Autism Self Love

Autistic negative feedback” baggage” and learning to love ourselves.

Self love is a very difficult concept for me.

I think it is difficult for many other elder autistic people too. The very idea that we deserve anything as an individual has been driven out of our thoughts by negative feedback for too long.

From my earliest memories I recall feedback from others about my selfishness, laziness, thoughtlessness, worthlessness, my failures and my seemingly deliberate wickedness.

Those negative statements about me and my behavior, plus early and continual childhood training as a Christian (where everything is about taking care of others, service to others, selflessness, giving and humbleness) were absorbed early and taken to heart. Having no other guidance and trying to understand the rules for living life, it is no wonder I got so much of it wrong.

In a recent online discussion and subsequent blog ( Was there Love?) wrote thoughts about how most of us in my autistic forums on line felt unloved and unlovable. This is sort of continuing the theme and enlarging on it. What do we do with all of those negative feelings about ourselves and our lack of worthiness?

I got therapy at age 30 due to suicide attempts and depression/anxiety I could no longer control by my willpower alone. The therapist probably had his worst problems in me with my self worth and my inability to stand up for myself.
I did not understand that my thoughts and opinions or preferences had any value. I had to learn that I had worth as an individual, and then I had to learn how to express my thoughts and preferences, set healthy boundaries and above all, learn to take positive actions to keep the boundaries and to take care of myself instead of sacrificing my self in response to other’s demands and desires. I had learned to appease others when I was very small, to avoid punishment and anger. I had to be taught that I was a person in my own right and that it was OK to want things, to ask for things, to have my own beliefs and ideas. Autistic rigid thinking was at work, and I had no idea that I had alternatives. It was terrifying to suddenly be responsible for my self.. I had to take responsibility for my thoughts, my behavior, my ideas, and above all to take action to enforce boundaries to declare myself a person and not a servant, slave, or accessory. ( among other roles I was expected to play )

I was not able to get past the idea that I was at all worthy of being more than a puppet for others to use as they chose.
I ended up having to look hard to find the time in my childhood when I began to learn the negative things and believe them.

I ended up seeing myself between ages of 5 and 8, and being able to find the little girl who was so afraid and who felt so unloved and unwanted. When I was able to do this, ( and remember I can not picture a thing in my mind, so I need visual aids such as photos, models, maps, or drawings to “see” things), I purchased a sad looking child-doll (not a baby!) and put her near my bed so I could see her and think about that child and how I was now able to give her what she had need and not got. I took care of her in my mind and heart. I took pleasure in giving her new clothing, imagining her being cherished, supported, fed and cared for, helped with struggles and given love. I was able to transfer those feelings first to my childhood self, who had missed it all, then to my middle school and teen years and the years of my early 20s.

Breaking though that initial barrier of feeling unworthy took a lot of time, though, and emotional homework. I cried for that little girls a couple of times, but not for long. I had been trained to believe my feelings were not worthy of being recognized and taught to hide them deep within myself. That was yet another skill to learn, to identify my own emotions and to recognize them properly, and to learn to respond to them properly.

Autistic people have many struggles identifying emotions and sorting them out as it is,
our proprioception/ interoception neurological issues being common to most of us.

I was taught to deny my emotions or to redirect them until my whole idea of self was buried deep in what I hid, and never thought or understood that there were other ways and that other people handled these things differently.

It has taken a very long time and lots of hard work to develop new behaviors and to find new ways of thinking. I am certain that many of us, especially older people who have never considered they might be autistic, grew up with similar training… and with similar results.

Years and years of negative feedback from family, neighbors, schoolmates, co workers, spouse and other contacts in our experience have led to our deep self hatred. How could we get things so wrong? How could we fail over and over to perform as expected? How could we mess things up so badly. It was our fault! We were useless, stupid, worthless. Years of negative feedback is a lot to overcome.

