The reality of identifying as autistic means often I forget about my personhood and my other identities. I forget because it is so easy and so simple to just focus on autism identification, label, term, and identity. But, as a human, I am constructed in such a way that the word complicated defines it. It is not bad to be complicated, but rather complicated involves seeing myself as being multi-faceted, encompassing multiple, different intersected identities. But how do I embrace the whole me, and not just the autistic me?

The following strategies help me when I forget about my other identities, which are just as sacred, special, endearing, and worth celebrating, as much as the hyper-focus on my autism label.

– Acknowledge your other identities. For example, I’m not just autistic, but also neurodiverse, an Australian, female, a person in her twenties, from a bicultural ancestry. As well, I celebrate being neurodiverse too, because my chronic pain identity is part of being neurodiverse. I celebrate the chronic pain part of me because it doesn’t mean shying away from the pain issues I have and keeping it under the rug just in case it makes people feel uncomfortable. But I celebrate the rich tapestry of having a lived experience of pain possesses, such as a deep appreciation and meaning from embracing the monsters in myself that I thought I should keep inside, such as vulnerability, pain, depression, the darkness, trying to hold it together/trying to be okay.

– This brings me to my next point of embracing the scary, hidden parts of yourself. For instance, when I am strong and forgiving in and of myself I strive forward with a sense of strange strength because where to next, except the future? When I truly use these human elements of my soul it means I can produce something meaningful and purposeful. This manifests when I blog, write poetry, take photographs, and write a story. This means I use my individual vulnerability, pain, and darkness and create something with a life that sends a message to others, ‘I’m not okay, but sometimes it’s okay to be not okay’.

– This question could be asked, ‘What was I without my autism diagnosis?’

This helps me know how I made the most of my identity when I was younger. Although I don’t remember much sometimes, I do remember the times of pure joy and thrilling feelings that were experienced when I was my most, maybe even happiest self. For instance, when I was playing ball with a grandparent as a two-year-old and it was just her and me in the memory, I felt loved and most importantly safe. When I think about all the memories I had before I explicitly knew I was autistic this helps provide hindsight to see how I can celebrate my other identities; not just the autism label which at times seems heavy and like a big fat band-aid across my forehead.

Yet, what are ways you celebrate and love your intersected identities? How do you celebrate holistically all of you?

Quote courtesy of The Hunger Games (2008) by Suzanne Collins

– Suzanna

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