Posts Tagged ‘neurodivergence’

I’m not exactly sure when or why I started suspecting that I might have autism. Perhaps it started way back, several years ago, when my sisters first teased me about my eccentricities as a child, telling me that if I had grown up a decade or so later, I surely would have been diagnosed with autism. We laughed about it then (though I have never been entirely comfortable with the way my childhood struggles seemed to amuse my siblings), and that thought stuck in the back of my mind somewhere.

Some time later, I rewatched one of my all-time favorite movies, Benny and Joon. That movie has meant much to me since the first time I saw it, soon after it first came out (I believe I was 10 when I watched it first). I always just explained to people that this movie came along at just the part of my life when I was beginning to feel different from my peers, and that this movie made me feel more comfortable about being “different.” Fast forward twenty years or so, and I read this article which speaks about the movie in terms of autism, which the main characters likely have. I found the article to be unsettling but incredibly interesting, and I saved it as a bookmark on my computer to revisit from time to time. Still, at this point I would jokingly think of myself as “having been an autistic child,” and I seriously wondered how it was that I had somehow managed to grow out of it.

It wasn’t until about a year ago that I started thinking that perhaps I hadn’t grown out of it after all. I had a conversation with a sibling in which we discussed our mutual inability to develop friendships in a normal manner. We revisited, in a more serious way, the symptoms that I displayed as a child, including my speech difficulties, selective mutism, avoidance of eye contact, and troubles with communication in general.

At the same time, I was experiencing great difficulties at work with trying to communicate with the people I was working with. I was having meltdowns after every social event that I went to. I was, unknowingly at the time, alienating both my boyfriend and my best friend through my lack of “proper” communication. I was beginning to see that I was the common denominator in all of these situations, and that I really didn’t have the ability to connect with others in what is seen as an appropriate way. My peculiarities in speech and mannerisms were becoming more glaringly obvious to me, and it started to feel like everyone all along must have realized that I was autistic, and I was the last to know.

I have spent a great deal of time reviewing my life in view of what I am coming to realize about myself. I mourned for the struggles along the way, the lost opportunities, the crushing lack of self-esteem that I have always harboured, even in these days of greatly enhanced confidence and self-love. I cried for the child who got bitched at for not looking other people in the eye, or not responding to her name, or not wanting to play with other children. I cried for the young adult who was constantly told that she was too quiet, needed to talk more, needed to get outside her comfort zone, needed to conform to societies expectations, needed to do this and that and try to make other people happy even though she couldn’t. I cried for the woman I am now, approaching middle age, who is told by those closest to her that she does damage by being uncommunicative. That she has no personality. That she is like a zombie. That she brings nothing to the relationship. Told again and again, implicitly or explicitly, that she is “boring.”
I am just beginning to realize the power and benefit of my self-identification as an “autie”. Most importantly, it has given me the opportunity to express empathy toward myself, and to understand why my life is what it is, and why I have struggled so much (and so secretly) for so long now. I know now that, if and when I begin a new relationship (romantic or not) with somebody, then I will have the courage to tell them early on that I struggle with typical communication, and I become overwhelmed and overstimulated in many situations, and that I am doing my best and will need some straightforward guidance along the way.
This is all very much under development as an idea, and I continue to process my new-found self-identification on a constant basis.

I am beginning to have greater patience with and appreciation for people in my life who do not act in ways that I expect them to act. I think less, these days, in terms of “What the hell is wrong with her?”, and more along the lines of compassion and understanding. It is an interesting and a heart-warming development, to be sure. I hope it continues in this vein, because I would very much like to continue to appreciate other humans in a much greater capacity than I have been able to thus far. Especially the odd ones.

Another aspect of my discovery has been rethinking all my former diagnoses in light of current realizations. People with autism are known for their emotional outbursts, their self-harm, their inability to cope with stimuli, their difficulties with relationships, their mood swings, and their repetitive behaviors. What if all along I have thought that my twenties were plagued by borderline personality disorder, but I really only was an undiagnosed autistic, trying desperately to cope? Does that distinction even matter in the long run? Perhaps it does, in that I am still struggling greatly with certain aspects of my personality that I have previously seen as shortcomings. Maybe I don’t have any kind of a “disorder” at all. Maybe my brain is just wired differently than many others, and I haven’t fully found ways to cope. Maybe there is untapped potential out there for me, in which I can learn how to be healthy in a job, or healthy in a relationship, or find and maintain a friendship that doesn’t fizzle out because I can’t keep in touch in the expected ways. Maybe I will learn how to do new things and travel new places and attend events without having complete meltdowns during or afterward? Or maybe I can find ways to inspire compassion and understanding among those who expect me to do things that I find impossible, or traumatic.

One thing is certain: my entire perception of who I am and who I want to be is shifting beneath my feet on a daily basis. How can I heal the trauma that is most of my past life, in light of the realization that all along I may have been neurodivergent? How much of everything suddenly makes far more sense than I ever dreamed possible? Will this knowledge make things any easier for me, going forward? Will I be able to be myself and like it, finally? Will I be able to find ways to accomodate my own needs while still maintaining the level of independence I have somehow managed to gain for myself?

I don’t know. I have the desire to find out more. I feel the need to connect with others who are like me. I certainly need to do more soul-searching. It is a great deal to consider, and I intend to give myself plenty of consideration going forward. I think this will be a promising development for me, in many ways.

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