AUTONOMY IN MY LIFE
WHY I SWITCHED FROM UNACHIEVABLE INDEPENDENCE TO AUTONOMY
Like most of us, I was raised with independence set as my ultimate goal by everyone around me. I achieved independence in some areas. In others, I didn’t. And no matter what and how hard I tried, I just couldn’t get there.
Ultimately, striving for unachievable independence has nearly killed me. I suffered severe autistic burnout, ended up in the hospital, and am still recovering today – four years later.
Ultimately my self-analysis lead me to the realization that trying to achieve the same things as the people around me simply wasn’t realistic. Because I had different abilities, disabilities, and needs from them. I understood that I needed to do things my way to be healthy and successful. That’s how I discovered autonomy over forced independence.
The biggest difference between struggling for unachievable independence versus going for autonomy for me is a huge preservation of energy which has a positive effect on my health.
The other big effect this change has on me is my much better self-esteem. I am not constantly failing to achieve an impossible goal really set for me by other people. Instead, I am setting myself up for my own personal success my way.
HOW I USE AUTONOMY
Here are some examples of how I switched from striving for unachievable independence to autonomy in my life:
I CAN’T COOK
I kept trying different ways to learn how to cook. Cookbooks, recipe cards I made myself, online tutorials, with my husband, Mom, and carer…I ended up exhausted every single time, often had meltdowns, and needed days of recovery for every meal I ended up cooking. I felt like a total failure and I was terrified of not being able to feed myself.
I don’t try to cook anymore. Instead, I go with what I CAN do. I heat up ready-made meals. I also eat lunch at my sheltered workshop. Sometimes my husband and I order food online. If there is fresh food prepared in our household it’s my husband who cooks. I help cutting things if I can.
I may try cooking again in the future. If I feel like I can handle it.
I CAN’T REMEMBER THINGS
I kept trying all kinds of things to help me remember stuff. The calendar on my mobile phone, planners, alarms…I always ended up forgetting to use these things. I forgot a ton of appointments and tasks. I was frustrated and felt like a failure.
I now understand my Executive Dysfunction prevents me from being able to reliably use the items that would theoretically help me remember things. I say honestly “I won’t be able to remember that.” when people ask me to do stuff for them. “You will need to remind me of this until it’s done.” is a big part of my life now. My husband and Mom play a huge role in reminding me of appointments and tasks.
I still try using my helper items because when I do remember they really help me and I love my planner. But if I forget I accept it and don’t blame myself anymore.
I HAVE TROUBLE MAKING DECISIONS
I would research every single decision I had to make before being able to make it. I often got stuck because I couldn’t get enough information to be able to make a decision, had too many decisions I was researching at the same time or was too exhausted to research. I got a lot of meltdowns trying to decide things. I had a lot of pressure, stress, and anxiety over decision making.
If I can’t make a decision I just…don’t. I now often say “I can’t decide this right now. I’ll let you know when I can.”. I also use “I can’t decide this right now. Please decide for me.” rather frequently.
Especially around factually unimportant everyday decisions that my brain declares too important to decide quickly. Like when my husband asks me what to cook for lunch during the weekend. Or when my boss asks me which task out of three I want to do first.
- CO-OCCURRING CONDITIONS
- PUBLIC STATEMENTS