The majority of the autistic community, including myself, prefers identity first language over person first language. This is because you cannot separate Autism from the individual.
What do I mean by this? Well, Autism is a disability because of the world and the culture we live in. Our environment actively disables us. Autism is also a neurotype.
There are neurotypical brains and neurodivergent brains, and each function in different ways. Ways that largely control how a person acts, thinks, feels, and processes the world around them.
I am autistic. It is a large part of my identity because it affects many facets of my life. Autism is how my brain functions. It impacts how I process emotions, how I communicate with others, how I react to new things, and familiar things.
Autism is not like depression. It is not a mental health issue that can change and be overcome. You cannot 'cure' autism. You should not cure autism.
Depression is not a healthy state to live in, and it is possible to change. Autism is a perfectly normal state to live in and cannot be changed. This is why I am Autistic. I am not a person with Autism.
I think back to how wrong I felt. To my core, my soul, I felt wrong. In truth, to my core, I am Autistic. The way I am, the way my brain works, has a name, I can explain myself now because I understand myself now. And this understanding is not something I want or need to separate from my identity.
Let’s take a look at my day-to-day life to demonstrate this further.
First thing in the morning, I take my time waking up. I have to actively check in with myself to see if I’ve had enough rest. I try my best to listen to my body and its needs. I also know I need more sleep than the “average” person because I am neurodivergent.
Then, I turn my phone on to let the notifications come through and I get a bowl of cereal for breakfast. I’ve had a bowl of cereal for breakfast every day for the past several years. I need the routine, more so, I need the saved brain power it takes to make a decision like this. The same goes for getting ready for the day. I make my bed, open up my curtains, and pull out what I’m going to wear. I brush my teeth, floss, and shower. I do this–almost always–in this exact order.
I have my journaling routine, of course, and when it comes to work I prioritize my tasks according to the deadlines. I often hyper-focus here and work anywhere from two to four hours straight. My lunch usually happens around 2:00pm because of this. As do bathroom breaks. Being Autistic, it’s not uncommon to get so in the zone that I forget to acknowledge the time. It’s not also not uncommon to go without realizing I’m hungry until my hands are shaking because of a lack of interoception.
If I have to run an errand during the day I check to see when the store will be the least busy. I also limit the number of places I have to go and errands I have to run in a single day. This is usually just one because of the overstimulation I experience in most stores, even with earplugs and a self-checkout.
I also try not to run errands on the same days I have meetings, even virtual ones, because it’s so habitual for me to mask and the social interaction, however limited, still drains some of my energy.
My entire day consists of trying to balance my energy. I have to prepare for and plan the tasks that give me energy versus the ones that deplete my energy. I have to try my best not to mask and to accommodate myself when I’m in public. I have to script conversations beforehand. I have to know exactly where I’m going and what the parking is like, how busy it might be, etc.
I am autistic. This cannot be separated from anything I do or experience. It is simply how my brain functions and I am ok with that. I like who I am. I understand who I am. That is enough. Frustration only arises when others try to tell me it is not.