Hi, Vera! What do acceptance, love, and self-care mean for you as an autistic individual?
Oh wow, great question.
I’ll break it down into three segments, giving each topic its own section.
Acceptance, in my perspective, is when a development or a situation presents itself, and instead of trying to make it go away with some delusional choice words, thoughts, or actions, a person acknowledges the presentation before them.
With autism, I have known for quite some time that it was a part of my existence. Meanwhile, for years many folks (from teachers to doctors to supervisors to my own family) had planted proverbial seeds of doubt in my mind, making me question whether or not I was actually autistic. It wasn’t because I did anything, but it was because other people’s perceptions of what autism is to them were being challenged (and eventually destroyed, heh).
In March 2010, I stopped questioning my autism and accepted myself as an autistic. The journey through this life since then has been adventurous and at times trying, but I wouldn’t change a thing.
I will be the first to admit, love is not easy to execute. However, it is my belief that most human beings deserve to be loved (there are a select few who don’t, but I digress). When I accepted my autism in 2010, I didn’t automatically start loving myself because of it. I didn’t hate myself then because of the autism. I hated myself then because I was not happy with the life I was trying to lead; a life of just surviving.
Loving myself is still relatively a new concept. In March 2014, I made the bold move of filing a police report and pressing charges against someone who I thought had loved me for so long. It was such an empowering move, that I began reaching out to my friends and my doctors, asking them for help on how to live life and to love myself. In my case, I had to understand the concept of forgiveness (which is also part of acceptance) and not to feel ashamed to ask for help (I still struggle with that, but I love myself enough to do what’s best for me).
I usually call self-care “self-maintenance.” “Maintenance” may not be such a soft word like “care,” but it works for me.
Self-care is where a person takes a proverbial step back from the hustle of life and take a time out. There are small acts of self-care, like immersing in a bubble bath, reading a good book, or going for a walk. There are also larger acts of self-care when one is in danger, like walking away from a too demanding job, a bad relationship, or other life-altering or life-threatening conditions.
I should also note that self-care should be a positive and empowering course of action, meaning avoiding activities that will not make matters worse in your life (drugs, alcohol, sex with strangers, emotional eating, gambling, etc.). Believe me, I struggle with emotional eating and emotional spending (spending money on fast food, for example).
I do understand, however, that not everyone can do certain types of loving and accepting self-care at certain moments in their life. And that’s okay; just the acknowledgment (acceptance) that a person is fighting, everyday, for a better tomorrow (love), then that counts for self-care.
How do you accept, love, and take affirming care for yourself?
I accept myself by acknowledging that I exist, that I have rights, and that I wouldn’t change a thing about my history, even if it was offered to me.
I love myself by associating and being good friends with positive and amazing folks, who accept and love me for the brat that I am.
I practice self-care by listening to my body for signals of when it needs to take a break or seek medical attention if necessary.