autism, Health & Wellbeing, LGBTQ+, Neurodiversity

Open Letter to Tweenage Me

Hey, tweenage Abby. How’s it going? What’s new? Just kidding – everything that is new for you right now is Very Old For Me. I’m double your age now, isn’t that whack? We’re nothing like you imagined we would be. Except for our mahi, maybe. We definitely saw that coming – even if the context is different.

Approx 2008, age 10 – Post-horse riding (pre-braces!)
Jun 2006, Age 8
~ No further commentary ~

Pretty Privilege

Right now, you’re smack bang in the middle of your – for lack of a better term – “glow up”. You’ll stay the same creative, eccentric, deep thinker, but by the time you hit thirteen, early puberty will have worked its wonders so well that old family friends won’t recognise you, and suddenly, out of the blue – girls will want to be friends with you in a way you’ve never experienced before. Braces + oestrogen + depression & anxiety-ridden weight-loss = a more societally appetising version of you.

Feb 2009, age 11
Aug 2009, age 11 (braces!)

It’s actually kind of awful. The way we as a society judge ourselves and each other, both consciously and unconsciously. Against narrow, white-washed markers of physical beauty which make us all feel like garbage – even those considered “pretty”. (In fact, the “pretty” ones are often the most self-conscious.) Anything that you are idealising now – wishing you could be, have, look like – it’s not worth it. It’s not real, and mark my words – older iterations of us, myself included, have learned that we have better things to spend our time on. We also genuinely like ourselves, who we are, and what we’re becoming. No one is static; we all change and evolve, just like you are, and just like we will continue to.

Mid 2010, Age 12
Feb 2011, age 13
Skinny, bracesless and more anxious than ever ❤
Mar 2011, age 13

I Have Confidence in Me

It’s probably hard to imagine right now, but all that anxiety, self-doubt and self-loathing that overwhelms you at times – it’s not permanent. There are so many skills adult Abby could teach you, and so many things we have learned already. You know how you love singing, but can barely bring yourself to do it in front of a friend, let alone an audience? Guess what? We smash that performance anxiety out of the park ten times over, all through our high school years. We feel the fear, we let it sit with us, but we push through. Our confidence is gained gradually: through choral performances, hanging with fellow musos, and eventually, the dreaded NCEA solo performances. We’re eventually brave enough for musicals, and even sing at our final prizegiving front of the entire school community, in a trio, alongside good friends. Guess what? We also figure out some pretty important things about ourselves.

Epiphanies

For starters, we realise that we are gay. That’s a pretty big one. Well, it is at the beginning. Now it’s pretty shoulder-shrug-regular.

It’s a gradual unfurling, a slow simmering, until it all boils over. Mess. We can’t keep any of it under the lid anymore; it’s no longer subconscious or avoidable. Our attraction to women is staring us right in the face (boobs?) and there’s nothing we can do about it.

Except work on embracing it.

How does seventeen feel so far away already?

Then, at 20, we figure out that we’re autistic. Our whole life is suddenly in focus. As if we were wandering around without glasses, in fuzziness for two decades, then we got our eyes checked. Our peculiarities, sensitivities, social strangenesses – the whole enchilada: they are symptoms. The nagging sense that we don’t quite fit, that we’re missing some important information about how to human: contextualised. We’re not broken; we’re wired differently.

Months of research on autism in females + borrowed $$$ + a fuck tonne of emotional vulnerability & psychological tests = diagnosis and closure

Mother-Henning

Now, we teach kids – some your age – and we recall how it used to be for us. How it is for you right now. How it is for them. Frankly, a lot about being twelve, thirteen, fourteen, fifteen – kinda sucks. But there are also heckn’ good times to be had, and so many rites of passage to look forward to. You’ll get there. I know, ‘cos I’m here. We’re here.

If I could, I would give you so many hugs, play the doting big sister, and talk your ear off. I’d give you advice you didn’t ask for, tips and tricks for surviving adolescence, and I’d make you read the blog posts we’ve written 😉 . Not all of them, just the highlights.

Black Dog Days

Sometimes you will hate yourself so much that you don’t want to be here. You’ll wish a lot of dark things – in fact, I know you already do. Do you know what? That feeling is waaaaaay more common than you could ever imagine. Through opening up, we’ve heard countless stories of similar struggles from others. Also, spoiler alert – we get through. That’s pretty dang spectacular.

Trust us, we know what we’re talking about.

Sometimes we wish we could crawl into the brains of our past selves, and remove all the cabinets marked ‘depression’. Other times, we think they’re best left alone. A marker of all the times we got through, and an opportunity for connection with other people going through the same shit we did (and occasionally, still do). Leaning into that pain makes us wise.

It teaches us empathy, compassion, introspection – all that jazz. We’re still a fan of those things.

One more thing, Abby: some parting wisdom from great aunt Z…

Be impeccable with your word.
Don’t take anything personally.
Don’t make assumptions.
Always do your best.

~ don Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements

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