There’s always been something different about me. I’ve never quite fit in. I’ve always felt like an alien, observing humans and studying them to try to figure out all the things they seem to just intuitively understand.
As a child, I had an adult-sized vocabulary and was reading novels by the time I started kindergarten, but I struggled to learn to tie my shoes. (In fact, I still avoid lace-up shoes to this day.) I took everything people said literally, was socially and physically awkward, and although I was able to make some friends, I was often told by my peers that I was weird. I have always had gastrointestinal issues, and huge, life-altering sensory issues. I could go on and on about the ways in which I was (and am) different, and in which I have struggled, but will save all that for future posts.
I’m an avid reader, and in the ’90s, I came across a book called The Highly Sensitive Person, and identified with almost everything it said, thinking it finally offered a partial explanation for what’s “wrong” with me, even though it didn’t seem to explain everything. Then in the 2000s, I read a number of books on introversion, again relating, but feeling that there were pieces missing. In 2011, I read Too Loud, Too Bright, Too Fast, Too Tight: What to Do If You Are Sensory Defensive in an Overstimulating World. It seemed to overlap somewhat with The Highly Sensitive Person, but described the severity of my sensory issues with more accuracy. I thought, so that’s it. I’m sensory defensive.
I also read somewhere, perhaps it was in the book itself or somewhere else, that people with autism experience sensory issues like those who are sensory defensive. But while people with autism have sensory issues, not everyone with sensory issues has autism. Wondering if autism was the final piece of the puzzle, I started reading a bit about it, but as soon as I read that people with autism lack empathy, I knew that could not possibly fit. I am extremely empathetic, to almost a crippling degree. Still, every time I came across any article about autism, I felt a certain affinity with the people I was reading about, and remained intrigued by the subject.
At one point, I started getting counseling to try to deal with the sensory overload and meltdowns I have always experienced in the workplace (when I’ve actually been in the workplace, that is, but that’s a topic for another post), and I once casually mentioned to my counselor, “I wonder if I might have Asperger’s Syndrome.” He laughed and replied, “No, I know a guy with Asperger’s Syndrome and you are nothing like him.” So I pushed the idea aside again.
Then a few months ago, a long-time friend, someone I have always felt an affinity with, told me that she had been diagnosed with autism. We started talking about it, or more accurately, messaging back and forth about it, as we both communicate better in writing than speaking. She explained to me that it was no longer believed that people with autism lack empathy, and also that Asperger’s Syndrome often manifests differently in females than in males. She suggested I read the book Aspergirls, which I did. That’s when all the missing pieces fell into place. I am 99% sure that I have high-functioning autism, or what was formerly known as Asperger’s Syndrome. I showed the book’s list of female Asperger’s traits to my parents. They both agreed that it fit me completely and that it explained many of my lifelong traits, much of my behavior as a child, and my continuing struggles as an adult.
I don’t know if I will seek an official diagnosis. I don’t like talking to doctors and find that I am usually misunderstood. I don’t know if I have the emotional energy to pursue this. I’m not sure if it would even do me any good if I did.
So, I am self-diagnosed for the time being.
My friend has started a blog about her life and experiences, and I find myself relating to much of what she writes. It has inspired me to start my own blog. I think I will enjoy having this outlet for expression.
I don’t know if anyone will read it. I don’t know if I care if anyone reads it or not. I can’t promise to never use bad words (unlike my friend, I kind of like many so-called bad words — except blasphemies — and sometimes find them to be helpful intensifiers, or at the very least hilariously funny) or to never express an offensive opinion. I can’t argue or debate though; I am bad at it and it stresses me out to the point of illness, so whatever I’m putting out there will likely remain undefended if challenged. But here goes, for better or for worse. If you’re reading this, welcome. If you comment, please be gentle. Making myself this vulnerable is a little scary.