Mental Health – Life as an Autistic Adult by Stephen Heatley, Belfast
JustaBelfastGirl – A Note to All
Happy New Year everyone! I hope your new year is everything you want it to be and more.
I had spoken to my friend, Stephen, about doing a post on life as an autistic adult, a few weeks ago and he kindly agreed to participate for me by writing a post on it.
He’s a very talented writer, artist (as you can see and is married with two adorable kids. I’m very proud of him for doing this post as I know writing something like this must be very tough.
Make sure you show him lots of love in the comments, below.
A Little About Me
My name is Stephen, I am from Belfast, Northern Ireland and I currently work full-time, whilst studying a degree in psychology alongside Nicole (JustaBelfastGirl) which is how we actually know each other.
I am married with two children and was diagnosed as Autistic two years ago, at the age of 32.
Life as an Autistic Adult
Have you ever felt like an alien on your own planet, not quite like anyone else? Alone yet surrounded by people? I have a mind that never sleeps always working, planning and sorting. I wear a mask every day so I can fit in better, I smile and pretend I’m ok that the lights don’t bother me or that those footsteps don’t sound like bombs exploding and it’s all hurting me.
Working with the Mask
I am in paid employment which is not a given for people like me and it steals a part of my soul every day. It’s not easy wearing a mask your entire life, it gets hard to distinguish between what is you and what is your mask and after long enough you lose who you are and all that’s left is a mask, a lie you use to survive in a world that has no idea what is going on to you.
You ask for help and get nothing, but a waiting list or passed over as that’s just part of being autistic. You go to war every day just to survive, to keep breathing and not become just another statistic. We have a 9 times higher suicide rate than any other minority grouping.
My World, My Kids
I have children and like me they are autistic and to be an autistic parent is hard, it’s even harder when your children are just like you, you know how cruel and harsh this world can be. You stop fighting for yourself and start fighting for them, you fight for a diagnosis, you fight for help. As they grow you fight even harder, you fight for their rights, for equality, for their education.
I try so hard to give them everything they need and every opportunity to grow and be themselves so they never have to wear this mask that I do. I worry every day how the world will treat them if I poisoned them with my curse. Will they get the help, as they get older? Or, like me will they end up broken and fighting to survive. Relationships are hard, to actually let someone in is not easy. How do you explain who you are when you don’t even know who you are, yourself?
I try to be a good husband and a good daddy but I don’t always be as good as I could and I become a burden to them because I don’t function right in their world. This isn’t my world it never has been it’s always been an alien world to me that doesn’t accept or understand me.
War of Survival
Life as an autistic adult is more a war of survival but it’s my war and I embrace it and fight it. I hope my children will be part of this world and not feel as alien as I do. That’s what it means to be a parent you put your children first every time.