I was almost 30 when I found out I was Autistic. The diagnosis, presented to me in the fall of 2016, became a guiding light in my life, illuminating and clearing confusion that I’d been living in.
Learning I’m Autistic helped me to understand why I’d always felt so alien, why nothing I ever did was good enough for people, and why people often seemed to expect more (or less) from me than I was capable of giving.
Yes, Autism explained all of my weakness (though reading them listed out in in medical checklist format has been difficult for me to reconcile). In addition, to my weaknesses, Autism also explained all of my strengths, and is an essential part of who I am as a human being.
My Autistic brain explained a lifetime of being over and under estimated by those around me, the repeated misunderstandings, regular miscommunications, lost people, and the friendships I’d been unable to maintain. It explained the pain, social confusion, coercion, manipulation, and all the times I was unable to detect when people with ulterior motives were pretending to care about me or what I had to say.
I now know that Autism influences most things in my life, who I socialize with, the types of relationships I have, how I process information and my experience of the world around me. Autism is tied into my hobbies, passions, interests, communication style and habits. It’s interwoven into how I interpret and fit within social contexts, structures, and hierarchies.
That’s why I say I am Autistic, instead of that I am “a person with autism” – because, for me, “with autism” sounds minimal for something so integral to my being.
Autism is NOT a separate thing that I “take with me”. It’s not something I can leave behind when I venture out or that I can forget when I go places (though I can imagine multiple situations where this would, admittedly, be convenient).
Autism is not something I have “with” me. Autism IS me. If I were not Autistic, I would literally not be the same person. Believe it or not, I like the person I am (NOT despite being Autistic, but BECAUSE of my Autistic mind).
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