Why do I feel less?
Whenever I’ve tried throughout my life to join in with something, be part of a group and add my skills to a project, my self confidence has crashed. I’m instantly in competition with everyone else and feel like an imposter as their input is always (in my mind) better. I have the skills and the quality of my work is plain for all to see. I’ve been praised on my abilities and sold thousands of handmade products over the last eleven years yet I still feel like a fraud.
I gave up trying to be part of anything many years ago and have been exclusively working on my own ever since. I don’t look at other artists’ work because when I do, I feel crushed. My work feels so inferior and I cannot understand why.
I’ve never been the ‘alpha’ male of any group. At school I was the quiet one who did as he was told and didn’t question anything. I slipped through my education practically unnoticed and I’ve been doing that in life ever since. In an attempt to break free of this crippling lack of confidence I created a new persona for my work. I never show my face on social media so it was easy to invent the person who heads up my creative business and make him everything I’m not. Ironically, my attempts to build confidence have only served to make me feel like even more of a fraud.
I really wish I had the confidence to be myself on camera and present my work to the world but I can’t get past the fear of being ridiculed by my audience. My confidence is paper thin and the slightest negative remark would ruin me mentally. Oh to be one of those people who has the confidence to shout their message to the world regardless of the response.
I wonder if one day I’ll wake up and realise that it doesn’t matter what everyone else thinks; realise it’s impossible to please everyone and let their negativity bounce off into the ether never allowing it to stick?
I can hope.
Hello new me
Life goes on. It’s different to what it once was but totally manageable.
I can’t go into shops but I can enjoy the open countryside. That’s a win for me.
I used to struggle in social situations and suffered burnout from constant masking but I no longer need to do that because I continue to socially distance and avoid people now. This has had a positive effect on my mental state.
For the first 47 years of my life I was judging the way I live by other peoples’ standards. Now I accept that I’m different and need accomodations to navigate this world not designed for neurodivergent folk. Another win.
Different used to equal scary in my head. Familiarity was my comfort blanket. The last two years has forced me out of that comfort zone and allowed me to be myself. Looking back I see a totally different person.
Say my piece or keep quiet?
Do you ever have those moods where you feel really argumentative? I should really step away from the internet at these times but sometimes I just can’t let things pass me by without gifting the world my opinion on something. I’m extremely passionate about the things which matter most to me and will defend my right to freely give my opnion but it does come at a cost.
I can be impulsive but this is usually tempered by my fear of what may happen if I say something to offend. On the occasions where my filter is weak and I steam into a conversation with my absolute insistance that everyone must know my opnion, the exhilaration and the initial burst of passion quickly fades leaving guilt, embarassment and regret.
I go from gung-ho defender of my opinion to regretful, meek and apologetic mouse in the blink of an eye. If there’s a way to delete my comment, I will, hoping that not too many people will have read it. If replies have already been made and I’ve inadvertently offended anyone, the devastation in my mind starts to build, often crippling me mentally and allowing me to think of nothing else.
Why did I comment? Why didn’t I just swipe past and not get involved? What will everyone think of me now? I’m a terrible human being and I’ve gone too far and now people will hate me…the long list of emotions and self doubt starts rolling on.
Days or weeks after, I’ll still be thinking about it, worrying that my comment has destabilised the space time continuum or something equally as ridiculous.
Empathy is hard work.
How to ruin a perfectly good day
I’ll be coasting along on any given day, not thinking about anything except the task at hand and then out of nowhere my mind wanders onto something which wrecks my mood. It’s usually a memory of something embarassing I did or said ten years ago which makes me squirm. I often physically shudder because I’m right back there actually reliving the moment in all its technicolour self esteem shredding awfulness.
If I allow the thought to really take hold I can play back the event like a scene in a movie from multiple angles. Every word spoken is burned into my memory as an eternal reminder of how bad I felt at the time. I begin to repeat the visuals in my mind along with the soundtrack; I may even try to change some of the events and muse over what would have happened had I said or done something different. Of course nothing can change the past and that stark realisation saps all the joy out of my day and I feel miserable at best, extremely anxious at worst.
Intrusive thoughts aren’t limited to actual memories of past events I’ve experienced. They can also be purely fictional, relating to something I may be about to do. I become lost in a vivid torrent of possibilties, all of which are catastrophic. Like the tendrils of a creeping vine, my thoughts spread, analysing all the horrible outcomes which could potentially happen. Before I know it my entire focus in on the ‘what if,’ and the whole world is blanked out around me.
If I’m not being mindful of my actions, quite often an intrusive though process will manifest around the possibility that I may have unknowlingly done something which may have caused someone harm. Did I run a red light there? Was that bump in the road someone stepping out and did I hit them? If I can quickly turn around and retrace my steps to prove to myself that nothing actually happened and it was all in my imagination then I can quell the panic. Sometimes that’s not possible and the thought attaches itself like a heavy black shadow to everything I think about for days. Eventually the anxiety subsides, maybe my attention is taken up by something positive but usually it’s just another intrusive thought which has weighed in to overpower the one before.
