The first inkling I had that I might be Aspergian/autistic came from perusing medical journals. I browsed through their archives, just like I had for the past three years. It had become a routine and relaxing pastime.
The Evening In March was progressing along…well, comfortably routinely, much like any other. There had been no visible difference, no yellow light to signal the plot-twist just ahead.
One journal article title does not a suspicion stimulate. But 10? 30? More? They started piling up. The evidence was cumulative, and so, thus, grew my intuition, that naggingly curious feeling that eventually catches flame and demands to be satisfied.
The online test result told me pretty much all I needed to know. (Of course, I didn’t stop there, since I have an inflexible desire to be thorough and accurate, which includes a lot of Devil’s Advocate-playing and all that.)
My very first AQ (Asperger’s/Autism Quotient) score was 43 out of a possible 50.
And as it turns out, I never scored that low again.
As I began to flood my brain with information from people like Tony Attwood, Anna at Anonymously Autistic, Tania Marshall, Mae at Seventh Voice, Samantha Craft, Rudy Simone, Temple Grandin, and so many, many other amazing people, I knew that I had stumbled upon the key.
The key I had been looking for, but could never find.
As it turns out, I hadn’t been running the right Google searches. Of course, it helps to type the right terms into the search box. 😉
Every so often, like many others on the Asperger’s/autism spectrum, I go back and take those online tests again.
Visual Vox/Aspie Under Your Radar wrote an excellent piece describing her version of this tendency (“Where am I on the autistic spectrum today?”). I have to repeat my stock phrase here: I can relate!
One might assume that Asperger’s/autism discovery might result in one feeling “less autistic”, which might even translate to “more neurotypical” online test results.
The logic behind this belief may be rooted in the idea that after discovering that one is on the spectrum, one of two things might happen:
- That we “learn” more “successfully” how to act/be “less autistic”, now that we are aware of the traits within ourselves that coincide with those of the Asperger’s/autism spectrum, or
- That realizing that we are indeed on the spectrum might allow us to relax enough to display “less autistic” behavior.
Speaking only for myself (but having come across several other conversations or blog posts along similar lines), I can say that both of those possibilities would be wrong.
My scores never wavered and threatened to leave Asperger’s/autism spectrum territory.
If anything, they ventured further into it, displaying even stronger traits.
This may not surprise anyone. Some might surmise (a third possible assumption) that during my reading up on All Things Asperger’s/Autistic, I might have subconsciously “learned” how to be “more autistic”. They might figure that in order to feel “legit”, I might attempt to fit the profile that much more strongly, aligning myself with the traits listed.
While that may be a reasonable presumption, and that phenomenon may indeed happen to a select few, I can say that that particular assumption is also inaccurate, in my case.
I think that what actually happened was that I finally became comfortable with who I was. I finally got back in touch with my true nature, the one that had collected dust and cobwebs for so long. The one I had tried to conceal. The one that even I didn’t believe had been socially acceptable.
I learned that it’s OK if I’d truly rather go to the library than the mall, to a museum instead of a theater, sit by myself instead of hang out with other people.
I learned that it’s OK if other people’s reactions often perplex me, that I don’t usually know what they’re thinking, that I can’t anticipate their responses after all.
I suck at that.
And that’s OK.
I’m good at other skills, like focusing deeper, contemplating the nature of the universe while staring, accumulating more information on topics, filing away background information on particular subjects, and so on.
I learned that I’m not a cold distant person or a hermit for wanting my space, that I’m not “hard to get along with” or “too repetitive” or “a stick in the mud” for sticking to my routine, that I’m not a narcissist just because I turn inward, and I’m not a snob just because in my world most of the action occurs on the inside.
Over the weeks and months that flew by after my discovery, I gave myself permission to be me, to stop masking so much, to decline to force myself to shift into my Social Mode so often, deciding to do so instead on my own terms, whenever I felt that it was actually necessary.
This meant that I only put the mask on when it was actually important to do so, such as when I met with clientele, and not simply when I tagged along at my partner’s arm when walking through the mall.
I decided, who cares if the other mall-goers stared at me while I stimmed my way through the mall? Who cares if I was verbally unresponsive, save for a wry, awkward smile when a store employee greeted me from across the store? It’s not like they knew who I was in professional life. It’s not like they would even remember much about me once I was gone.
Now that I’m more honest with myself about who and what I am, my AQ score has registered as high as 48. My Systemizing Quotient (SQ) shot up higher, from 193 to 206.
I realize now that the original score of 43 must take into account the masking efforts. And obviously, despite having worked so hard on developing those, I never stood a chance of convincing anyone that I was anything other than Aspergian/autistic. It not only poked through; it shone through, and brightly. I would never have escaped it or run successfully away from it or been able to hide it, even if I had wanted to. It was Unquestionably Me.
Sure, I could memorize the online tests by taking them every day and experimenting with answers to see how they changed the score, but I don’t. I like to take them every few months, purposefully not trying to remember the answers, answering the questions from a place of authenticity. I feel that this approach “keeps it real”.
And it feels good to finally be real. 🙂