So anyway, as y’all know, yesterday I celebrated my “Aspie birthday” (please pardon the term–that’s just what it feels like to me), or my one-year anniversary of finding out that I was almost-assuredly somewhere on the Asperger’s/autism spectrum. The “almost-assuredly” transformed into “assuredly” with each online questionnaire I took, finally culminating with the corroboration of my findings by a professional in November, complete with official diagnostic paperwork–signed, sealed, and delivered via email.
A year ago yesterday, my world stopped…
…and my real world began.
It’s been an interesting past 12 months, obviously 🙂
I’ve gone through a complete metamorphosis–well, I shouldn’t say that it’s complete just yet, because life is lived in motion.
But I can say that I’ve browsed and found my place on the spectrum, I’ve settled in comfortably, and for the most part, I’ve unpacked.
I’m going to be here a while, after all.
The metamorphosis itself has been overwhelmingly positive, bringing about changes both internal and external. It’s had a transformational effect on not only myself, but the others around me, a circle that has grown wider than I ever imagined, and mostly online.
It’s also kind of a mixed bag, in that because I’m still growing and changing, and because I’m human, I’m also imperfect and thus, so is my process.
When I hit the Total Button on the past 12 months rolling, I come up with “good”, “bad”, and stuff in between. In short, life is composed of shades of gray. Except now, for me, my discovery and subsequent diagnosis have added the much-welcome dimensional aspect of color.
Here’s what I’ve come up with, regarding the state of my being thus far…
I didn’t exactly plan on this particular change. It’s not like I was looking for it. I had lived nearly 40 years in my state of being, knowing that I’m different from the people around me, and I had never had an answer for it, so I never looked.
I had long since given up on changing, after many years of trying, so I didn’t think it was possible. After all, even having gone through everything I’ve experienced in the past year, I’m still…me. I haven’t gone anywhere. But I’d be lying if I said that I haven’t changed, because I have, in some way.
I’m healing residual pain from childhood (thank you for bearing with me thus far, and I humbly ask for your continued bearing with me, as I have processed and continue to process these various emotions and healing stages; some will be beautiful, but not all will be pretty, as is the nature of life, and the parts of this that I can express, I probably will continue to, so that’s where the “bear with me” request comes in).
This pain comes from multiple sources: some from my family, some from significant others (including a long history with my partner), some from my classmates (especially in my earlier years of school), some from employers and coworkers, and some from complete strangers. I can honestly say that I’ve come a long way from where I was, and far along a healing journey in a much more positive direction. I’ve cleared the cobwebs away from my early childhood self and reunited with her, acknowledging her presence once again, and for the first time, embracing her. I’m getting to know her once again, and the adult that she should have become, along with the adult she actually became.
I’m a lot more comfortable with her, and myself (my true self) than I had been before.
I’ve answered many miscellaneous questions. Quite a few non-denominational prayers have been answered; many long-standing mysteries that had previously only been thorns in my side have now been solved.
Mysteries surrounding why I was different, why I couldn’t seem to grasp and master basic skills that seemed to come so naturally to everyone else, why I couldn’t live up to their expectations, why I couldn’t deliver, why I couldn’t fulfill some of the needs of others, why I couldn’t seem to “measure up” on a neurotypical ruler and weigh in properly on a neurotypical scale. I now know that they are Imperial, and I am Metric (I’m in the US). I now know that I am Mac or Linux, and they are PC. I know that I’m different, not less. I know that it’s not that I’m disordered, it’s that I’m tuned to a different frequency.
I’ve also learned that that’s OK! “Different” doesn’t mean “bad”. “Difference” is not synonymous with “insufficiency”.
I am now much more comfortable in my own frequency. I can now project signals outward, because I finally feel like I can speak. Part of this is because I’m now aware of how to express and explain myself, having finally been exposed to the vocabulary to do so. Now that I know the vernacular, I can define terms and use them with others of the non-Asperger’s/autistic neurotype, and reach common understanding. I’ve been able to build a bridge. It’s not completely solid yet, but it’s well under construction.