I’ve noticed a pattern of how these intrusive thoughts tend to become more frequent a few days before my anxiety will randomly ramp up. These days I use them as an early warning to an impending low mood and usually I can prepare myself, lessening the duration and allowing me more control over my mental processes.
It’s a slow process but I do feel like I’m winning the battle as I get older. I’m acutely aware of my mood cycle now and that helps massively with not immediately slipping onto the downward spiral to a major episode of anxiety.
Choosing when to mask
I’ve spent all my life masking in public, trying to blend in with society and feel connected. It wasn’t until I discovered I was neurodivergent that I realised the masking happened automatically and the person everyone else knew was a fabrication of the real me, an actor playing a part.
After two years of isolation during the pandemic, I haven’t been anywhere in public so have not needed to mask at all; my family say I haven’t changed so that’s proof that I can be myself with people if I feel comfortable around them – a very rare thing indeed.
I had an unscheduled visit from a customer a few days ago and without the time to panic and overthink the situation, my mask returned without even trying. I had been worried that I’d lost the ability to mask and would re-enter society after the pandemic has subsided like some kind of alien, to be pointed at and mocked. It was a very strange experience, I was having a conversation with her but it felt as if I was out of my body watching myself act out a familiar part. When she’d left it really hit me deeply just how different the real me is to the one I used to play on a daily basis around people.
My mask was an automatic survival response, probably crafted from very early childhood and something I was unconscious of until recently when I haven’t needed to flick that switch and be someone else. As I’ve been processing this experience I’ve made what I hope will be a life changing decision and one which will allow me to live with my strangely wired brain rather than fight against it all the time.
I mask because I feel embarassed about showing the real me to the world. The risk of ridicule and humiliation by allowing people to see my natural personality and unconventional traits has always been too high. Even now as I’m learning to accept that I’m very different to the majority of the population, I’m still not ready to unmask completely; not strong enough to deflect the negativity I’ll undoubtedly experience.
If I have to mask then why can’t I at least choose the persona consciously? Instead of going into that panicked autopilot state and feeling really uncomfortable in the presence of other humans, wondering if I’m going to let the mask slip and embarrass myself, couldn’t I craft my part and have some fun with it?
Swimming through treacle
Remember those dreams where you’re trying to reach a destination, you’re running as hard as you can but no matter how hard you try you just can’t reach it?
Trying to complete a basic task is often like that for me. I know I should be doing something and I know I’m capable of it but there’s a disconnect in my brain which won’t allow me to engage my motor skills and get started. Instead I sit there in a state of inertia feeling frustrated and guilty for my inability to do things which ‘regular’ people wouldn’t even think about.
It feels like there’s an impenetratable glass wall between me and the task I need to complete. I can see it there taunting me but I just cannot get through the wall.
On occasion, the veil is briefly lifted and suddenly I have clarity, allowing me to do anything I want. On these rare days I jump on the opportunity and try to get everything done before the veil descends again; invariably I work far too hard for too long and burn myself out of course, leading to a prolongued period of fatigue and loss of motivation.
Today I have many ideas floating around in my head just out of reach. They’re blowing around in my mind like dried leaves in the autumn wind avoiding capture. If I do manage to grab hold of one, by the time I reach my workshop and pick up my tools, it’ll started to crumble to dust and the initial spark of enthusiasm will fade away.
I crave focus. I wonder if the stress I’m experiencing at the moment due to outside pressures of life is making this worse. I’m hopeful that if I can just get my life on a level, under control and balanced, the fog will lift and allow me to reach my full potential. For most of my life I’ve had a crushing guilt that I’m not working hard enough, not knowing why I’m failing when other people succeed with half the amount of effort I need to do the job.
My research into ADHD has given me hope that although I’ll never be able to change my brain and think clearly, maybe I can discover a work-around and find a way to exist which works for me.
Juggling with steam
My life revolves around fleeting moments of clarity surrounded by weeks of apathy and lack of confidence. On the rare occasion when my mind is clear I can formulate a plan to solve a problem, even write it down so that I can’t forget it. Sometimes that positivity lasts a while, maybe even long enough for me to put the plan into action, but most often it evaporates in front of my eyes as I try to grasp at the wispy tendrils of hope.
I’m perfectly capable of solving problems and physically able to put my plans into action but the disconnect between my ‘thinking’ brain and my ‘doing’ brain seems to be my biggest obstacle. If I put any distance between a thought and an action, it’s gone, like one of those dreams where you’re running towards someone but can never quite reach them as they always seem to be moving away. If I can jump on an idea and make a start immediately I have a better chance of getting at least something done but most times my enthusiasm quickly dissipates and the task becomes a chore to be left half finished. I have boxes full of half finished projects much to my own embarrassment.
How can I improve my life if I can’t put positive actions into practice in any meaningful way? This is the frustrating question which rattles around my brain every single waking moment. I see other people, often truly inspirational in their success, who have battled adversity to reach a goal and find happiness. I’m equally as talented as these people yet why do they succeed and I can’t? What’s missing from my brain that they have in abundance? How can I shut away the nagging voices of negativity and focus on the skills and talents I have to simply make my life better? More to the point, how can I lock away those debilitating ‘what if’ thoughts and just plough through life without much of a care to the consequences to reach my goals?
