Throughout our lives, we can pinpoint certain events that started us on a new path. But if we look deep enough, we can often see evidence of things that seem to have pointed us in that direction all along, that we just didn’t take much notice of.
For me, this was what happened with regards to my autism. I used to think of autism as something that couldn’t apply to me. Like most of the population I had been led to believe that it presented in only a certain way.
My whole life I’ve felt like the odd one out. Different. An alien in a strange world. I found it very hard to make friends, and prefered my own space. Doing what I wanted to do, how I wanted to do it. Besides that, I just couldn’t understand or relate to other kids. I was bullied in my primary school years, something I don’t think I ever told the adults in my life. It just didn’t occur to me that I could, or should. One of the problems was that I didn’t trust adults either. The bullying consisted of being called all manner of things such as “weird”, “stupid”, “freak” etc and being excluded from activities and games.
There are plenty of things in my life that pointed to ASD. Throughout my life, particularly in adulthood, and like most people, I have heard, seen, watched, and read things that made me aware that autism exists. But it was always the extreme manifestations and how it shows up in the male population. So while I could relate to something to some extent, it never crossed my mind that I might be on the spectrum too.
It was only once I had my mental health blog and started meeting new people in the WordPress blogging world, that my mindshift slowly and subconsciously started changing. I started being followed by people (especially women) on the spectrum and being exposed to that world. I think the reason I started being followed by these people, was because I started writing more about my sensory issues, since discovering that the way I experience stimuli isn’t the norm. During my Sensory Processing Disorder research, autism came up a lot. But still, I just glossed over it. My sensory issues, according to me at that point, was a stand-alone “unofficial diagnosis”.
At this stage I had also joined an SPD Facebook group. Through that group and my blog, I was led to the YouTube channel of an adult female on the ASD spectrum talking about her experiences. Something just clicked into place.
It was both a shock and a relief once I finally realized that I might be on the spectrum. Suddenly my whole life made sense. I made sense. It was as if my black and white world took on colour. My chronically low self esteem and sense of self got a boost of confidence. I wasn’t weird, stupid, or a freak, I was autistic! There was a reason for all those things I had been experiencing my entire life. There was a name for my set of symptoms.
It took me a couple of weeks or so to bring this up with my therapist. I did this by sending her an email containing links to some video’s and articles on autism in females, and told her that we could talk about it in our next session. We’ve been working together weekly since early last year, so I felt that she knew me better than anyone else. But I was nervous. Scared even. What if she told me that I was imagining this? What if she was one of those mental health professionals that wasn’t knowledgable about the differences?
Turns out I needn’t have worried so much. ASD/Asperger’s had been on her radar with me all along. The reason she hadn’t mentioned it before was because she believes in working on symptoms and tools for dealing with those symptoms in a healthy way. But she told me that she realizes that having a name or official diagnosis might be valuable for me personally. The entire time we’ve been working together she was the one person who seemed to just accept me as I am. When I would tell her that I’m stupid because I can’t do something, or because I can’t seem to do what “normal” people do, she would tell me that I was different, that my brain works differently but that there is nothing wrong with me. That I have strengths where others don’t. So judging myself based on what the majority of people around me are like, isn’t fair. What is “normal”, after all?, she asked. Whereas other people always tried to get me to “be more normal”, she never did. She encourages me to be authentically me. I’m so grateful to have such a wonderful therapist.
I still need to go for the official assessment at the autism center, but can’t afford it at this stage. I’m hoping I can do it next year. It’s unfairly overpriced in my opinion. But in the meantime, a self-diagnosis and the “diagnosis” of my therapist, is good enough.
Since then, a new world has opened up for me. I finally found a group of people I fit in with, and discovered that I’m not broken or a freak. I’m beautifully neurodiverse.