Saturday, September 3, 2022

Road To Self-Acceptance by shiru

I think I always knew that I was into girls or that I was at least a bit queer and not because I fell in love with my best friend or that I enjoyed the company of women more than I did men. I think I was queer in the way I lived my life in the media I consumed, the music I listened to and the women I found inspiring. I will not deny that I found women quite stunning and beautiful to watch and listen to; however, queer things such as parades and leaps in political actions also brought such life to me. I could not understand why a star like Whitney Houston would choose to stay married to a man despite knowing the freedom that came from being with a woman. I think I primarily associate my queerness and coming out to Whitney because she provided an avenue to this freedom. I didn’t want to be like her, closeted and unable to live freely.

Euphoria and out-of-body experiences where I would oscillate between intense joy and discontent at the things I was doing characterized my teenage years, and I could not quite pinpoint why navigating this world felt so hard. If anything good came out of the harrowing lockdown that was 2020, it was the ability to sit with my thoughts and grief, an ability to understand that my ineptitude to fit in this world was not in my lack of trying. Growing up different in a churchy and homophobic society limited my ability to express my queerness, and stifling my queerness allowed me to mask my neurodivergence because if I could hide this fundamental part of me, what was a little quirks and ticks.

I realized I had ADHD when people on Twitter would describe their symptoms, and I would relate to each one of them. My neurodivergent journey began with this discovery and was then followed by the revelation that my autism masked my ADHD. This overlap between my autistic and ADHD self made it almost impossible for anyone to see my internal struggles and battles. While my ADHD makes it impossible to keep time, my autism and empathy cannot make people late; therefore I always keep time. My autism does not allow me to be messy, but my ADHD can never allow me to be a neat freak; therefore living alone has proved quite challenging, as my space constantly rotates between messy and clean. However, the most prominent dichotomy was my ADHD could never establish schedules, but once I found a routine, my autism allowed me to stick to this routine.

I cannot express how freeing both my self-diagnosis and official diagnosis was. I could finally understand why simple tasks like taking care of my hygiene were harrowing. Why I could not hold down a simple job, why I could obsessively consume media, and why I picked up and dropped hobbies on a whim. It helped me realise that there was inherently nothing wrong with me. The world was not built to accommodate the needs of those at the margins. This freed my desire to be like everyone else. I stopped seeking the centre and found a way to live and thrive in the margins. I embraced my masculinity all while honoring my femininity. I stopped applying for corporate jobs and found my niche online, all while thriving in openly queer spaces.

This discovery while freeing was also deeply unsettling, I didn’t know how to exist without masking. Feeling and knowing you are different is acutely different from knowing why you are different. It made me sad, anxious, and at times I felt out of control. I yearned to explain to my peers how it was like to be in my head: the constant chaos, the overwhelming stimuli, the inability to focus on the mundane, and the crashing feeling that what one is doing is never enough. Many like to believe autism, ADHD or other neurodivergent traits make people geniuses. While I admit there are moments where my neurodivergence has opened up a world that neurotypicality would have limited, being neurodivergent is more than simply being smart. It is an inability to prioritize deeply important things like hygiene, work deadlines, a desire to escape a loud world, and a reckless indulgence to quiet the inner turmoil and anxiety.

This is not a coming out post, but I don’t want the straights to claim me; neither is it a self-diagnosis. My official diagnosis took a lot in me and is a story for another day. I wanted to rant about how someone should have seen how much I was struggling. They should have noticed how restless and anxious I was. They should have told me my queerness was not a burden, nor was my existence outside the binary but this bigoted world. Living in the margins so long, I was so misunderstood I didn’t care to explain any more, but I felt I owed it to this milestone to try and embrace my neurodivergence and my queerness, to not feel shame around my ineptitude to navigate this world that was neither created for me nor cater to my needs, and to be able to withstand and thrive within the margins without seeking the center. Twenty five years is a long time to exist in spaces that haven’t wanted me, or wanted to know me without masking. Those who will read this and know me will wonder if I was masking around them. Yes I was, there has never been a time in my life when I wasn’t anxious or depressed or just struggling.

This is an unburdening of shame that I have been carrying for too long–shame that is not mine to bear. My thoughts are still too many. I am still typically “lazy.” My follow through sucks, and I will probably always prefer the comfort of women even when I hate all humans, but now I feel no shame. My mind is less foggy. This is to not masking and to acknowledging and loving the whole package—faulty or otherwise.

I have been sitting with myself longer than I ever have, and my thoughts have finally raced and caught up, so this is me coming to myself. This me deserves a lot more compassion than I was given or that I gave others. This is to the me that couldn’t stop daydreaming in class, to the me that couldn’t stop picking up new hobbies and dropping them, the me that enjoyed and loved women but didn’t know it was an attraction, and the me that fell in love with my straight friend, the straightest of people.