I’m at a cusp in my life. I’ve reached middle age without much to show for all my years of struggle. To the outside world I’m sure I’m a waste of space who’s never had a proper job and at almost 50, has no financial security and they’ll most likely pity me. They’ll see me as someone who’s an eternal tryer but doesn’t have what’s required to succeed. They don’t see the fact that I’m like an iceberg, the top visible part tells a story but there’s so much more underneath which they have no idea about. Under the surface, away from their view I’m frantically paddling harder than they have ever needed to just to exist on a basic level. Everything else I want to achieve on top of that requires extra effort, above and beyond what they could ever imagine.
Will I ever find true clarity to be able to achieve my goals? I doubt it but I definitely won’t stop trying.
How do I learn to love myself the way I am?
All my life I’ve tried to justify my difficulties and mistakes by imagining that they were caused by an outside influence out of my control. Realising that my autistic brain is the cause of everything and that my own mind basically sabotaged my entire life is hard to accept. I feel an idiot for having these inadequacies, for not being able to cope with even the routine things in life without a struggle. I feel pathetic, useless, worthless and most of all embarassed.
I wonder how other autistic people thrive despite their differences. I cannot think of one single positive thing about being autistic in this world not geared up for the likes of me. I would change in an instant given the chance to blend in with the rest of the world; to be able to enjoy life without the infinite list of difficulties I currently suffer navigating through this minefield of an existence.
I often wonder if life is going to always be this miserable? Will I ever be able to find a purpose, a direction which brings me any happiness?
I’m nearing 50 so at best I probably have another thirty years left and I cannot go on like this for the rest of my days. I need to find a way to thrive or my life will have been a complete waste.
Realising I cannot change
I’ve always hated not feeling comfortable fitting in with normal society. I held the hope for so long that I could change something in my life to fix things. I tried so many alternative therapies, hypnotherapy, meditation, NLP, mindfulness and reading everything I could find about how to reprogramme my brain. Nothing made any difference, I only found myself feeling more miserable. Constantly reading about how people changed their entire lives by simply thinking differently was a repeated kick in the teeth.
In a way the hope of finding a solution to my difficulties has kept me going all these years, pushing me on through the traumas, mental breakdowns and the existential crisis I’m living in every day.
For some people discovering that you are autistic and suffer with ADHD gives them a sense of relief and a validation. An explanation for the way theu’ve dealt with life. To me, this bombshell has ripped away any last hope I had of a normal life. I feel lost knowing that I cannot be fixed. I’m wired like this, the world functions like that and the two do not fit together smoothly. I feel like I’ve been dropped into a vacuum and I’m numb. I hate being like this because living is so difficult. I have no joy, only a constant barrage of stress and anxiety which I have no choice but to deal with. Hope used to give me the only joy in my life, filling me with a purpose to somehow find a way to mend my brain but that has gone. Evaporated.
How do autistic people learn to thrive in this world?
As I’ve got older my dreams have changed. In my teens and twenties all I wanted was to be a rock star and travel the world. That didn’t work out because I’m just not wired for that kind of social contact. In my thirties I became a father and wanted to provide a stable home for my family and all dreams of the rock star life faded. In my forties, I’m still working hard to provide that stable life but as I head closer to my fifties my dreams have changed again.
There’s a finality in mind now I’m reaching my half century. Before now I never really thought about the end, it seemed so far away. Something clicked recently and now all I can think about is potentially how long I have left to reach any of my dreams. I can feel time slipping away, in fact it’s almost certainly moving much faster than it used to in my twenties.
Right now all I dream of is a stable income and a quiet life in a rural village away from people. I’m on the cusp of buying a house right now in a typical residential area in a town. I’ll be signing up the next twenty two years of my life taking me to the grand old age of seventy before I actually own it. I do worry whether there will be any useful time left in my life by that age to enjoy anything and the thought of working right up until I die isn’t a pleasant one.
How do I reach my dream of the quiet cottage in the country sooner so that I can have some quality of life before I become too old to enjoy things? The only anser I have is to work even harder than I already do and hope that something clikcs, enabling me to pay the mortgage off sooner and afford the rural dream. I just want the chance to work hard and be financially successful. I’m tired of having my dreams just out of reach, ever creeping away from me as everything I struggle to make a success always seems to fail.
Battling my neurodivergent brain to achieve anything is honestly the most difficult challenge I face to reach my goals. I have the abilites and the drive to succeed but translating those thoughts and desires into reality seems almost impossible. Is there a way for me to force my brain to focus long enough to be successful at one thing or should I continue to spread myself thinner and thinner attempting to juggle increasing numbers of projects in the hope that one of them sticks? I’m going with the latter option because focus is my holy grail and probably out of reach forever.
I’m really hoping that the move to owning a house again, not being beholding to a landlord and having the freedom to adapt my surroundings to suit my business will open a door in my creativity and allow the good stuff to flow. I do believe in the power of intentions and the law of attraction so I’m setting my mind firmly towards paying off the full mortgage within ten years.
Wish me luck.