This one is written for Lucie. 💝
Ok folks, this is it. This is the post I’ve been trying to write – and equally trying to avoid writing – for months.
I know it’s one that will be controversial, eye-opening and inevitably stir up conversation. You won’t like everything I have to share, because it turns out, the number one feedback I get about me is I’m an over-sharer. But guess what? I am, who I am. And 2019 is a year where I embrace who I am. So, you don’t like what I’ve got to share? Move on. This blog wasn’t written for you.
What is the topic of this blog post? Autism. Specifically, that I am proud to be Autistic.
My journey to self-diagnosis started about 3 years ago, when an autistic friend of mine sent me a message that went along the lines of this:
“I think you have Aspergers like me, have you read about it? Think about who your friends are and what traits they share? Us Aspies attract other Aspies, and because our world becomes full of people with Aspergers, we don’t think we are different and tell ourselves we’re not autistic.”
I’ll admit, when I thought about friends I have had over the years, they did share the same “quirks.” But there were also other friends, friends who I loved deeply and thought we were going to be best friends forever, that just disappeared one day. Cutting me off for no apparent reason or warning.
Even-so, when I received the message from my Aspie friend, I did not put too much thought into it. So what if she thought I had Aspergers? A friend’s opinion does not warrant a formal diagnosis. So I let the thought fade away and carried on with my life.
Then I had these “fallouts” with my bestie. In my mind, everything was totally normal and fine. She’d come over and spend the day at my house, I’d spend the day at hers, we went out on trips. Sometimes my anxiety was bad and I had to cancel, she’d get mad. But then everything was fine again.
Oh. But it wasn’t.
Actually, said friend was dropping me “hints” that everything was not fine. I still can’t tell you what these hints were, but apparently there were loads.
I carried on as normal. I bantered with her. I laughed. I joked. I went out of my way to cheer her up when she was depressed. I tried my best to keep plans with her solid because she hates it when I change them last minute – but hey, mother of three over here! Things change last minute all the time.
Anyway, one fateful day, this friend blew up. I guess allllll those months (9 of them) of unsuccessful hint-dropping and bottling up emotions just started to come spilling out and I got told.
Finally. I got told in plain language what was wrong.
And it turns out, what was wrong, was me.
She quoted things I had said, jokes that I made and offended her, and highlighted the fact that I was flaky with plans.
So I’ve learned that it’s offensive to tell someone that their glasses look like Dory from Finding Nemo. Maybe that is blazingly obvious to you, but to me, I just don’t understand why that would offend someone.
1) Dory is awesome, anything that reminds me of her makes me feel warm and happy
2) The glasses were blue and yellow, Dory colours. The exact shades of blue and yellow, to be specific. What I said was a fact.
I’ve also learnt that I say stuff that is offensive all the time. I’d give examples – and I even started to write a list – but I really don’t want hate mail. So I’ll just let you trust me on this.
Thing is, in my head, I’m not being offensive. I’m being factual. Just airing the way I perceive what I see. Someone has a big nose? Why is it offensive to state that they have a big nose?
Ok, so you’ve got the idea. Another clue that lead me to self-diagnosis is that my closest friends were getting super upset with me and I wasn’t even noticing it.
Apparently, there are nuances that women make to tell you they are upset. This is probably why I always got on better with boys as a young woman and why I get on so well with my brothers-in-law.
I can’t even give you an example of what a nuance is. I can’t even tell you what image springs to mind when I say the word: nuance. To me, it sounds like an insect. Or a variation of the word: Nuisance. Which is exactly what a nuance is to me.
So don’t waste your time sending me nuances. You are better off posting a letter to the moon, because they won’t be recognised here.
About a year ago, my sister sent me a link to a publisher who writes and sells books and novels all about autism and autistic characters. (I shouldn’t be surprised that one of my favourite books as a young adult was “The Curious Incident of the dog in the night-time” by Mark Haddon.)
The website my sister sent me to was: Jessica Kingsley’s website.
It lead me to some internet searches. An old convo sprang to mind with an Aspie friend who said that “women with Aspergers are different to men with Aspergers.”
I knew a boy with Aspergers when I was a young teen. His name was Jack. He was a great kid. He was so interesting to be around. Very invested in Indiana Jones, sharing facts about baby wales and he just had a lot to say about interesting things. And he was only 9. In fact, now I think about it, my current 9 year old Ryan is almost exactly the same. (And here you witness my mind-blowing moment when I realise more-deeply that uh yes, autism is in my family.)
I took an online test to see what the internet said. Not surprisingly, I scored 43/50.
