Brexit: An Autistic Experience

I promised myself that there would be no politics on this blog. Even then I knew it was a hollow promise. But this is something I have to talk about.

Today, Article 50 was triggered, signalling the beginning of the UK’s exit from the European Union. I make no qualms about the fact that I voted Remain. I believe that the European Union has some desperate, unforgivable flaws – but that the repercussions of taking away that security net and outside accountability would be catastrophic at this time.

But I’m not here to talk about why I desperately do not want to leave the EU. I am not involved in the complexities of politics. I don’t understand them to a deep enough degree – there are others out there who will explain everything to a much higher level than I ever could. This post is about what is going on in my head as we hurtle towards this seismic change.

It’s one of my half-joking, half-deadly-serious quips that any country on the verge of implementing such extreme social change should be forced to make sure they have adequate mental health facilities and support in place before taking the plunge. The dance of  dread currently tapping away in my head, and turning itself in knots in my stomach, is evidence as to why this is. I operate on an incredibly high level of anxiety just plodding through my normal, every day life. Something like this, without the correct support and systems in place, could very easily push it to the very edge of complete implosion.

To paint a picture of how I am feeling about Brexit (not literally, as I can’t draw to save my life – you will have to make do with some lovely flowery verbosity): my entire body feels tighter, each muscle contracting as if preparing to flee from a danger that may strike from any corner; my throat also feels stretched, as though I am constantly holding back a cry or a scream; I am stimming more than I normally would in public, playing with my fingers, picking my face and arms (not all my stims are cute), as if I can somehow distract myself enough to make this go away; my brain is a jumble of words and feelings, tripping over itself and under itself and generally completely unable to place itself solidly in reality; I want to claw at my head, throw myself against a hard surface, rip out the noise and fill my body with something other than this feeling.

I have also been disassociating, to the point where, for a large portion of the day, whenever I stood up I was completely unconvinced that my legs were mine, that I was the one controlling them, or that I was fully inhabiting my own body. The best way to describe is that I feel blurry at the edges; my lines are not defined, and I’m afraid the ink may start to leak out into the background.

I know that some of this comes from the fact that Brexit is something I do not want but am powerless to stop. It’s like I’ve been tied to a runaway train going in exactly the opposite direction to where I want to go.

But it’s more than that. As a country, we are hurtling forward into uncertainty and unknown, and, for someone who already exists at a high level of anxiety, this is very difficult for my brain to process. I can’t talk for every single autistic person on the planet. I can only speak for myself. And I am not coping with this aspect of the world. I am not coping well with this situation. I am struggling with a myriad of feelings and, as an autistic person, I am unable to filter them out in order to get through. The incessant chatter, the unending barage of opinions and emotions and uncertainty and horror, is swamping my brain. If I did not have support systems in place, I can’t begin to imagine where I would be. And I can’t even begin to try imagining where others are emotionally in the midst of this chaos.

I don’t have any advice; I can’t offer words of support, or strategies; because, to be honest, I don’t know how I am getting through each day. There should be cushioned areas for us – for people for whom this is overwhelming and debilitating – to fall into, but these are not even close to being adequately in place. I just want to reach out and hug everyone to me, to keep them safe – and, at the same time, I want those same people to put their arms around me and make me feel secure.

I have strong political opinions; I consider myself an activist, a campaigner, and I believe that through action the world can be changed. But this is not a political post. Political opinions don’t matter in the cloudy boundaries of this post. Not even mine.

I want people to recognise that our reactions to this situation are real and tangible, with physical and mental effects, and that we need to be supported wherever we sit on the political fence. There are people for whom this change and uncertainty is literally torture. We don’t need to be laughed at. We don’t need to be mocked. We need to be appreciated, and understood, and taken care of so that we can continue to function as best we can. Is this really too much to ask of this world?

At the end of the day, even if I am just screaming into an endless void, I needed to write this.

Otherwise, I think I would have exploded.

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