I am…

…autistic.

Yes, you read that right. In common terms, I received my diagnosis on April 20, 2022. Right in the middle of Autism Awareness Month. In the terms I would like to use, my autistic diversity was confirmed.

There is a lot of misinformation about autism and there are a lot of misconceptions about the autistic traits that women live with compared to men. Like most people, you have probably only heard of autism being diagnosed in boys who are typically difficult to deal with. This is what is most commonly reflected in media, TV, and movies.

I most definitely do not know everything there is to know about autism or all of the co-occurring conditions. I can tell you that I am learning and still have so, so much to learn.

So, how did I come to this and what does it mean for me? Buckle up, let me tell you.

The first time that I connected to autistic traits was when I watched Amy Schumer’s special, Growing. She shared that her husband received a later in life Asperger’s diagnosis and what the traits were. I connected to a few but shrugged it off. Then as I got into Parenthood I could see a few of Max’s traits in how I struggled in life. Again, I shrugged it off. I never shared any of this with anybody.

Throughout this time I struggled more and more with anxiety and some other things that people would label as me being crazy or a bitch or anything you want to insert here. I hid all of my social anxiety by drinking. Do you remember that time when I was drinking and drinking and drinking and was having a grand time? Yeah, the only reason I was so care free was because of that alcohol.

Then the shutdown hit for combatting COVID. I was pretty happy because my introverted self didn’t have to put on a happy face and go do social stuff with lots of people. Until the shutdown and restrictions continued on and on and the happiness turned into the inability to hide things and I felt more and more broken. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but simple things for most people were becoming increasingly more difficult. And understanding social euphemisms was getting more and more impossible. Seriously, I don’t understand the thing of calling people a Karen. Karen is a real person and she probably isn’t a bitch life you are referring to her as. But I digress.

Toward the end of 2021, I started struggling to the point of wanting to abandon ship and start fresh all by myself. Literally, by myself. No Eddie, no dogs, no friends, nothing but me and some completely new space where I know absolutely nobody and can just breathe. Side note here, there is nothing wrong with our marriage (you know, aside from the normal relationship challenges) and I absolutely still love Eddie, keep reading. This is when I realized I hit overwhelmed, or in my terms, overcooked.

I started going to therapy, it wasn’t really helping though. It was a mismatch between me and the therapist. Eddie and I went to therapy and that helped with communication and getting things I couldn’t explain into a picture that he could understand. And then I joined TikTok to see what it was all about. I found funny videos, skipped the dance videos, enjoyed all of the dog and cat videos, and then started seeing a few women who started describing their experiences with later in life diagnosis, both clinical and self. I started doing research and started taking the clinical quizzes that are part of diagnostic testing. Everything was pointing to me being autistic. I could have self-diagnosed, but I didn’t. I chose to go through the clinical testing process for two reason: first, I didn’t think anybody would believe me; second, I knew I would continuously question the validity of my self-assessment.

So, here I am. I am autistic. I am learning why I do things I do, why I react in ways that I do, and traits that I have either tried to hide or have chalked up to needing control after a chaotic upbringing. What does it mean for me? That I am learning about myself. I am learning and I am feeling more free than ever to be who I am. I have felt broken for so much of my life and receiving confirmation of my neurodiversity feels freeing. I really like how Hannah Gadsby referred to it on the We Can Do Hard Things podcast. She said “it felt like an exfoliation of shame”.

As I continue to learn, I’m going to continue to understand myself and lean into who I am. In the meantime, I want to share with you the traits or learnings that I’ve had so far. Here is a list, in no particular order, of what’s on my mind that I’ve learned and realized so far:

  • I can’t stand small talk
  • I suck at sarcasm
  • I am super sensitive to temperature changes
  • The feel of some textures (and tags) will make me lose my mind
  • I get pissed off at inanimate objects not doing what the hell I’m telling them to do
  • I used to drink to try to fit in socially…sometimes to extreme amounts
  • I am sensitive to sounds, especially loud or repetitive sounds
  • I am deeply empathetic and feel what others feel, including from TV and movies (hence my serious lack of paying attention to news)
  • I hyper-focus on things (Beachbody, being a motivational influence on social media, needing to have a side hustle that takes over my career, etc.)
  • I burn out quickly with social activities
  • I can’t understand hidden agendas with social interaction
  • I am extremely literal
  • I am very black and white in my thinking
  • I prefer to text than talk on the phone, it is an easier social interaction for me
  • I plan, plan some more, and plan even more
  • I follow as many rules as possible, except for speeding, I need to go fast
  • I MUST be on time (read no less than 10 minutes early) to EVERYTHING
  • I appear perfectionistic
  • Everything must be in the place that I determined it goes
  • I struggle with clutter and might explode
  • I continuously bump into furniture and have bruises that I don’t know how or when I acquired
  • I struggle with eye contact, I have to remind myself that is a normal thing to do and that I need to do it
  • I am honest or I don’t speak at all
  • I encounter both elective and selective mutism
  • I am highly tuned into my body and the things that aren’t right and don’t understand why people don’t just take care of the thing that is bothering them
  • I shutdown, sometimes easily
  • and so many more that I’ll save for another post (maybe)

I realize now, and after reading Spectrum Women, that my ability to mask and camouflage started getting holes when I met Eddie. He broke down so many of my walls I had for letting people in (and I knew this quickly). What I didn’t realize is that the longer we were together, the bigger the holes got and the more I couldn’t hide things that I had before. Then COVID finished the destruction.

I’m on a journey to discover who I am without any masking or shaming of myself to hide my traits. I will be changing from what most people thought they knew about me so I can honor who I truly am. I’m not sure I’m fully ready for this journey, but here I go.

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