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Autism: Recognizing Myself

10 May

Every year for several years at Easter, my church has taken family pictures. “It is the one time of the year everyone is likely to dress up,” my pastor says. It is sort of a tradition, I suppose.

One year – the last one my son came to church with us (his friend moved away, and he felt awkward, and wanted to be invisible, and… stopped coming) I wore a blue, sleeveless spring dress with a black lace like shirt under it. I thought it was nice – until the picture came back. I don’t know what I was thinking. I am not very good at fashion, I suppose. I have never understood it.

So the next year I tried to choose more neutral clothes. The pictures came back, and I was happy with the result.

Easter 2015

 

The following year I chose similar clothes, but the previous winter I had gained all that weight from the anti-depressants I had tried (30lbs in 12 weeks – I had never weighed so much in my life!) I stopped taking the medications, and tried to exercise and watch my diet, but I never was able to lose that weight.

Easter 2016

I hated that the picture reflected that weight gain, but it was still a nice picture.

Though it has been 1.5 years since I went off that medication, I haven’t been able to lose a pound. Not one! That in spite of a lot of focus on trying to lose that weight.

I haven’t lost any weight, but I haven’t gained any, either. So it really surprised me how much heavier I looked in this year’s picture. Like the one where my clothes were weird, this is a picture I would be ashamed to show.

Easter2017

Truly, I don’t have any real opinion on weight for other people. In fact, like clothes, I hardly notice at all. I either recognize a person because they look like they’ve always looked to me, or I struggle to recognize them (like when my son lost a huge amount of weight, and shaved his head after having long curly hair most of his life.) because they don’t.

At the same time, if people look at all different – such as famous actors playing different parts – it is extremely difficult for me to know them. Johnny Depp, for instance, always looks like either Captain Jack Sparrow, or Willie Wonka to me. Those are two very distinct characters, yet I can recognize both. Yet he plays a character that comes in at the end of Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, and while I know it is Johnny Depp playing the part, I can’t see it. I can’t.

So I think, my frustration with this weight gain isn’t about the weight at all. My struggle is that when I look at myself, it doesn’t look like me. When I try the clothes it took me 30+ years to decide were right for me, they don’t fit the same (they don’t fit at all), and when I try to find similar clothes in a larger size, they don’t look like me, either.

I am frustrated about being tried on a medication that made me gain such an extreme amount of weight. I had never weighed so much before in my entire life. I am frustrated that the doctors, and the people who decide the medication is okay to distribute, decided that what I looked like was less important than my mental state – I feel they need to treat the whole person, not make one thing worse to (possibly) make another thing better.

Yet it isn’t so much the pounds I gained, but that in that, I lost myself. After nearly 40 years, I was finally able to look at my picture, or look at myself in the mirror, and think, “that is me.” Before that, whenever I looked, I would think, “Is that really me?” It is sad to be back to that place.

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