My whole life, I’ve clung to self-discovery.
I thrive on Buzzfeed quizzes and my “brand” because it explains to me who and what I am. I think this has been the case because I’ve never truly understood myself. I didn’t know why my brain worked the way it did, or why most other people seem to have a much easier go at life. I just lived day by day, trying to act as normal as possible. I mirrored neurotypical behavior I saw in order to be socially accepted (though that didn’t always work). Sometimes, I borrow phrases from friends to use in social situations to make small talk easier. I practice entire conversations beforehand, imagining every possible hypothetical response. These imagined situations often make me real-life anxious.
In the days following my diagnosis, I was so angry. As I told some close friends and colleagues, the overwhelming response was “oh – that makes total sense!” or “that explains so much!” If it’s no big surprise to anyone but me, why didn’t someone sit me down and TELL me, or at least get me evaluated when I was little?? If I had been diagnosed before middle school, so many awful experiences I’ve had since then wouldn’t have happened. I would have had help shouldering the workload of high school, I would have had a single dorm room every year in college… I would have coping skills to help myself that I’ve had to live without.
But who’s to blame? The fact is, in the late 90s/early 2000s it was not common to get boys evaluated, much less girls. Teachers and parents weren’t looking out for autism, unless it was obvious that the child couldn’t function in everyday life. Also, girls are especially good at masking their symptoms. Even if my behaviors would have been noticeable, no one would’ve known because I mask so well. So it’s not really anyone’s fault. Because of that, I am still working on finding a landing place for this anger.
When I struggle, I feel frustrated and sad that I’ve been burdened with this brain. I have enough on my plate as it is. I wish I had been diagnosed sooner… I’m slowly learning how to mourn the childhood I would have had with a diagnosis. At least I can start that life now!