap and watched the anxiety build up and explode, it all becomes very, very clear.  Should you add both chronic and acute sleep deprivation to that (which compounds all of those things), and yeah. It requires both careful
management, and some sharp observational skills on the part of my partner.

I access therapy when I need it. This is hard for me though, because dealing with strong emotion wears me out. And opening up to a stranger is very very hard, and wears me out in a different way. To schedule in therapy time means also scheduling in recovery time. And sometimes, it just doesn’t all fit. Or my guilt over needing this stuff overwhelms me, and I shove it all in a box in my mind, to fester and pick at later.

My partner sends me to my room. No, seriously, he does – he has learned to recognise the signs of building anxiety and an immanent stress attack, and asks me if I need to take some quiet time, watch a movie, crochet, whatever.

I crochet. A lot. I really love crochet. It serves several purposes for me. It acts as a socially acceptable stim – my hands are busy busy busy, but I’m being “productive” and it isn’t obvious it’s a stim. It produces lovely things like beanies and blankets and scarves and cardigans for my family
and friends. And it acts as a socially acceptable reason to not be looking at people while we talk. Sometimes I need that cover. Sometimes I don’t care (and my friends don’t care either). But there are times when I need to feel like I’m passing, even when I suspect I’m really not.

I garden. I love my garden. I love having my hands in the dirt. I love growing things. I love watching the dirt, the leaves, the light on flowers. I
love growing food. I love watching birds sitting on the fence. I get a lot of peace out there.

I need to feel connected. It means I need lots of physical contact, but only with certain people. And that needs to balance out with feeling touched out from having small children who like to use me as a climbing gym, and NinjaGirl and her growing love for hanging out on my back in the carrier. The phrase “I’m hug deficient” is often heard in this house, and thankfully, my partner is most excellent at providing hugs.

I’m developing strong connections with friends online. Real life interactions can be a bit tricky, even without all my stuff. We live rurally, and while I’m learning to drive our (manual) car, I can’t drive it solo yet, so visiting people becomes a whole family event. Not always practical. But online interactions are great. I can have a conversation with someone that spans days, allowing both of us to come and go as we can/need. They can be awake while I’m asleep. I can be on one side of the planet, and they can be on the other. It’s taken me a while, but I’m finding where I fit. I’m finding my tribe, and I’m feeling like I belong.

My partner is really good at listening. I get pretty passionate about stuff, and he’ll listen to me talk it out. I sometimes really suck at
communication, and he’ll wait that out with me. Sometimes the words get stuck in my head, and I can’t explain why I’m so clearly feeling such strong
emotions. Sometimes the words come out, but they aren’t the words I meant, or not coming out the way I wanted. And he works through that with me. We struggle sometimes, when our emotions are running away from us. I’ve had to really work on making sure that I say things I mean, not just say something because I know it gets a reaction. He’s had to work on making sure he’s really clear on intent, because I don’t always pick that up, concentrating instead on the words he used. We get there though – we try really hard to be patient with each other.

And finally, I’m learning my limits. What I can do. What I can’t. What I can do for a limited amount of time. What I need to do to make something
work. Why I can do something under certain circumstances, and not others. I’m learning that self care isn’t a sign of weakness – it’s a sign of wisdom and acceptance. Self care means I’m valuing myself. I’m valuing what I *can* do, and respecting what I can’t.

I’m a spectrum dweller. Things are fluid. They change. I change. This is what it takes to be me – I’m finally ok with that.

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