I’m having a hard time picking a song to listen to. There are no songs to describe how I’m feeling right now.
This past week, I was diagnosed with Asperger’s, or Autism Spectrum Disorder, if you’re familiar with the changes made to the DSM V.
Relief at the diagnosis. It more or less explained the “why” to nearly everything in my life; why I’m always the last to get the joke, why I don’t look people in the eye, why I blurt out apparently inappropriate things, why I don’t understand people, why I was bullied in elementary school, why I sucked in P.E., why I can’t spend the night anywhere but home, why I have to brush my teeth after every meal, why I seemingly suck as a mom,etc. etc. etc.
I’m relieved. But I’m alone. I look up “Autism Support Groups” in Google. Site after site for those struggling to deal with their autistic children, autistic spouses, autistic parents. People struggling to deal with people like me. People needing to cope with people like me. People searching for a cure.
I hear “Your diagnosis doesn’t change anything.”
Except it changes everything.
Up until Wednesday evening, I thought that I was just an incompetent human being. I thought that I just sucked at interacting with people. I felt alone and had no cause. Instead, I discovered that I’m an incredibly adaptable person with a different brain.
It changes everything because my brain is physically different from other people’s. I’m not socially stupid. It’s that I’m socially colorblind. I don’t see the colors that other people do. I try picking up on patterns. I mimic. I act. Etc.
It’s lonely, but now I know why. I have two seemingly neurotypical children. I have a little girl who looks me in the eye and tells me that I’m sad. I have a little boy who stares and cuddles. They embody my very concept of adoration. I can only hope that I’m enough for them. Damon is much more emotionally aware an in-tune than I am. Hopefully, between the two of us, we can provide the balance for our children.
Boy, is it lonely. I have an answer to why I am this way, but now need to come to terms with it. I’m always going to be this way. Obviously, people can improve themselves. But is acting less autistic really an improvement? By whose standards? It sounds so weird to say.
I am autistic.
I don’t know how to feel about this. There aren’t instruction manuals for how to deal with this situation. I’m still the same person, but acutely aware of who I am. Aware that my brain will never change. I will never be like other people, other than faking it under the guise of normality. There are more groups for dealing with me than being like me. I now understand myself, but need to understand myself. What a conundrum
I am autistic.
And I don’t know how I feel about it. I saw a quote that summarized pretty well how I see things.
“I don’t experience autism mildly. You do.”-No idea. But it’s a good quote.
I’m on the same spectrum as people who need help going to the bathroom and wear adult diapers. I’m also on the same spectrum as kids who scream and meltdown in the grocery store. I’m on the same spectrum of people who are hardly noticed. A spectrum. One to ten? Or mild to severe? Like a disease?
But it’s not. There’s no cure. It’s not a disease. It’s a personality. It’s a literal shape of mind. It’s a state of being. We are aliens dropped into the middle of a world that wasn’t built for us. Interacting with beings who don’t think like us.
This is why I miss the things that you see so easily. This is why I’m the last to laugh at the joke. It’s why I don’t think that some jokes are funny. It’s why my voice is monotone. It’s why I twist my hair when I’m freaking out. It’s why I curl up into a ball and shut down when my children are screaming. It’s why I can’t wear clothes that are tight in the armpit or 3/4 length sleeves under long sleeves. It’s why I hate hate HATE job interviews because they make me have to engage every ounce of my brain to appear normal. It’s why I’m afraid of the stove. It’s why I have a small voice that tells me when to blink and look away and tilt my head in every social situation. It’s why I don’t understand the emotional undertones in movies. It’s why I get super antsy and uncomfortable when people are crying or otherwise feeling strong emotions. It’s why I can’t listen to music in the car and talk to someone at the same time.
It’s why I didn’t understand the expression “barking up the wrong tree” until I was 17.
It all makes sense now.
I’m still partially in denial. This is what’s been different about me. This is why.
Stigmas cling to autism like burrs. Anti-vaxxers use us as an excuse to not vaccinate their children. Parents weep when their child is diagnosed. Families gather round to support the parent who has brought this “broken” child into the world. People want to cure it. They want us to be like them.
I am not broken. I am not retarded. I am not a special snowflake. I experience the world differently. I experience the world vividly.
I didn’t discover this aspect of my identity until I was 22. I didn’t know that this was part of me. I didn’t know that this was why. This is my way of coming out. This is my way of saying, “I’m different from you. I’m tired of trying to be like you.”
I’m tired of pretending to be neurotypical. I’m tired of pretending that my brain works the same way. It will never work the same way. I will never see the same social hues that you do. I will never understand the world the same way that you do.
But you will never understand it the way that I do.
I’m lonely. I’m different, not inferior.
I’m a mom. I’m a student. I’m a wife.