As much as I hate talking about myself, most of what I write here will be about me. Not because I enjoy doing so, but because I hope my experience will help others to better understand themselves or someone they know or encounter.
I was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in December 2017, shortly after my fortieth birthday. What was it like for me to learn something so essential, fundamental, and life-changing about myself at this point in my life? Terrifying? Depressing? Shameful? Let me tell you what I felt.
Relieved. That might surprise you, but it’s true. After being frustratingly confused about myself for forty years, I finally gained understanding about why I am the way that I am. And the reason is not because of some personal failure or character flaw on my part. The reason is because my brain is wired differently. I have spent most of my life trying to be someone that I’m not because it seemed the world had no use for the real me. I’m not outgoing, extroverted, or a people-person. As much as I’ve tried to become all of those things, I can’t force myself to be someone that I’m not. After almost every social gathering that I attend, I go home wondering and lamenting why I can’t just be like everyone else. Now I know that it’s not a choice – I am not wired to be the life of the party. And now I know that it goes beyond just being highly introverted.
Honestly, I would have been extremely disappointed if the doctor had told me I wasn’t autistic. Surprised again? Autism has a social stigma. Some parents choose not to vaccinate their children because they believe it will save them from becoming autistic. Life is hard enough, but the autistic life is even harder. However, if I hadn’t been diagnosed with autism, I would have had to start all over again at square one in my search for answers.
Angry. I did feel a measure of anger. Not because of my autism, but because I wished I had known decades ago. Having known of my autism when I was younger would have made my struggle so much easier and would have kept me from searching for answers where none were to be found. I believe it would have saved me from periods of low self-esteem and depression associated with feeling like a failure as a person because I couldn’t conform to society’s ideal. Not much was known about autism when I was growing up and I can’t go back and change any of that, of course, but perhaps my story will help someone facing their own struggle today.
Hopeful. I know, I’m full of surprises. How could I possibly be hopeful to discover that I’m autistic? I’ve made it this far and, despite everything, my life is pretty wonderful. I have an understanding husband, three amazing children that are the light of my life, and, after a lot of searching, a career that I love. When you look at the statistics (more on those later), studies have shown that these things are difficult for many autistic people to attain. I am a successful adult and hope that others can gain some comfort knowing that being autistic is not necessarily a negative thing. There are a lot of positive qualities that autistic people possess.
And I am hopeful that I can help others to better understand autism. That’s why I started this blog. I hope you will join me on my journey.