Sometimes I feel like I’m not exactly a “completely” autistic person, in a way.
What does that mean?
Well, it’s kind of hard to pin down, but I’ll do my best.
I can say with certainty that it’s not like I feel like a fraud. I know that I’m on the Asperger’s/autism spectrum. I knew it before I went for my formal evaluation. I knew it when I looked up the characteristics. I knew it when I read the incredible blog posts of other people on the Asperger’s/autism spectrum. I knew it when I started blogging. I knew it when I joined social media. And finally, it was corroborated by my formal diagnosis.
So, I know that I’m for real. Oh, there have been a tiny (single-handed) few people who were pretty much out of touch with reality, who tried to accuse me of being a fraud, or somehow less-than-real.
But I am real. And I step deeper into my new shoes each day, feeling the proverbial sand welcome my feet into its fold, knowing that I am comfortable and welcome here.
And I walk my path each day, obediently (and willingly, even happily) fulfilling my journey, putting one foot in front of the other, stringing words together (both those read and written), and I increasingly reveal to the world my authentic self.
It’s a flappy, happy vibe.
The newness, however, is still there. I’ve written before about how coming into my own and getting used to my new Asperger’s/autistic identity is a process. Although I discovered it one night, it didn’t happen overnight. It’s still crashing into me, washing over me in refreshing, cleansing, clarifying, peace-making ways.
And every time a new wave hits me, I don’t necessarily have the “good” sense to shut my mouth about it. After all, I still feel compelled to (over?)share.
It’s not that I still feel the need to convince myself. I’m already convinced. It’s just that each new crashing wave brings the idea further on home, and makes it even more real for me.
In the movie “The Matrix”, Morpheus expresses concern about liberating Neo from his artificial intelligence-created tomb, lamenting that it’s not wise to free someone so late in life. He was almost too old to be set free. This is because in their experience, anyone liberated after a certain age has a tougher time accepting the truth; they’ve lived in the illusion-world for so long, and they’ve carved out their place in it.
Well, I can vehemently say that I never carved out any place in the neurotypical world at large. The realization that I’m autistic/an Aspie was not a tough pill to swallow. That, I am solid about.
But although the discovery wasn’t hard to take (it was, in itself, a liberation, and I know that my life is miraculously better off for it), I can still identify with Neo from “The Matrix” in a way.
I wasn’t diagnosed as a kid. I was much older when I found out the truth about my place on the Asperger’s/autism spectrum.
So I never had to endure horrendous “therapies” like ABA, ECT, etc. I can read the personal accounts of others who have, and I can imagine what it must have been like (blech!). But I can’t identify firsthand.
I didn’t have any specialized education. There were no individualized education plans (IEPs) in my academic experience. My education was the same as any non-autistic person. I never had an OT (occupational therapist).
So, I didn’t have the “full” (conventionally-speaking) experience of being a (known/diagnosed) autistic kid, and I also didn’t have the more common experiences often shared among other autistic adults, either.
Many adult-diagnosed autistic people describe how their partner began asking them questions or encouraged them to look into the idea that they may be autistic. Or maybe people at work started to suggest or hint at the possibility that they might be on the spectrum.
My partner isn’t very in-tune with me in that way, nor did he know enough about the topic to address it with me. And I’ve been self-employed since long before my “masking/acting” abilities started to tank. So I didn’t have anyone in my life nudging me to explore the possibility that I may be autistic.
I don’t have any kids, much less any on the spectrum. So, I never had any mental health or medical professionals gaze upon me with any suspicion like they sometimes do with parents who bring their children in for an autism spectrum evaluation. I also never looked at the questionnaires that listed and described the various traits and had any “wow, this sounds like me, too!” a-ha moments.
In fact, had I not been doing what I do, sifting through the medical journals, paying attention to the titles of the various published papers and thinking back to a distant family member I had only met less than three years before (a total of two times, no less), and having the presence of mind to start connecting dots in my head with an open mind…
…then I might never have made the discovery (!).
I was browsing research journals online, y’all. Seriously, that’s how I found out. I had been browsing them for two years already. All kinds of topics–gastrointestinal issues, hormone imbalances, nutrition, schizophrenia, PTSD (which I also hadn’t known that I had until 2015), microbiology, toxicology, genetics, psychology, sociology, herbal extracts, the after-effects of surgery and general anesthesia, and so on and on and on…
I make for a pretty boring autistic.
There’s so very much of the Asperger’s/autistic experience that I can relate to.
And there’s also a little bit that I don’t share firsthand.
I never had the experiences that so many others have. I never had the eating disorders, the preoccupation with dinosaurs, the fascination with trains (although I love trains), the self-harm, the aptitude for computers or writing code or tinkering with machines or flapping my hands or rocking back and forth.
Dang, I am a pretty boring autistic person! (Smile.)
I have more in common with the autistic community than I ever realized, though. It’s amazing how many “me too”s fly back and forth on a daily basis.
Those common threads are treasured, of course.
Maybe my differences (and those of others in a similar position, or even in different positions) add something to the spectrum, some kind of additional depth and color. Maybe our differences turn the spectrum into more of a 3D cloud or a constellation.
Maybe it’s not “incomplete” autism, per se, that I’m feeling. Maybe more of an “unconventional” autism. 🙂