When I learned about my autism, suddenly things began to make sense. No wonder I could not do what they wanted me to! I have neurological struggles which they do not have! They expected me to behave as they do never knowing, any more than I did, that I simply was give a different “tool box” from which to do what they expected of me. So amazing!
No wonder I failed! No wonder I could not work to expectations ! No wonder everything was so hard!

Diagnosis changed everything for me, even though the therapy 38 years ago helped me survive and do better in the world, it was not then that I discovered how much my autistic struggles contributed to the difficulty and distress in so many parts of my life.

Here is my message.

You are worthy of respect. You are worthy of caring, you are worthy of love and friendship.


You are an amazing survivor of so many things that were so hard to understand and so difficult to live through, never knowing about autism and about how it has worked in your life to cause so many struggles that others simply do not have.

There are so many new ways to live and to care for yourself, to assure your needs are met and to give your life a richness and fullness you might never have thought you could have.
Please take the time to explore the options, to feed the needs inside of you for so many things you have been missing all these years. Take time to find self care, self comfort, self accommodation, self interest!

If you struggle with self care, I suggest that you think about a stranger you might come across, who has had a very hard life and is full of hurt and feeling un-cared for and misunderstood.
How would you help that person?
Would you punish, shame and chastise them?
Would you be constantly angry at them when they struggled to do things that were difficult for them?
No, I doubt you would.
Instead you might try to help and encourage them, wouldn’t you?

I hope you can look at the lost stranger inside yourself and be at least as good to them as you would be to any other person .




Autism Emergencies

The importance of being prepared.

I can’t say this is about autism specifically, but being autistic and elderly has made interactions with others harder for me than it might be for some people.

In mid March 2020 my husband had a health emergency which took us to the hospital Emergency Room.

In our state of the USA, Covid 19 precautions had just been enacted.

We were screened for that from an isolated hallway, as well as having to give a summary of what my husband’s problems were. We provided proof of insurance and established that I was his spouse, his representative, and his power of attorney for health and everything else.

I was allowed to wait with my husband while he was seen and tested by many different medical people, until he was finally admitted for emergency life saving surgery.
I was allowed to stay while the operation took place and after, I saw him in recovery, and followed him to his room and saw him comfortable. I saw him again early the following morning. At that point rules had changed for Covid Isolation in Hospitals. I got a call saying I could not return to the hospital to be with him.
I was not allowed to see my husband again until he recovered enough for me to pick him up and bring him home. ( I stayed outside of the hospital, in my vehicle, he was brought to my car in a wheelchair).
We were lucky because he came home alive and continues to be well.

Things like this can happen to anybody and at any time!
Some time ago, we had made each other Power of Attorney and Health Care Power of attorney, filled out a living will making each other designated decision maker/ representative if health care decisions were needed and the individual as a patient could not respond for any reason.
We made our wills at the same time.

Today I see we made good decisions to have these issues settled while we were in decent health, decent mental condition, and not in crisis.
We could discuss everything regarding our health issues, willingness to accept life support, choices surrounding “do not resuscitate” orders, etc. We could decide who we wanted to include in our will, how we wanted our “worldly goods” distributed, make special mention of the family special items and who they should go to, etc.

If you are alone and do not have family or spouse or others to speak for you, it is most important that you have these papers showing intent and giving the persons you trust the power to help you through health struggles if you ever need it. Alternatives would be next of kin, no matter how far removed, or to have court appointed guardians or your individual health care providers making decisions regarding your situation on their own. Didn’t want to spend the next 10 years on life support in a coma? Without directives and representatives, you might not get your way.

If you want to assure your best interests, it is important for you to make those choices and decisions for yourself or have available somebody who you trust , and who knows what you want, to help you.

When I was my mother’s caretaker/ representative and we had to travel, I carried copies of all the papers we needed, as listed above, plus her medicare/medicaid/insurance papers and copies of her social security card, a list of her medicines, her meds for the day, a change of clean clothing and other needs all in a backpack that I could put over her wheelchair handles.
When I had to meet the ambulance at the hospital to have her admitted for frequent health crises, I had everything I needed to assure she got the help she needed and was her spokesperson and caretaker while she was in hospital ( Parkinsons’ dementia, autism, etc made it necessary for somebody to be attendant with her at all times.

