On labels, feeling broken, and coming out yet again

This post discusses mental illness.

There have been many themes throughout my life. Love, discovery, obsession.  I loved many of the people I grew up around dearly, and continue to love some of them today. My family raised me in the most loving environment imaginable, and I enjoyed a stress-free childhood that many do not get to experience.

As I grew up to hit puberty, a stunning sense of confusion and disassociation between myself and my body made me feel like I was totally broken. I later learned that I was transgender. There were words for what I was experiencing, and things I could do to make myself feel better. Today, this part of me is comfortable and homely, and the fact that I’ve fought to get to this point makes it feel all the better.

I have since come out to you all as transgender. It changed my life, and it changed it for the better.

As I grew up through that stressful puberty, my anxiety and mental health did not match anyone else I knew. I was socially and intellectually drowned by my developing mental state, and it made me feel worthless and helpless. I felt broken, and I had very, very little hope for a long time. I later learned that I had a mental illness, and that there were words for what I was experiencing, and things I could do to make myself feel better. Today, my mental illness is manageable, and I’m getting better all the time. I know a lot more how my brain works, and that struggle for all those years makes my relative happiness of today seem much brighter than it probably actually is.

I have since also come out to you all as having experienced serious mental illness. Again, it changed my life, and for the better.

Well, there’s another thing that’s been playing on my mind for a long time. Like being transgender, it’s something I’ve known for a very long time, even if I haven’t acknowledged it for as long. It’s something I’ve only been speaking about publicly for a very short time, and something I’ve only told my parents and some friends very recently. Like being transgender, it has affected how I grew up and related to other people, and has presented its own challenges to how I’ve thought of myself.

I have issues with my senses – particularly heat, touch and light, and they get overloaded pretty quickly at times. Certain social interactions are pretty difficult for me, and I have passionate interests that literally no-one else finds exciting. I experience a background level of anxiety that’s much higher than most people, and that spikes when my senses are overloaded to a very high level. I need to regulate my senses regularly and have downtime to “recover” from participating in society. These are things that I’m only beginning to understand and develop coping mechanisms for.

I felt disconnected from my friends growing up, and (I bet you’re noticing a trend with these), yet again, I felt broken. Nothing seemed to explain what I was experiencing, and I felt like I was falling further and further behind my friends and peers.

Well, I’m autistic. I’m on the (very long) waiting list for a mental health referral which will end in a diagnosis to that effect, anyway. According to my GP, other medical professionals I’ve been talking to, a dozen or so autistic friends of mine and a lot of research online, there’s not much doubt whatsoever about that. Everything fits, and it explains a heck of a lot. I fit with the a great deal of what are commonly considered autistic traits, and every time I recollect my childhood, more and more things are making sense with this new-found information.

Sorry if I’m being clumsy with my terminology here – although I can describe these feelings to myself, talking to others about them is still very new. I’m telling you about it now before I get a professional diagnosis in the same way I told you all about being trans before I got a professional diagnosis of gender dysphoria. This is something I’m sure of, and is something a lot of my friends have seemingly known for a long time, too.

Realising this is far from a bad thing. Having this word to describe who and what I am, which fits and explains things so well, is liberating and relieving. It feels exactly like when I realised I was trans, gay, and mentally ill. It didn’t necessarily solve all my problems, but it gave me the language to begin to do so. Words are powerful, and in these instances, words have given me an incredible amount of hope and drive.

So yeah, I’m autistic. This is unlikely to affect you in any way, and if it does, I’ll likely let you know separately. I’m only really broadcasting this to continue an Ellen tradition of coming out about absolutely everything, but hopefully this will help you understand if I’ve seemed odd in the past, and it might explain some things in the future.

If I may moralise for a short while, I suppose I’d just like to say that labels are extremely important for some people. Having labels for who I am has not solved my problems in and of itself, but it has empowered me to join communities, get what I need and ultimately work towards bettering myself. Labels have likely saved my life, in a way. The main reason for me posting this, though, is like coming out to people as trans and mentally ill, it’s much easier and less exhausting for me to do it this way. It’s a coping mechanism, really.

So yeah, yet another thing to add to equality monitoring forms, I guess. If you’d like to chat to me about this, by all means send me an email, message me on Facebook if we’re pals there, or send me a tweet.

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