I am Autistic.

Growing undiagnosed was hard. I was a strange child, which made it very difficult for me to make friends. Also I was viciously picked on in school.

I saw the movie Cruel Intentions over the summer between the 7th and 8th grade. In true Autistic fashion, I became obsessed with Sarah Michelle Geller’s character. What fascinated me most was her ability to change who she was depending on who she was with. In front of parents and teachers she was a saint, but the students in her school knew better.

Our family moved that summer, and I had the opportunity to start over in a new school for 8th grade. Determined to be like the fictional character in my new favorite movie, I began to change how I acted in front other people. Unfortunately, Kathryn was not the best role model, but nobody picked on her.

Even as a teenager, long before learning about Autism, I knew that something was different about me. My new found persona helped me to gain many acquaintances, and the bullying stopped. Still, you may notice that I used the word acquaintances instead of friends in my previous sentence. It’s hard to get close to people when you’re on the spectrum, and even harder to let people get close to you when you are afraid they might find out who you really are.

Autism is still my deepest darkest secret. My chameleon act has gotten much more refined, and I no longer try to emulate bad role models.

Pretending to be normal is extremely draining. I have a lot of trouble holding normal conversations. Because I cannot easily pick up on social cues, just knowing when to talk and when to stop talking is hard for me. I also can get carried away and over excited when talking about something that excites me, so a large percentage of my daily energy goes to holding myself back.

Somehow I am able to get through the days in my corporate job without being discovered by my pears. At work and around new people, I tend to be quiet, even though I am a very talkative person by nature. Everyone on our team is encouraged to attend networking events, obviously this is my least favorite part of my job.

I love my job, and I am an extremely devoted employee, but the days that include networking or meeting a bunch of new people take a physical mental tole on me. Sometimes I feel as if I am melting, or shutting down. My ears get fuzzy and my eyes stop focusing. By the time I get home from a particularly social work day I feel empty and weak.

When I am tired and worn down, it is harder for me to act normal and I worry that people will pick up on some of my more noticeable Autistic traits. Usually I can pick up on when the “melt-ie” feeling is creeping on and will switch to energy reservation mode until I can get away for a reboot. My favorite reset activity is soaking in a tub filled with scalding hot water. I like to submerge myself with my ears below the waterline, listening to my heart beat.

I am struggling, but I am getting by. Managing to stay Anonymously Autistic.