When I found out I was autistic at the age of twenty-nine, my entire world view was turned upside down. Growing up, I distinctly remember feeling like “everyone else was irrational and weird” but had no idea that I was, actually, the contrarian – despite being called this name often growing up.
People have always accused me of being “different” or “difficult” just for the sake of being “a rebel,” but…
I’m never intentionally difficult.
I’m a skeptic of all things unproven. My brain sees risks, and demands they need to be addressed before acting. In uncertainty, lies problems. I cannot leap without fully understanding how and where I will land. To feel confident, I MUST review every scenario and outcome, bracing for the worst outcomes.
Often, I feel pressured to act before I am ready.
When there is too much risk, if I say “no,” I’m accused of “being difficult,” “rebellious,” or “a wimp.” People didn’t understand me digging my heels in when I am unsure, my questions preventing me from moving forward.
The double empathy problem, spoken about by Damian Milton and Luke Beardon’s cross-neurological theory of mind’ now have given me a better explanation.
In summary, these theories suggest that autistic people do not lack empathy (in fact, many autistic people report feeling overwhelming empathy). These theories suggested that empathy, in general, is relational. Meaning, it is easier to relate to people with whose experiences you share and/or understand on a personal level.
Non-autistic people may have difficulty empathizing with autistic people because they struggle to relate and understand autistic experiences. Autistic people may sound unempathetic to non-autistics from time to time, because of how we relate to the world. I approach things in a very logical way. Logic, at the wrong moment, when someone was seeking comfort, can feel cold and off-putting – though that is never my intention.
When I am upset, I find comfort in logic.
It is the glue that holds my world together. Sometimes people just need a hug. I have to remind myself that not everyone feels the same joy from the truth.
I know this now because I finally have information about my neurology. An entire lifetime of other people dismissing my experiences and feelings is slowly being repaired.
I’m not “too sensitive,” “too intense,” “too emotional,” or “too excited” – I’m not “too ANYTHING.” I’m Autistic – I’m who I’m supposed to be.
Autistic discovery can lead to one of two paths.
The news shakes you up, changes how you see yourself and others. Your life may fall apart as you find yourself losing people close to you. On the opposite, you may feel empowered by this newly discovered truth. You may fall firmly into one or teeter precariously between these two extremes.
I went through the stages of grief with my diagnosis. The third stage is where I started my blog, just as the anger was vanishing.
Today, more than three years since my diagnosis, I sit firmly over the line of acceptance, but getting here has been a journey. Nothing was instant. Arriving here meant putting in the work, getting to know myself all over again, through an Autistic lens.
For the first time in my life, I am moving with confidence and peace.
I no longer take misunderstandings and other situations personally.
The knowledge that there are many types of brains and ways to interpret, comprehend, and understand the world brings me peace and ease. It is freeing to know why I’ve been misunderstood so often by others. Now the misunderstandings seem to matter much less.
Autistic discovery (discovery, not diagnosis, because there are parts of the world where an adult diagnosis is nearly impossible to access) is crucial to helping an Autistic person live happily and healthily.
It empowered me when I had become stuck in a situation that was making me physically ill. Originally, I stayed in a bad situation because everyone was telling me I “should be happy” to have that opportunity.
People didn’t understand it was killing me. When you don’t know you are Autistic, you compare yourself to non-autistic people, trying to hold yourself to their standards – because you don’t know there are other standards to follow.
How can we reach and awaken the other “sleeping Autistics” – the ones who have been unintentionally gaslighted by society their entire lives? “Try harder,” “push further,” “toughen up,” “grow up,” “be more this,” “don’t’ be so wired,” – all these words mean nothing to me now, but for years they held a strange power.
The information set me free. I want all Autistic people to be free. Twitter, the tool that allows autistics all over the globe to connect, once again feeds my curiosity. I ask:
#ActuallyAutistic #AskingAutistics – what was the catalyst that sparked your “autistic discovery”?
I met an autistic person about 2 years ago who, within 30 minutes of meeting me, said “you know you’re autistic right?” That led me down the rabbit hole.
I knew I was different. I had felt different since I was old enough to be aware of feeling any particular way. But everyone told me that I wasn’t different so I assumed I just had a bad attitude. I wasn’t diagnosed with ASD until I was 38.
Ryan Z. Dawson, @TheTalkingBoxes
My daughter having traits. I was explaining my suspicions to my friend and he turned and said “So…You do realise you stim too right?”
And boom. Lightening bolt. Got DX this year ^_^
Rebekah Fleming, @rebekha_fleming
A new colleague started working with me who was openly autistic. But all the things that made her autistic described me too. The more we talked about it, the more it made sense. 2 years later, another new colleague who was openly autistic left no room for denial
Alex Heighton, @aheighton83
I started making terrible mistakes in something I had been good at: proofreading. Basically I was having hectic midlife ADHD with super-elevated A, D, H and D, and an enormous feeling of something I learned many months later is called ‘anxiety’ and autistic burnout, and… ugh.
Tania Melnyczuk, @ekverstania
Someone I know through one of my interests got diagnosed in her 50s, and ‘came out’ publicly.
I thought “well if she is, maybe I can be after all”. Before that, I’d just thought I had some autistic traits but assumed I wouldn’t be “autistic enough” to get a diagnosis.
I always wondered why I had no friends for most of my childhood. Then my wife, who’s a counsellor, read about autism and suggested it. At the same time my 8yo nephew got a dx & it made SO much sense
Madge Woollard, @funkiepiano
Not even sure. My son’s autism diagnosis and my Ehlers-Danlos diagnosis sealed the deal but neither of those came as surprises anyway because I research the f out of everything. Including all my ‘unusual-nesses’.
I was seeing a young woman who was also on the spectrum, and she asked me if I was on the spectrum as well. I said I didn’t know, didn’t think so but didn’t really know much about autism. Upon research I thought I may well be. So I went as a blind to specialist. Later… voila!
The Disaster Autist, @Mr_McQwerty
My daughter was going through it at the age of 5, and I was studying a lot about ASD. But it wasn’t until my wife said “doesn’t a lot of this sound like someone you know…” that it started to fall into place.
n.b. She had to clarify that by “someone you know”, she meant me
Read more #AskingAutistics articles by Christa Holmans, Neurodivergent Rebel
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