I’ve mentioned only several hundred times before how I feel different than everyone else. The way I conduct my day-to-day life, the things I’m interested in, the things everyone else seems to like but I don’t, my reactions and opinions on basically every tangible (and sometimes the intangible) things around me like the weather, temperature, light and smells, my innumerable quirks. …There may be a very concrete reason for all of this. But, perhaps there isn’t. Maybe I am just super quirky. Totally unique. *shrug*
My favourite saying used to be, “I’m unique – just like everyone else.” There is a certain meaning in that that I liked. Yes, every single person is a unique being, but because we are different, we’re really the same. It’s a common human conundrum to want to be a special snowflake and also to fit in with those around us. We want to stand out, but not too much. I used to find that phrase comforting.
I used to.
Okay, here we go~
I have been thinking over how to do this – and if I want to do this – for the past 2 years. Even as I write this, I’m not entirely sure.
There aren’t many things in this life I’m a “firm believer” of, but one of those things is that in order to be truly happy and at peace with one’s self, you gotta stand in your truth. I think that part of the reason I have been so discontented for these past two years is that I’ve been hiding something.
I thought at first that hiding may perhaps be too strong of a word. It’s not though. That’s exactly what I’ve been doing. I came to a realization about myself, and because of my fear about the way people would react, I kept it to myself. (I discussed it briefly with only a very small handful of people, purely for my own sanity, and then left it alone. I haven’t even told any of my family, other than my husband.) I not only didn’t bring it up but when opportunities arose in conversations – I actively avoided it or changed the subject. Even with those I had originally told, I hardly ever broached the subject again. I shoved it down inside myself, just like I do with all my big emotions. Because this brings up HUGE emotions.
Let me start with this screenshot.
This post changed my life.
I had never seen myself so clearly in someone else’s words before. Something dawned on me. Could autism be that thing that made me feel so different than everyone else?
I have always felt different. Always. Since I was a young teenager, I have been trying to answer the question “what’s wrong with me?” I thought I was depressed, bipolar, insane… I thought I had my very own psychological condition that just hadn’t been discovered yet. Nothing I read or heard about ever quite fit. I even considered the possibility that I could be autistic back when I was just 15 years old – something I read in a book was similar to my view of the world – but I quickly dismissed it because the girl in the book wasn’t anything like me and, of course, everyone knew that autistic people couldn’t conduct themselves like regular people. *eyeroll*
Andy’s post brought this idea back up to the forefront of my mind so I decided I’d look into it.
As Andy says, there is so little information, even now, on what autism is and how it presents in each person. There is no firm consensus. Medical and professional (mis)information was of little help but my obsessive internet searching lead me to blogs written by autistic adults. I read voraciously everything I could find. The words I read online had me in tears. I saw myself. Finally. After a few weeks, I was almost entirely convinced that I too was autistic.
It has been a long time since then. My little journey of self-discovery has taken me to quite a few different spots. One of those was a psychologist office. I was practically desperate to know, one way or another, if this was the diagnosis that would bring me peace of mind. Was this the yes or no that would answer my lifelong question? Oh, that’s what’s “wrong” with me! ???
It did not go well. I mean, I guess it could have been worse. But it went as badly as I could have imagined it would. The doctor knew NOTHING about autism. And instead of admitting that she didn’t know, she belittled me and told me I had something else instead. Something I believe she pulled right out of her ass! (I made her pull out the DSM-5 and showed her both the criteria for Austism Spectrum Disorder and for her “expert diagnosis” and went point-for-point about why I completely disagreed with her. I ended up being too upset, ultimately unable to speak anymore, and couldn’t make a case for myself.)
Without spending $3000 to have the actual tests from someone who does know what they’re talking about, someone who deals regularly with autistic patients and knows what to look for and how to interpret what’s going on, I’m out of options to explore this possibility any further. I’ve had to make my peace with not knowing. For quite awhile, this pushed me even further into hiding what I thought could be true about myself. I had no diagnosis to back up my claims. No one would ever take me seriously. You can’t just come out and say “I’m autistic” and expect people to believe you right away.
There are people who do that. I’ve read their blogs and their books. And there is an acceptance in the ASD community for self-diagnosed people – they are supporters of the notion that ‘no one will ever know you as well as you know yourself’. But those people are armed with clearly outlined backup. When someone would ask them “why do you think you’re autistic?”, they would have their answer prepared and be ready to do battle.
I am so overwhelmed and horrible when put on the spot like that. If you gave me time to produce all my evidence and organize it in a precise way and be willing to educate yourself a little, I may convince you. (As it is, I have written many long-winded diatribes about this but just haven’t posted any of them. Yet.)
So for now, I have to be okay with “I might be autistic”. You can take my word for it or not.
What I have to deal with on my own is that, autistic or not, I am different. I have a set of traits that put me apart from others. Sometimes, it’s a nice thing. Other times, it’s horrible. These traits mean that daily life for me has its own considerations that other people may not have to deal with or ever even think about. It means I have to push myself to do things other people just do naturally or without batting an eye. It means I have to give myself leeway to not do certain things. In the best of times, it means I have an easier time doing something than other people.
It’s my life though. It always has been. I’ve developed tricks and hacks to go through my day-to-day existence, just as any other person has. There are things about me that are a little different than others, but I live my own life, just like everyone else. Most of the time, I don’t think about it. I don’t walk around the world, thinking in my head how I’m not like other people. There are times though where I’m slapped in the face with it.
I tried to formulate an explanation of how it feels to be me. I’ve often heard autistic people described as ‘living in their own world’. I can’t say if that’s true for them. But I can tell you, for me, it’s not that way. Not quite. I tried to compare it to being in the same world, but a parallel universe. Or like walking around in the Matrix – the same world but different experiences of it. Or like I have an Instagram filter over my view.
I am definitely here in your world, although I don’t feel a part of it. It feels kind of like being an immigrating alien. I’m living here, doing my best to adapt to the customs and culture of this world, but I don’t quite get it. Or it feels false. Like I’m playing a role that isn’t authentically me, even though sometimes I’m pretty good at it.
So why talk about this now? You know, other than to live my truth and be happier? *snort* Why right now? I’m leaving in a few days to visit my family. I don’t want to post this and not talk to them first. That’s kind of rude. I make no promises but I feel like I’ve kept this to myself long enough and should probably fill them in on where I’m at and what’s been going on with me. I will try to make an opportunity to do this while I’m there. And I’ll sit on this post until then. (If you’re seeing this, congratulate me for having the guts to go through with it.)
Or I’ll just have them read this.
Hi, Mom and Dad. Hi, siblings. You’re daughter/sister is one of those “weird people”. Surprise!
Update: I wrote this post back in the summer of 2018. I never did tell my family. That trip, which was another 2 years ago now, did not go well. ASD was brought up at one point, but not by me, and I was horrified at the course of the conversation and actually had to leave the room. So, in the highly unlikely event that they ever stumble across my blog, they’ll find out, but I’ll probably never tell them myself. That kind of sucks.