Hard launching: I am (formally diagnosed as) autistic
How can something be simultaneously so shocking, yet so obvious?
Table of Contents
- How I figured it out
- How it feels to find out at age 43 that you’re autistic when only one person close to you ever flagged it
- A few things you need to understand about autism
How I figured it out
Over a decade ago, a friend whose child was a Level 1 autistic (at the time, we used the term “Asperger’s”) told me she thought I was “Asperger’s.” When I said that I didn’t think I was, she persisted. Her husband added, “Pam thinks everyone is Asperger’s,” and she laughingly agreed. I dismissed her.
Around the same time, one of my children was diagnosed at age 7 with an autism spectrum “disorder”*. We were told they likely inherited this from a parent but both their dad and I thought their dad was the genetic link. I see myself in all my children (identifying with them more than I identify with anyone), but I’ve always related to this child the most, like a soul mate.
Nevertheless, when a classmate asked me a few months ago if I was “on the spectrum,” I laughed and said no. We had just left our sociology class where I corrected our professor, and I assumed my correction prompted my classmate’s question. I replied, “Oh, I see what the social rules are. I just don’t like or care about them.” (Yeah… that’s autism.)
This time, the external observation stuck with me. A neurodiverse person with barely any exposure to me thought I was autistic. It bugged me.
It bugged me because I didn’t really know what autism was.
It also bugged me because it felt like “everyone these days” was self-identifying as autistic, and I loathe trendy groupthink (because autistic people commonly loathe trendy groupthink). I also thought self-diagnosis of autism was extremely problematic. (I was wrong.)
At the same time, I had been wondering if a specific person in my life was autistic. When content about autism “magically” found me in my social media feeds, I paid attention for their sake.