The room inside my head – then and now

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The room inside my head – then and now. For years I felt there was a locked room inside my head, where the real me was.

So where was I the rest of the time then? I’m not sure. Probably masking, acting to try and fit in with the world around me. Trying to work out what others wanted or expected from me. Else I risked being told off, getting odd looks, or even worse, excluded for breaking some kind of societal expectations.

When it is hard to verbally express yourself to others life is stressful. This is not always helped when you have few friends and you feel unable to open up to family for various reasons. My budgies always listened to me, knowing when I was upset, changing their behaviour. My world was a happy place with them. 

But where and what was the real me?

I think the room was unlocked and disappeared in my 30’s. Possibly due to finding people who understood and accepted me as I was.  Adjusting to me, without telling me, with one person telling one organisation best to work with me. She had worked out how I was due to researching for personal reasons. When she told me at the time it did not register. Others saw it in me at an international event and again adapted to me. 

They assumed I knew.

This reason I came to understand more, after struggling at one place of work to fit in and understand unclear and changing expectations, following a change of management. I was autistic. ‘Mild’ autism, Asperger’s. My experience of life began to make sense.

So going back to the room inside my mind, how did that fit in?

Autistic people see, understand and interact with the world differently to others. It can be an alien, dangerous place, sometimes with landmines and explosions if you say or do the wrong thing. So many unwritten rules and regulations. So you mask, act to fit in, keep your real self protected. Tiring. Not good for building self-worth and confidence.

When I started doing public speaking, main topic autism, I found I could express myself, deal with long hidden feelings, make others aware of this little understood condition. My voice and experience counted. Podcasts were fun. People said they learnt from me. I felt valued.

When I was asked by my then work to write an article on meetings, how to make them more autism friendly for their magazine I turned to a network group. I asked for feedback on the draft. I did not feel confident. Judith Germain (Editor of The Maverick Paradox Magazine) liked it and wanted me to write for her. 

Having been told often I cannot express myself properly, it took a few discussions and time to do so. Her responses were more positive than I expected. So I started writing, I can’t say I always find it easy, but it is becoming easier. Perfection is not always essential when getting messages across.

So what do I get out of writing? Surely I don’t say much of interest? Apparently I do, on topics I do not always feel are interesting, but are drawn from daily experiences. It is an opportunity to help others, who by reading can relate to my experiences, or know others who can. If I can help one person, by showing that others have been on the same journey as them, and there is hope that is good. I feel valued, appreciated and accepted.

My final message

I can express my feelings, experiences, being myself outside of the protective room. And help others in the process. I appreciate this opportunity to be able to do so and look forward to continuing.

That room is gone. Permanently. I hope I can help others with theirs.

Footnote from the Editor

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