Impostor Syndrome

My 10 year high school class reunion was this weekend, and some girls from my old Girl Scout troop organized a small brunch the day after, which I unfortunately couldn’t attend (one of the downsides of living so far from home). However, it’s reminded me of an experience I had once at Girl Scout camp.

I remember the camp well. It was deep in the woods, with large platform tents, a spacious lodge that doubled as a cafeteria and event center, a boathouse with canoes and kayaks for the lake, and a pool that was always far too cold to swim in. There were always tons of s’mores and plenty of pranks. My troop would often sponsor events for younger girls where we would help them earn badges by doing activities with them. One year, when we were probably 13 or 14, our leader told us that one girl in one of the younger troops had Asperger’s. Our leader’s daughter also is on the spectrum, so she was all-in 100% for inclusion. Before we began our sessions, our leader told us that we should expect her behavior to be a little different from the other girls, like she may not respond right away when we talked to her, or she might be very focused on her work and not want to be interrupted. Pretty typical stuff.

Later, when the sessions had ended and it was just us older girls, we were talking about how the activities had gone that day. In reference to the autistic girl, my best friend blurted out “Oh my gosh, Sam, she’s just like you!”

At the time, I was a little insulted. But now? I’m so relieved.

Why am I relieved?

Because I still feel like an impostor sometimes. Because I feel the doubt that other people have about my diagnosis, even if it’s not explicit (which, by the way, it almost never is). Over time, that doubt creeps in. Am I really autistic, or am I just asking for special treatment?

But someone noticed. Someone noticed WITHOUT my having a meltdown.

That’s some hard-won validation.

Impostor Syndrome

Some thoughts

Things were not good today.

I left my job placement two days early today. Right in the middle of the most important time of year for this particular employer. I was pretty crucial to what they were doing, and I left them hanging.

Another broken commitment.

I tried so hard to make it work. I took my breaks in the quietest areas I could find. I used hearing protection in the form of earplugs or noise-cancelling headphones (sometimes both at the same time). I disclosed my ASD and asked to not have to come in on Saturdays as one of my accommodations since I desperately needed two whole days to recover.

But it still wasn’t enough.

The quietest areas still were not quiet enough. Earplugs and headphones cause me pain after a while, so then I had to choose between two different forms of sensory overload (auditory or tactile). I haven’t been sleeping well for months. I’ve been getting bad heartburn recently (some of which is contributing to the insomnia). I cut out coffee and carbonated drinks, and took a short course of lansoprazole, which helped but didn’t cure. I did a very expensive sound sensitivity treatment in some attempt to get my auditory sensitivity under control. It didn’t help.

Is this all life is? Just limping along through a series of jobs that I can only endure for shorter and shorter lengths of time?

(That was a rhetorical question, I know intellectually that that is not what life is. Doesn’t change the fact that that’s what it feels like).

I don’t know how to not work. I don’t know how to deal with a gap in my resume. I don’t know how I will find work if I’m not currently working. So I panic and leap at the first job I find, even if I know it will be a terrible fit. Then I panic when the sensory demands back me into a corner and I ungracefully escape, leaving a crater behind me. I don’t know how to stop this cycle of endless panic.

I should correct what I said above; I didn’t technically “leave” my placement, the temp agency offered to contact the client to let them know that I would not be in tomorrow, and then I am supposed to contact the temp agency again tomorrow to let them know how I’m doing. What I need is to not go back at all, but I couldn’t even say that.

I don’t know how to say “no”.

No wait, that’s not quite right.

I don’t know how to say “no” without sounding like an employee with an excuse. Like I’m just a fragile snowflake that needs cushy treatment.

I’ve become my own nightmare boss.

“This isn’t every job, you were just in an environment that wasn’t a good fit for you.”

How do I know what kind of an environment is a good fit? I never know if a job is going to trigger my sensory issues until I’ve been there a while. It’s impossible for me to figure it out during an interview, and I can’t even make a general list of what is good/bad because it’s literally been different for every job. The same job can be either perfect or impossible depending on the environment. How can I know when I find it if I can never tell until I’m already neck-deep?

Some thoughts