A bittersweet birthday

After last year, my hopes for my birthday this year weren’t particularly high.

Actually, it was a pretty nice day. Difficult in many ways – I find it hard to remember that my father is still so ill, when he seems so well in himself.

It helped that I’d organised a structured activity (http://www.bewilderbox.co.uk – I can thoroughly recommend it!), although there was still quite a lot of free time.

I managed to keep my mask on most of the time. I’m not sure whether that’s a good thing or not. But the one time it slipped, it was made clear to me that letting the mask slip wasn’t acceptable.

I have a lot of thinking to do over the next few months, and I think I need to make some difficult decisions.

I am increasingly confident in my own identity as a person with autism. I am increasingly able to engage with the world on those terms and ask for the accommodations that I need.

But it’s clear that that particular identity will never be accepted by my family. The expectation is that I will continue to wear the mask, or adopt the persona, that I crafted over so many years in order to survive and hide my differences.

I’m starting to question how long I can keep up this dual life.

My father still uses some of the strategies that I am increasingly rejecting. And I just keep thinking – I can’t hide who I am for another 34 years.

But for today – still my birthday! – I’m taking what good I can from the day.

I enjoyed the activity. I am happy that my father could participate to the extent he did; that he is still well enough to think (and eat cake).

I am sitting writing this entry in my own flat. That wasn’t even a remote possibility a year ago.

I still have cake, and coffee, and wine.

I am surrounded by items in my home that I have chosen and that I love.

I can be quiet and calm here. Being alone tonight isn’t ideal, but I can – at last – let my mask go for the day and just be who I am, where I am.

For today, that is enough.

I’ll have to wait and see about tomorrow.


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