I am, officially, #ActuallyAutistic.
No, not like Rain Man. I have no significant heightened ability to count or calculate anything. And no, I’m not like Sheldon Cooper. I’m no genius (though that’s probably pretty obvious), and I do have some grasp of humor, sarcasm, humility and empathy. I’m not like Temple Grandin, I wasn’t non-verbal at any point nor did I have any pronounced behavioral difficulties.
I spoke at a normal age, had good fine motor skills when I was little, and hit my milestones pretty much on time. I didn’t rock, I didn’t self-injure, I didn’t flap, and I am not a boy. I’m not a math whiz, I don’t have perfect pitch, I have no special skill, nor any particular special interest. (I have lots of special interests, depending on what I want to research or obsess about until I have accumulated all knowledge I can find on the topic, get bored or distracted, and move on.)
I’m not what the media paints as having the hallmarks of Autism. In fact, I’ve been told, to my face “There’s no way you could have Autism.” I can make eye contact, I can carry on conversations that aren’t entirely one sided, and I even have, *GASP* the ability to show empathy.
And yet, when I recently went in for an evaluation, I was told I was one of the most clear cases this particular doctor had diagnosed. She used “Aspergers” instead of Autism. Though it is no longer an official term, it does apply quite well to those of us who, like me, are pretty decent chameleons and actors.
We can appear to be ‘normal’, Neuroypical, and fit in to society well enough that all the average folks out there can only kind of, sort of, tell.
Because, trust me, people can tell. If not right off, soon enough. People can tell there’s something ‘off’ about me. I get all sorts of labels that I don’t agree with. I get called things and told things about myself that don’t fit my intentions or internal process.
I can’t help but roll my eyes at quotes about how “actions tell you who a person really is.” Well, actions are open to interpretation, my friend. And how you read what I do and say, may not actually be what was intended.
This was actually one of the most relieving parts of the conversation with my diagnosing doctor. We focused a great deal on social difficulties, intention and the fact that I do not, in fact, lack empathy or the ability to read others. I’ve worked damned hard at trying to relate to and understand people. How do you think I manage to ‘pass’ as normal?
Rather, because I am not typical, the more average person is more likely to read me incorrectly. People with Autism actually tend to lack facial expression. So while those of you with the built-in skill of body language reading are attempting to read me, you’re getting a lot of either nothing, or the wrong signals. And your internal systems are buzzing and beeping and sending all these messages that there’s just something off, though you may not know what.
As a result, I’ve had people react rather harshly or aggressively towards me time and time again. Most especially women, who are the more socially focused of our species.
Except when it comes other women with Autistic traits.
You are my people. My kindred spirits, and when I find you, we click. Instantly. Granted, “you meet one person with Autism, and you’ve met one person with Autism”. So not everyone is an instant soulmate. But my best of friends, those who I feel a lasting kinship with, many have begun to realize that they, too, have Autistic traits.
It’s a great relief to know that I’m not alone. That the way I see and interpret the world may be fairly uncommon, but it’s not entirely unique.
I am not alone.
There’s nothing wrong with me.
I’m simply part of a very exclusive club of people who have their own unique and beautiful psychology.
I am happy to say that I am officially, and proudly, Actually Autistic.