This is the first in an occasional series of blogs about my experience of identifying as autistic, and general autism issues.
I wanted to start blogging because I crossed a bridge last week. I became someone who is not just wondering about autism, but thinks, feels and behaves as an autistic person. Because I am autistic I now understand why a lot of things that were difficult in the past and have caused problems, and I am beginning to find strategies to deal with them.
I first began to suspect I was autistic earlier this year. I have always had a sense of isolation, and being a little different from other people. I have been conscious that others see me as a little strange, hard to pigeonhole, distant, aloof, arrogant, lacking in emotional intelligence. I am quite highly introvert, and suffer from high levels of social anxiety. Never able to make eye contact. Always awkward and hanging about the edge at social gatherings. Always the quiet one and the last to speak, if at all, in a group.
When I read an article about adults being diagnosed with autism, I realised this fitted me closely. I did a few online tests, and found on all of them that I was way above the threshold for an autism diagnosis. I was quite gobsmacked about this, and began to read widely – articles, books, blogs. The more I read, especially blogs, the more I realised that these were describing me.
At this point,in February, I diagnosed and identified myself as autistic. I agonised about whether to seek a clinical diagnosis. Because I was now as sure as I could be, I decided just to stay self-diagnosed.
As time went on I became increasingly convinced that I was autistic. At the same time I began to want formal confirmation of this. So earlier this summer I took steps to arrange an assessment which hopefully will lead to a formal autism diagnosis.
Then last week I finally crossed the bridge of thinking of myself and behaving completely as autistic, not just playing at it while still half-pretending to myself that I was neuro-typical.
Why did I have to cross the bridge? Two things. I knew not just from other people’s blogs that I was autistic, but from feedback on my own posts on things like eye contact and emotional awareness. When I posted about how I felt, I found that other highly experienced and respected autistic people were agreeing and liking what I said. To me that can only mean one thing. I am actually autistic too.
Then last weekend I saw a play, The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams where I could see clearly that one of the characters, Laura Wingfield, was autistic – quiet; confined; withdrawn; hiding from social contact; a strong special interest; an intense and obsessive romantic “relationship”. How could I see that she was autistic? Only in one way – because I am autistic myself. I did not expect to see an autistic person that night but I came away convinced that she could only be autistic. It is the first time I have ever found myself identifying so clearly with a character in a drama – this was someone who was me – passive, awkward, always on the edge, painfully shy and withdrawn.
So I just had to cross the bridge.
Of course, I still have an assessment and formal diagnosis to come. I don’t really have doubts. But I have to keep an open mind. I might be wrong. But I don’t think so.