“You can’t be autistic. You don’t LOOK autistic. Everyone has these issues.”

I just read through this article, and it got my brain to workin’. I’ve rewritten this a few times already, because my brain seems to be on overdrive today. Sorry guys.

http://www.theguardian.com/public-leaders-network/2014/jul/24/autism-gds-louise-kidney

Trust me, I’ve said this to myself more than anyone else can imagine. I’ve tried to talk myself out of it. I’ve tried to justify to myself that a diagnosis of many other issues would be easier to receive from the medical community, so it must be more accurate.Over the years, I’ve been tested/suggested for many other issues, sometimes even medicated for them, to really no avail.

I’ve been officially diagnosed with general anxiety disorder, clinical depression, gastrointestinal issues, PTSD, bulimia, and chronic insomnia. I’ve been tested for Fibromyalgia and various immune issues; eye issues like glaucoma and astigmatism; inner ear issues for vertigo, sensory overload and extreme motion sickness. I’ve had doctors and psychologists mention ADHD, OCD, Bipolar, Misophonia (hatred or phobia of particular sounds),dyspraxia (coordination issues).   I display just enough traits for many of these issues to trigger my doctors to look into them, but in the end, I’ve been told that I don’t have enough ticks on the paper for a full diagnosis, only enough to make my life difficult. The thing I consider my biggest issue, the one that tends to cause me the most trouble, is the one that I had never mentioned to anyone until just a couple of years ago, although I’ve struggled with it my whole life: Sensory Processing Disorder. I’ve not been “officially” diagnosed, but I’m so solidly in the traits that it’s undeniable, and there’s nothing they can do about it anyway.

I’ve analyzed this over and over in my mind, and on paper. I’ve talked to my doctor, other Aspies, folks with SPD, my family members. I’ve researched for hundreds of hours, reading the DSM manual descriptions (which don’t take differences in gender into account yet), expert research on women with Asperger’s, blogs of other Aspies. There is no longer a doubt in my mind that I have Asperger’s Syndrome. This doesn’t mean I don’t have any of the other issues….what it means is there is an underlying, pervasive reason WHY I have all these other issues.

My brain is different from other folk’s brains. Yes, I know, we’re ALL unique, but my brain (as with all other people with autism), is fundamentally wired differently. I’ve always known I was distinctly different from most people I knew. It’s taken years of observation and research to figure out exactly HOW and WHY I’m different.

What most people don’t seem to understand about autism is that it’s a spectrum disorder. Yes, people have heard this, but they don’t really know what it means. It means that there are many varying degrees for each individual with autism, and it also means there’s many co-morbid issues that go along with it. That means that I will exhibit traits of multiple issues to a significant degree, and others none at all. My brain wiring makes me susceptible to certain things that a neurotypical brain takes for granted. As I’m in a contemplative mood recently, I will probably break these down individually, but I’ll skip it in this post. I finally understand that underneath all these things that I’ve been trying to medicate out of me in some form or another, is a fundamental wiring that makes me different from everyone else. I have decided to stop trying to be neurotypical. I’m NOT, and I’m tired, literally exhausted, of trying to force myself into it.

I don’t need to suck it up and deal. I need to learn what my capacities are and live within them. I need to learn these so that I can then test the boundaries. I’ve spent my entire life overloading myself into oblivion. Now, I’m learning where my tolerance levels lie, what issues will trigger me, and what coping mechanisms will work. This means starting at the beginning. Immersion therapy will NOT work for me. Simply making myself sit in the chaos will not help me learn to deal with the chaos. It will make me shut down. I know, because I spent the last three years, primarily (but my entire life in general) telling myself that if I just do it everyone else’s way, I’ll learn to like it. That if I change myself, I’ll be more acceptable. Here’s the kicker…it never happened. In the end, I locked myself in my bedroom, paralyzed with anxiety and depression, and eventually ended up in the hospital with liver failure because I ignored my own needs.

I’m not doing that anymore. It literally almost cost me my life, and my sanity. Now, I’m redefining who I am in the understanding that I am autistic. My brain needs different things.

These days, my life is quite different than it was a few months ago. I limit my social interaction. I keep my TV turned down, and if it must go up, I excuse myself to another room, and I don’t feel bad about it. I’m saving my energy, and saving my family the meltdown the excess noise will bring. If I’m having a bad allergy day, the stuffed up sinuses affect my hearing, which makes the sensory issues worse, so, on days like today when my allergies are sky high, I’m not pushing myself to be as productive as I would on a non-allergy day, because if I do, I will get frustrated and melt down. I explain to my family much more often that I am feeling bad, overloaded, tired, etc. I’m learning to say no. I’m also avoiding issues in which I know I will trigger my anxiety. To a lot of people, this looks like depression. It’s not. I’m not depressed right now. In fact I feel better about myself and my life than I ever have. I’m in a GREAT place right now. I’m discovering who and what I am for the first time in a light that I feel really explains me. But it requires a lot of internal work, that causes me to limit my external work. As I continue to learn and grow in myself, I’ll branch out more. Sometimes, it will be to test my boundaries. Sometimes, it will be because I need to know something. But I will NOT do something that I am not comfortable with anymore unless there is simply no other alternative. And then I will take whatever measures necessary to moderate the negative effects it has on me.

Am I being selfish? Yes, I am. I’m okay with that. Because I’m aware that I have certain people in my life who depend on my ability to function. These people are the ones who are being the most understanding, because they KNOW me. They know I would not ask it of them if it weren’t necessary. I’ve decided that if people don’t want to accept my belief that I am autistic without thousands of dollars and months or years of time spent getting some stranger’s seal of approval, that’s fine. It doesn’t, in the end, affect my reality.

I am an adult on the autism spectrum. I am a woman with Asperger’s Syndrome. It is WHO I am, not WHAT I am. I can’t separate it from my being. So, and I say this to myself as much as to anyone else, accept me for what I see in myself, or move on. I don’t have time or energy to accept anything less in my life, and that’s ok. It’s MY life after all.

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