The point of these illustrations is that we don’t know what the future might bring, but we can make any crisis we experience easier to deal with by preparing ahead. Please consider how you want to be helped, who you want to help you, and what you will and will not want “done to you” in any health crisis. You will have peace of mind and you and your Representative/Power of Attorney will not have to wonder if they did the right thing. You are more likely to get the care you need if you speak up about things that are important to you while you are not in the middle of a crisis.

Just another set of tools you can use.

History of Autism

This is a condensed history of Autism. In keeping with the practice of citing references, please note I used a Parents.com article titled ” The History of Autism” as a base of information, ( see original online). They provided the “bones” for this blog. ( Thank you) Here I have used my own wording, but full credit for the majority of dates listed and the homework involved in creating the list must go to them. I have added comments and changed wording, details, and added dates that I was able to find while searching for documentation and more information. I have been able to fully confirm the statements here using online research outside the quoted reference above. You can check for more info online as always.

Autism Timeline

1908 Eugene Bleuler , a Swiss psychiatrist, uses the word “autism” to describe traits of a certain group of schizophrenic patients. The word is based on Latin root words which mean “keeping to oneself”

1925 Grunya Sukhareva, a Russian child psychiatrist , described symptoms of recognizable behavior patterns in a group of children she described as autistic.

1943 Leo Kanner MD, publishes a paper describing “early infantile autism” describing traits of children who isolated themselves from others.

1944 Hans Asperger , Viennese pediatrician, describes “a milder form of autism” in a group of boys he was studying, saying they had trouble with social interactions and obsessive selected interests.

1950’s ( and well into the 1960’s ) Through the work of Leo Kanner, autism and many psychological disorders were blamed on cold and uncaring mothers. In 1967 Bruno Bettelheim even coined a term “refrigerator mothers”, and Kanner’s original theory was popularized on news media and talk shows. The idea of “poor parenting” being to blame for so many disorders was touted- although the same ” poor parents ” might also have had several children who were thriving. This theory has been disproved and for the most part discarded, and not a moment too soon. ( my opinion)

1977 Studies of twins shows autism is genetic and due to biological conditions in brain and neurological development. ( continuing scientific studies have even located specific genes which seem to be connected to autism)

1980 “infantile autism” is listed in USA’s DSM( diagnostic criteria) for the first time as a condition separate from schizophrenia.

1981 Lorna Wing, psychiatrist in London England, originates the term Asperger’s syndrome in describing higher functioning autism in a group of individuals. Lorna Wing is also credited for recognizing and describing the “triad of impairments” that is used as part of the diagnostic descriptions of autism today.

1988 Rainman movie is released, and public awareness of autism is raised to a higher level. Today autism is a feature in many characters of fiction, movies, television, even cartoons. Media has raised awareness, but frequently also has caused many misconceptions about autism.

1991 USA adds Autism to be included in education system under Special Education category.

1994 Aspergers’s Syndrome added to the DSM in USA as a separate category of high functioning autism.

1998 Lancet publishes a study looking at the possibility that MMR or other childhood vaccines may cause autism. This theory has been debunked by many published scientific studies after, but it still has a following despite proof to the contrary.

2000 Thimerosal is removed from all childhood vaccines due to public pressure, there has been no link found in studies; once again, the theory of vaccines or any of their components as a cause of autism has been scientifically proven incorrect.

2009 USCDC estimates autism is likely present in 1 of 110 children.

2013 DSM 5 in USA removes Asperger’s syndrome as a separate diagnosis, replacing it with new diagnostic criteria as autism.

2015 USCDC statistics now show autism may occur in 1 of 58 individuals. Males are still diagnosed more frequently than females, and the change in numbers is most likely due to better recognition and diagnostic criteria. There is discussion today (2019) that diagnostic criteria need to be developed further and there is a growing perception that females may show different signs of autism than males.