On the Spectrum, and what it means to me

A while back, I  started looking in to getting a screening for autism as an adult. With our insurance, it’s at least four hundred dollars out of pocket. That’s the minimum amount. That’s two weeks at of work at my new job that I started to help make ends meet.

Four hundred dollars I don’t have and would rather spend on my son and family. Still, I am quite sure I am on the spectrum. Everything I read, everything I learn about my son, about being an adult on the spectrum, fits me and my experience.

And as an adult with AS traits, communication and relationships frustrate the hell out of me.

Now, not everyone you meet with autistic traits will have these issues or function like I do. My son, for example, has more trouble with ADHD, sensory seeking, and at this point in his life, more trouble with executive functioning.

For me, my issues have long stemmed from my lack of social adaptation. For a long time, it was hard to figure out why, exactly, because I read social cues decently well. I am fairly empathetic and actively work at understanding how other people feel. Sometimes to the point that I can be overbearing in my desire to help because I am so SURE I know how they feel if it’s something that I relate to or have experienced in a similar way.

In the past, the school of thought has been that girls and women are less likely to have Autism. That is slowly changing. The thought now is that women and girls are more likely to learn to adapt and hide the traits, though we still struggle. It is often, only after our children are diagnosed that we realize that we are  so much like them, and our social troubles can often be explained as we learn to understand our own children.

A great resource to learn about women on the Autism Spectrum is the Autism Women’s Network. http://autismwomensnetwork.org/

I have attended meet-ups with other women with Autism, and the mothers of children with Autism that I meet are so very often people that I can relate to far better than my other peers. These women often share traits I love in friends. They are often bluntly honest, to the point that some people consider them rude, though in my opinion they are easy going, non-judgmental, forgiving, and they rarely read into things and get offended.

Like I said before, though, we are all different. There are still issues, many of which stem from anxieties and stressors of trying to fit into a Neurotypical world. Though I relate far far better to people who have autistic traits, we don’t all get along. That’s just life.

In my experience, my friends who are either diagnosed or self-diagnosed as autistic, or have children who have autism are still my friends, year after year. Distance and time, lack of communication, none of that matters. We always pick up like it’s nothing. Even if we have an argument or disagreement, there’s still a mutual understanding and respect. We get each-other, and there’s an instant bond there.

Anyway, onto the original content of this post. I was going to share some things about myself.

One of my main issues is communication. Sometimes its understanding subtext, non-verbal communication, and many times, or actually most the time, my issues is processing, responding and communicating my thoughts.

I have a lot of trouble processing how I feel about things. It can take days to work through how a particular situation made me feel. For example, I had a dog get very sick at work two days ago, a dog I had no relationship with, but cared for through the worst of it. It wasn’t until the next day that it hit me.

For this reason, people with Autism can often be great in times of crisis because initially, we can be logical initially. In my household, I was the one who always took the animals to the vet if they were severely ill because other people couldn’t handle it. Yet, I also often had a closer bond to the animals. Growing up, my horses were my physical and emotional therapy, my best friends. But if they got hurt, if I fell off, if something dramatic happened, I was pretty chill about it, took care of things, and processed it slowly.

This sort of thing can make people with autism seem cold. It’s not that. We simply process things more slowly, more internally. That doesn’t mean that things to bother us just because our reaction time is slow. Because we wait till we’re home, safe and alone to deal with things.

In social situations, my comprehension of situations can be limited, especially if I’m over stimulated. I really struggle with large groups, and even small ones. When I’m continuously over stimulated and pushed for weeks or months on end, my comprehension goes down on many levels. My work suffers, and I get emotional, confused and break down easily.

For a long time, I thought I must be bi-polar. Hell, I thought I was a lot of things. I researched and researched, went to therapy, tried medications, joined online groups, read and researched some more. But I thought I was bi-polar because of how I could swing from being totally cool, happy and functional to just being a  wreck. But there were so many other aspects of what it means to be bi-polar that just didn’t fit.

The anxiety diagnosis never quite fit either, because panic attacks weren’t really an issue. The only REAL diagnosis I’ve ever been given is Generalized Anxiety. I have depression too, but it’s not severe or crippling. It’s mostly caused by exhaustion. And this can be explained by Autistic Burnout.

Autistic Burnout is basically exhaustion caused by trying to pass as normal. To hide all the things that are considered unacceptable in the Neurotypical world. All the things that my other friends who are on the spectrum never seem to notice or call me out for, but for some reason upset, frustrate and anger people who are more socially adept and Neurotypical. Unfortunately, most the world fits into this category.

And I will need to stop at this point. I will be writing part two of this long, ramble-y explanation at a later date, so join me for part two next time!

As always, thanks for reading. 🙂

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