I’m still semi-stuck in an “Us vs Them” stage, an attitude that isn’t the most constructive. Much of this has actually dissipated–a lot–but if I’m honest with myself, I can see that I’m not “over it” quite yet. I realize that part of this is probably temporary, although I’m not sure how much of it will linger, or for how long.
This “Us vs Them” theme probably stems from another arguably-darker sentiment I’ll call “Neuro-snobbery”. I’ll admit that I’ve become at least a bit of a Neuro-snob, in that I’d endured so much criticism from multiple angles for so long, and had been cast (unwantedly) into a powerless defense mode, that now that I had discovered the truth, been vindicated and validated, and found the words to describe my different-but-legitimate phenomena, I felt a little vengeful. I experienced resentment. I went on the offensive at times. Sometimes, these (powerful) emotions would rise up in response to the slightest provocation, or perhaps even from out of nowhere at all. It confused me almost as much as it confused those around me.
I don’t like to admit any of this; it’s not exactly flattering, nor does it speak very highly of my character, nor is it a sign of maturity. But I’ll be straight up: it has happened, and to a lesser extent, it’s still happening, and all I can say is that I’m newly-discovered Aspergian/autistic human. As an adult diagnosed on the Asperger’s/autism spectrum at 38-39, I’m still processing everything. I’ve got almost 40 years of being overlooked, overloaded, misunderstood, misinterpreted, criticized, skeptically second-guessed, and failed to be taken seriously, that it’s safe to say that I have a metric ton of old junk to clean out, residual debris to clear out, old tapes to erase, old habits to break, and new approaches to implement in their place. Here, again, I’m not sure how long this will take. I do know I’ve made plenty of progress already; I also realize I have a long way to go.
The Shades of Gray:
Pretty much all of the above; as you probably noticed, there’s fine print everywhere–disclaimers nestled in with The “Good”, and “chin-ups” peppered throughout The “Bad”.
And there’s more: other people are adjusting to the Whole New Me, too. Their journey is intertwined with mine, but it is also separate and distinct. Every person in my life is going through an adjustment process of their own. They’re processing my informational factoids and experiential anecdotes right along with me. I try to close the knowledge and insight gaps as soon as I can; especially in the earlier days of my own journey, I found a plethora of articles and blog posts that explained what was going on, decoded my neurology, and mirrored my experiences. As soon as I surfed on in to a particularly relevant link, I copy-pasted it into an email to my partner, my unobtrusive solution for sharing my newfound insight with him without endlessly talking about it, or trying to bring up a topic or start a discussion during a time that wasn’t convenient for him. This way, the knowledge gap could be kept to a minimum and our transformations could occur as parallel as possible.
The year 2016 will go down in my personal history as probably the most monumental year for me to date. I spent the first three-ish months as the caterpillar I had been for the preceding 38 years before that. I spent April in a complete cocoon, catching up and making up for lost time, learning everything I could and (re-) discovering myself. My oldest and newest selves came together in a cataclysmic reunion. We now shared a cohesive bond for the first time.
Tears fell, usually several times a day, for the first few months straight. I felt chains I hadn’t known existed being unshackled, piece by piece. I felt the sweet and bittersweet liberation wash over me. November brought the official diagnosis, the only one I can think of that someone would be happy to get. And “happy” doesn’t do justice for what I felt. Adjectives that seem like mere synonyms, like “relief”, “freedom”, “explanation”, “truth”, “liberation”, “natural”, “vindication”, “legitimacy”, “validation”, “confirmation”, and so on, actually compounded themselves in my head, in an additive, or even exponential–as opposed to overlapping–effect.
I felt as infinite as the universe itself. I felt like I could–and had–moved mountains. Not in a power-hungry, delusional, ego-inflated way, but rather the way in which one feels when they’re finally in control of their own destiny for the first time.
The Emotional Torrent of Adult Asperger’s / Autism Discovery ~ August 8, 2016
No Longer Pretending ~ October 30, 2016
My Asperger’s / Autism and Resentment ~ January 10, 2017
Now I Know Why… ~ May 7, 2016
Everything Old Is New Again ~ May 8, 2016
How I ‘Hid’ (or ‘Coped With’) Asperger’s ~ December 5, 2016
All The Things I Wasn’t ~ October 11, 2016