As most of you know, I realized that I’m assuredly (and that’s “assuredly”, not “almost assuredly”) an Aspie / autistic in late March-early April. And, as most of you also know, I was rendered a formal diagnosis last month.
I have come mostly “out” to practically everyone but the vast majority of my patients. This means that my friends, former med school classmates, former med school professors, and…my extended family…have all been privy to this information.
And now comes Christmas. I had originally planned on staying home (or at least, not flying anywhere or visiting anyone but my parents).
Then, after a conference (for which I had booked a flight) got cancelled at the last minute, I found myself holding a spare plane ticket. Unable to obtain any kind of refund and not having any other known travel obligations but having a year-long window in which to use this plane ticket, the decision to travel several states away to see family and friends during the Christmas season as I had done for the previous two years was an easy one.
The decision was made even easier by the news that my aunt has two forms of cancer, one of which is terminal, and this would assuredly be her last Christmas with us, and our last chance to see her alive.
That clinched everything.
We’ll also be there for the annual Christmas get-together with my dad’s extended family.
Trying not to dwell too much on my aunt’s future passing (it’s painful to think about and the important part is that she’s very much at peace with her situation anyway), my brain turned to that extended family I’m going to see. Although I’ll be 40 next year and I’ve gotten together with these folks all my life, I’ve never felt like I fit in; I never seemed to have a place with them. Sure, I have my few peeps with whom I feel comfortable enough to engage in conversation, but the rest pretty much ignore me, and even at my age, I’m still trying to figure out if that’s OK with me or not.
And now, let’s factor in my newfound autism spectrum status.
Although I’ve been open about it on Facebook, the interesting part is that no one–and I mean no one–in my extended family has breathed a word about it. Perhaps they haven’t seen it; Facebook has its algorithms, after all; Facebook decides what you’ll see and what you won’t. And besides, my posts have never been of particular interest to them (which might also be OK?). Throughout the year (well, OK–since early April, once I was pretty secure in my Asperger’s self-assessment), one would think that of out of all of the people in this large extended family, at least one person might have seen at least one of my posts or links and at least liked it, made a comment, or asked a question (“wow, really? I never knew!” Or something like that).
But nope, not one word. Not a peep. In about eight months.
That leaves me wondering…
Of course, true to form, I’m feeling insecure. I tend to wonder–and care–too much about what other people think of me. I know it’s not a fruitful or constructive mental exercise, but it happens regardless. I’m working on it. But for now, I’m locked into this mental loop of thought.
Who knows about this?
What do they know?
What do they think? (What have they been thinking all this time?)
What kind of judgment has been passed?
What might change now? Will there be (more) awkwardness?
Our extended family has the whole rumor mill thing down pat, and true to neurotypical form, there’s no effort spared on phenomena like judgment, double-speak, and whatnot. Naturally, the Insecure Me has conjured up all these wild thoughts about how some will think less of me.
By now, I’m sure some people reading this might be saying, “well, duh, girlfriend! Whatever you post on Facebook, be prepared for people to see it and the news to spread. You’re the one who voluntarily chose to share it. Don’t share anything you don’t want seen or don’t want people to know.”
I do realize all of that. In fact, I kept all of that in mind, every time I made a post.
…Which brings me to the other half of me. The other half of me, the Secure Me, says, “I am what I am, I’ve always been this way, nothing has changed, it’s just a new defining label, and everyone else is just going to have to deal with it. You’re fine; don’t worry about it. If they’re jackholes, it’s their problem.”
I like the second Me, the Secure Me, better. She sounds pretty convincing, too. But the Insecure Me doesn’t have the good sense to shut up. She talks back, keeping me locked in a state of apprehension.
What about the get-together shindig itself?
I’m sure that this time I’ll consciously realize it’s too noisy, too chaotic, claustrophobic, with too many people. I might realize that I’m overwhelmed.
When will I need to stim? How will I handle that?
What stim activity can I use in such a group setting as this? How will they react to that? What will they think then? Is there a way that I can do it without being noticed? What’s “acceptable”? (What’s not??)
How much sensory stimulus will I be able to endure (and for how long) before I get antsy?
If (or, more likely, when) I do get antsy, how will I plan my temporary escape? (Maybe that’s why I took up clove kreteks a few years back; it provides an automatic exit to the outside, and for just about the perfect amount of time, too–about 15-20 minutes.)
Will people scrutinize me and/or my “behavior” to look for signs of Asperger’s/autism? Will people suddenly see me in a new light, too, and will that new light be positive or negative?
The Secure Me snaps back, “look, Insecure Me; here’s the deal: it’s going to be what it’s going to be. People will think what they’re going to think. You don’t have any influence or control over that. But chances are, if you’ve been a wallflower at family gatherings all this time and no one has noticed you much, that’s probably not going to change. In fact, it’s probably going to work in your favor, for once.”
Secure Me is a fiery one, she. She’s really on a roll now, on some kind of encouraging, empathetic rant. “You don’t have much in common with this extended family, remember? Some of them are downright snobby, others are two-faced, etc. Just sit back and revel in the fact that you’re not like them and you didn’t want to interact with them much BEFORE you realized you’re an Aspie, so just chill. The beat of your drum isn’t the same as the beat of theirs, and it never was, so nothing has really changed. If they think less of you now because of what and who you are, well, then that clinches the fact that you don’t want to relate much to them anyway. It’s their loss, not yours. Take solace in the fact that you are that much different from people like that; would you want to be able to relate to that? Yeah, I didn’t think so.”
Secure Me sits back, arms folded across her chest, satisfied.
And I think, that at least for now, I’m satisfied, too.