At 40 years old I’ve discovered that I have Autism. There, I said it! I feel ridiculous saying it at all. But it is the truth. It has been my truth all along but I never knew it. This explains why I’ve always had so many problems with myself and why I’ve hated myself for so long. I’ve always felt different and like I was damaged, but I couldn’t quite pinpoint it. I didn’t come to this lightly. I’ve considered it for a few years, ever since learning about my oldest son’s Autism diagnosis. I finally had my “ah-ha” moment and it was totally shocking to figure out that I too belong in this category. It all makes so much sense!!
Why wasn’t I diagnosed as a kid? Well the fact is that girls experience autism differently than boys. Girls hide it better. It actually has a name, called “masking”. 30 years ago this wasn’t recognized, so it escaped everyone’s attention. There are actually many similar stories of adults, especially female adults being diagnosed as autistic late in life. It blows my mind!
I’ve had many therapists, counselors, and special relationships with educational professionals when I was a child. I was seen for depression and anxiety. Not one of them saw this in me. I wonder how much better I’d be if this was noticed then and properly dealt with. I wonder how much more peace and understanding I’d have about myself had I been given the tools to deal with it when I was younger. Instead I’ve had a whole life of self loathing, confusion, and always beating myself up for never being like everyone else. Why was I so different and so damaged? “WTF is wrong with me?!” was a common question I had. Why couldn’t I just be like everyone else? Why are so many simple things so hard for me? Maybe this will finally bring me some peace.
When my son was diagnosed, I jumped into learning everything I could about the condition so I could be able to understand and offer him proper support. As I read, I was stunned to see that I struggled with all the same things as him. I didn’t even know that these things were abnormal until I was reading it. I thought all the things I was experiencing were normal behaviors. I thought everyone experienced those things, until what I was reading pointed out that these were all Autistic traits. Everything from social awkwardness, to sensory issues, to rigidity. I also have obsessive tendencies, tunnel vision, low tolerance, and so many other traits. I was so deeply emotional, yet so disconnected and often called cold. I’ve even had ticks all my life that I thought was just a weird part of me. It was all there in the pages written clear as day. It was me!! Every last bit!
Autism is a spectrum disorder, which means there are different levels of severity. Like my son, I’d consider myself to be the “high functioning” kind. Also labeled as Asperger’s. We can function for the most part, just in our own way. I was always considered a smart kid with superior learning abilities. I was quiet and awkward. I ‘ve always struggled socially. I have a very specific way of seeing things that don’t always make sense to anyone but me. I do best with structure, but I’m not very good at implementing or maintaining it. Even my last post about not connecting with people. So many other things. Just read about high functioning autism and it is all there. It’s all me!
ADHD and anxiety also come along with Autism. I’ve known since my 20’s that I have ADHD, but didn’t think much of it. It was more of a nuisance than anything. Anxiety has become a major problem as an adult, but I can recall little clues of this when I was a kid. Like when I’d get a stomach ache in school everyday and want to go home. I was severely bullied in school and would have major anxiety about going each day. I thought I was just traumatized by everyone’s cruelty. I guess it was bigger than that. Even the idea of getting bullied so much. I thought it was because I was ugly. Maybe it was also because I was the quiet, awkward autistic kid. All the puzzle pieces fit together perfectly.
I wish I could go back to my younger self and tell her everything is gonna be ok. I’d tell her that its ok to be different and she is special just the way she is. I’d tell her that she is loved and amazing. I’d give her a big hug and offer her endless love and support. But I can’t save the damaged little girl that I was. I can only try to work on myself now.
I guess nothing much will come from this other than having a better understanding of myself. I’m not gonna go around advertising it to everyone. I know I’ll be treated differently and I’m not interested in that at all. Maybe I can finally be a little more forgiving and understanding of myself and all of my weirdness that has haunted me forever. I feel such relief to understand now. Just like my physical ailments, my mental issue have a real cause. I am not broken after all. I am just different, and that’s ok.
Now I just have to learn to accept who I really am and make peace with it.