Some days, I can rock my world. Those are the days where I can breeze through running errands, still have energy when I come home, cook food, work, and more with relative ease. Then there are days like yesterday when I struggle to function at all. Days when I have to call off work because I can’t get dressed. Days when I need instructions for putting food in the oven. Days when I my threshold is so low I meltdown over minor instances.
My functionality is always varying. This hold true for everyone, but for autistics and other neurodivergent people, our variance can be much more drastic from one day to the next, or even from one moment to the next. This can be really hard to come to terms with.
Sometimes I can speak eloquently at length to others with no noticeable difficulty. Other times I am unable to turn the torrent of words within my mind into sounds that are intelligible to others. The brain words get stuck before turning in mouth words. Still other times my social scripts fall easily out but I am unable to communicate what I am actually thinking. A yes falls out before I even process the question but when I realize what’s being said I can’t get anything unscripted out.
How do you explain to the people around you that while, at this moment, you can speak clearly and get your points across, there will be other times when for no apparent reason that is not the case. It is easy for people to assume that it’s a lack of desire to speak or obstinate behavior. They can’t hear the streaming sentences in my mind thrashing to be released but unable to make it out.
I start to question if maybe I’m just not trying hard enough. Maybe I really am just pretending to not be able to speak. Maybe I’m just awful.
But the words won’t come no matter how hard I try, and, honestly, trying that hard just makes it take longer before my words come back to me. With the pain and distress that comes along with being unable to communicate, having to go along with things I am unable to protest, knowing that others have interpreted my communication incorrectly and not being able to correct it, why would I pretend to not be able to speak? I remind myself that my ability to communicate verbally does not define my worth as person.
Most days, I am able to maintain self-care to a functional level without assistance. I can dress myself, keep myself clean, and feed myself with decent success. I struggle to remember what needs to be done and am easily sidetracked, but I have found ways to manage. But then there are days when these tasks seem insurmountable. Days when I get halfway dressed but then get stuck, staring around, unable to move forward or finish dressing myself. Days when I can’t remember the steps it takes to reheat leftovers. Days when my executive function tanks and I struggle with most tasks.
Some days I can go out into the world and blend among the sea of neurotypicals. On these days I can go shopping and manage conversation with store clerks. I can walk through a store with relative ease, find what I need, and go about my day. Other days I can make it through as long as I don’t have to talk to anyone. Still other days, just the sensory overload from the lights and sounds of a store send me reeling the moment I walk in. The only way to make it through is to flick my fingers, walk on my toes, hum to myself, and get out as soon as possible. On the good days, I get home and continue on with my day. On the bad days, I make home (or to the car) before melting down. Sometimes I can avoid the meltdown, but will be unable to do much of anything for the rest of the day.
How can I function so well some days, but barely function at all on others? Am I lazy? Am I faking? Am I just suffering from Special Snowflake SyndromeTM?
My abilities fluctuate based on a myriad of factors. How much sleep I’ve gotten, life stress, level of sensory input, pain levels, and much more have effects on what my abilities are each day. Many of these things hold true for everyone, but are just so much more noticeable for me and others who are neurodivergent. We are not faking or lying or trying to be special. We are not trying to avoid doing things. We are simply trying to exist in a world that isn’t designed for us a takes a larger toll on us than on most neurotypicals.
While I’m still struggling, I am working to accept my varying abilities. I try my best every day and should not be ashamed if today’s best isn’t the same as yesterdays. I have years of ableist notions ingrained in my mind that I need to fight against. I am not my productivity. I have value separate from the ways in which I can contribute to a capitalistic society. My abilities are unique and ever-changing and I will not be ashamed.