Then I found this incredible checklist for women to look at – and this made me think, Ok, this isn’t just in my head.
The final straw? The cherry on the cake? The final piece of the jigsaw?
After weeks of messaging back and forth. My beautiful, lovely, Autistic niece sent me this message:
“Auntie Laura, you are autistic like me.”
She saw it in me. She wasn’t the first and she won’t be the last. I knew it was time to accept the truth.
So, no. I haven’t been to the doctors and had official testing to get me diagnosed. But it’s been a real journey to get to where I am. I also met a group of fabulous women at a home-ed meet up who all worked out they were autistic. It was empowering, overwhelming and uplifting to have a conversation with these women. To hear their stories of how they realised they were different and how much I related to them.
So, if you’re still with me, and in the spirit of 2019 where I am embracing who I am, I am going to share with you some things about me that not even my own husband knows. (Well, not at the time of writing this anyway.) Again, over-sharing here, but I promise it’s with a purpose in mind.
I am Laura. In two days I will be 30 years old. That’s half-way to 60. I have stretch marks that look like the grand canyon and I’m not ashamed, because they tell me I gave birth to my sons.
Ever since I was little, I have noticed license plates and recognise patterns and symbols around me. I love numbers.
No, I hate maths. But I love numbers and pattern recall.
I can remember phone numbers, birthdays, anything with a pattern. Names and places – not so good at that.
I point out the obvious and I see things you don’t. I noticed the way your lips curve into a smile, or your nose wrinkles as you sneeze.
I can hear the croak or wheeze in your voice that tells me you have asthma or have been smoking for a long time.
I see everything. From uneven cuticles, brittle nails, freckles, creases in your shirt, the bend in your tie or bald patch on the back of your head.
I see smudged mascara, hairs on your arms, and notice the way your pupils dilate when you tell me a story.
I see every tiny detail, yet do not see your emotions. Instead, I feel them. I sense them.
I walk into a crowded room and feel guilt, excitement, depression, happiness, love, envy, grief and all that is in between. It is overwhelming. I feel emotions that are not mine.
And when I walk in, I am distracted by how bright the lights are, how my ears are ringing with the sound of breathing and coughing. Or the music in the background. My heart races when I hear the beat of a drum, feeling the vibrations in the air and under my feet.
I see, feel and hear everything.
Sometimes the feelings stir up so intensely and become so consuming I have to run to a private place and do this weird hand shake thing – imagine how people give a back massage on TV as a joke. Where they throw their hands up and down in a swift motion.
Yep. First time I’ve ever admitted that one. It’s an energy release. Helps me retain control and composure.
If I feel lumps and bumps on my skin, I pick. I claw. I rub. I can-not-stand anything that isn’t smooth.
It grates on me. I must pick. I have to. I can’t stop.
So I have lots of scars. Lots of blemishes on my face, covered with make up. But they’re there. I just learn to hide it well.
I hate brushing my hair. It snags, it pulls, it hurts. And I can’t get it to sit perfectly smooth. I also don’t see the point? It’s just hair.
I have to keep reminding myself that people lie. I hate lies. I associate lies with childhood. What kids do to stay out of trouble. Not adults.
But no, adults lie too. I lie, and sometimes I lie without knowing that I’ve lied. Until I realise later that my story was embellished by my own imagination or perception of what happened.
What I say is 100% what I think. There is no secret hidden meaning behind it. No agenda. No “oh I’m going to say this but I mean something else.” I just say what I think. It confuses me that other people are not like this.
I have intense interests. I have the ability to polarise my focus on those interests and feel frustrated when I can’t spend time on doing things I’m interested in.
I am Autistic.
My point is, I want to let those people out there in the world – the ones who say Autism is a disability, that autistic people can’t be successful, or happy or have a family – you’re idiots.
Sorry to be blunt. But everyone can have a family. Everyone can be happy. A disability does not mean you can’t find joy.
And I argue that being Autistic gives me super powers. There are traits that have helped me become extremely successful in my career. They help me identify threat, harmful chemicals in the air – that other people don’t seem to smell.
Yes, I suffer badly with Anxiety and leaving the house is exhausting and scary. But I wouldn’t trade any of it to be “normal.”
Because being autistic – it’s just part of who I am. My personality. It makes me – me! Quirky and interesting.
So, I’m embracing it. And my friends who have stuck around embrace it too. They accept my flakiness and my frank observations. They love me for my weirdness.
So, if you are secretly autistic or feel weird too. Embrace your weirdness. Love who you are.
As I always say, you can learn to be normal, but you can’t learn to be autistic.
Laura – Proud to be Autistic. 🎀