I’ve been blogging here for a year now – well, not exactly to the day, but I didn’t have a post ready for the “blogiversary” and I had to think of something to say. I believe some kind of retrospective or stocktaking is customary at a juncture like this. So where do I stand? When I started this I was trying to become clear in my own mind whether I was #actuallyautistic or not. I was trying to weigh up the pros and cons, the arguments against and in favour. To be honest I’ve been talking much more about points in favour than about points against. And now?
I have to say I’m still not quite there. I still don’t know for sure. Basically, whatever it was that stopped me before is still stopping me now. I read something the other day on another blog that sums up exactly what I feel as well:
I said that I had some autistic traits but “not enough.” I was afraid to believe it was possible because it felt like to do so would be like trying to be one of the cool kids when I really wasn’t.
(on Wibbly Wobbly Neuro-UNlogical Stuff)
Yes, you read that right. The autistics are the cool kids, the ones I want to belong with. But maybe I’m not cool enough to be one of them. I’m afraid of committing the sin of cultural appropriation, which is definitely not politically correct these days. (Please don’t read this with a sarcastic, mocking tone in mind – I’m serious.) There is an autistic culture, and I don’t want to be seen to appropriate that culture when I have no claim on it. And anyway – isn’t there something wrong with wanting to be autistic? Is that desire not influencing me in sneaky ways? Am I making myself more autistic because I want to be? Am I cherry-picking evidence from my life, selecting the few events that paint me in an autistic way while ignoring the bulk of “normal”, non-autistic stuff?
Those are real worries still. On the other hand, what I have been writing on this blog is not a lie. The experiences I’ve described are real. I have been honest about how I see the world and how my brain works. And the reaction from autistic people who have read this has been majorly encouraging. The post where I write about my quick-firing, hyper-connected brain was the most commented-on, most shared one, so I guess that really struck a chord. That I have that sort of brain is, for me, the biggest argument in favour of being autistic – if anything, it’s that which makes me so. In general, my posts have been well-received. I get the “me, too” comments, I get understanding from my readers. Nobody has accused me of faking it. Nobody has called me out for crashing the party. On the contrary, I have been welcomed into the autistic online community, and that has done me a lot of good. So apart from everything else, it’s time to say “thank you” to all of you lovely people out there.
I am not in exactly the same spot as I was when I started this blog. Something has moved. I even know when this happened, because I made a note in my diary. It was on 25 July last year, and I think I was hoovering the landing. (I have my best ideas when engaged in mundane tasks – usually when brushing my teeth.) I felt something shift inside me, and I suddenly thought: what if I could just decide to say yes to being autistic? Even if I’m not 100% sure, why not decide that 90% is enough? Just say it, not out loud, maybe, but in front of yourself. Embrace the identity. Try it on, see how it fits. Wear the shoes and walk in them. If they don’t’ fit, you can take them off again. Nobody needs to know, this is just between me and myself. So I did. I took the identity and put it on. I walked in the shoes. I said to myself: yes, I’m actually autistic. And you know what? It felt good. It felt right. I entered an area of calm, where before I had been agitated by the constant dithering. Just say it. Just do it. Is that me? I wrote in my diary on the same day: “I think I finally really know myself.”
That’ll be a yes then.
Perhaps that was the moment when I finally diagnosed myself. Although, I’ve come to think since that self-diagnosis is not actually a very good word. Or, at least it isn’t for what I did. I prefer to say self-identification. I’m still not saying it out loud, or to anyone else IRL except my sister. To do that I think I would have to be even more certain, because I’m still not at 100%. For that I think I will eventually need some external validation. I’m not thinking of getting an official (medical) diagnosis. There are several reasons why I can’t start that (notoriously lengthy) process now, and I’m not sure I would want it anyway. I know only an official diagnosis is the pathway to support and services, but I also know that those services are often non-existent, particularly for middle-aged women who have coped perfectly well without them all of their lives. I also can’t think of what services I would particularly want. It is not a priority for me, and I need my energy elsewhere. I would still like to be assessed by an expert, though. (I mean a real expert, who knows their stuff – they do exist.) It would be neat to have some confirmation of what I think about myself. But even that is not an urgent priority right now.
So there you have it – a picture of where I stand after a year of blogging: a secretly self-identified autist. It’s not a bad place to be.
P.S. I should have provided a link to the blog from which I quoted – this is it (I just can’t remember which specific post the words came from): https://wibblywobblyneurounlogicalstuff.com/