Not Human

Most days it makes me feel better to pretend I’m not a human being. I don’t feel like one most of the time. I’m just some strange type of yet-to-be-documented animal. When I think about life through this lens, it makes it a little easier to get through the day. I feel like I don’t have to be so hard on myself for not being what I’m “supposed” to be. In fact, it makes me feel pretty proud of myself that I’m able to blend in so well, given I’m a totally different, alien species.

When I start to feel depressed and inadequate for not having some kind of grand inner direction or drive toward a specific personal goal, I ask myself, what is my dog’s “goal in life”? Does my cat have some secret grand ambitions she works towards tirelessly every day? Well… to be honest she actually might, at least in the summer when she can go outside and try to catch the birds around my neighbor’s feeder. Even so, that’s at best, a short-term goal. She’s not trying to start a bird catcher company or achieve world-wide recognition for her hunting skills.

The human world makes it seem so obvious and natural to have some kind of “mission” in life. For as long as I can remember people have been asking me what I want to do or what my goals are. As if it’s just a given that I have these external desires to aim for. I’ve always felt like there was something wrong with me for not wanting anything like that. I’ve never been a very ambitious person. I just want to be happy and enjoy what I have, like my precious pup as she snoozes most of the day away as usual. I spend most of the energy I could perhaps use to inspire me to do something just trying to blend in with the “normal” people all around me. I don’t have the mental capacity to also be contriving some business or magnum opus.

It feels inherently shameful to be idle as a human. It’s like something is forever being expected of me. But being a random creature, such as myself, I don’t have to be weighed down by societies expectations. However I exist in the world by default is perfectly correct and enough. It doesn’t make me bad to not “achieve” anything in life. In fact, it’s bizarre that was ever the standard set by humans. Human beings have always been the weird, unnatural outliers of the animal kingdom. It’s not that I don’t fit in, I just fit in better with the majority of mammals more than people.

It’s hard work to be part chameleon and pretend to be so different than who I am every day. And it’s perfectly understandable that it takes up all of my excess energy. Sometimes others will say, just don’t pretend then, be yourself! As if this would make life easier. They don’t understand that, unfortunately, for me “being myself” would literally not allow me to survive. “Being myself” would be not pretending to be polite and make small talk with people. It would be not going to work and just vibing all day. It would be my complete and utter demise. I would be broke and completely isolated from everyone else. It’s a lot of work to pretend, but I’ve got to do it. However, as long as I remember that I am just pretending and I don’t have to live up to the world’s idea of a person inside my own inner mind and soul, then it isn’t so bad.

When I think of life in this way, it’s a lot more fun to be me. I get to feel sneaky and silly for how well I’m able to trick the humans into thinking I’m one of them. I get to just exist in my free time without pressuring myself to do more without a looming sense of guilt. I don’t have to feel bad for being incapable of understanding the vast majority of the population and their motivations/interests. I can just marvel at the insanity and take my little notes so I can try to keep assimilating better. It’s quite exciting and enjoyable to be whatever I am in a society of strange things called humans. I highly recommend it for anyone else that feels like they’ll never be able to live up to what they’re “supposed” to be.

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ASD and Decision Making

One of the many struggles I have in life that I attribute to my undiagnosed Autism is my utter inability to make decisions. I’ve felt like decisions were so much harder for me to make than my peers even as a young child, but I feel it’s only gotten worse as I’ve gotten older and the decisions I’m faced with every day have become more and more serious and important. It’s hard enough for me to decide what to wear or what to make for dinner, let alone if I should take a new job or move.

I used to be more able to make a decision if I felt somewhat forced into it out of discomfort. I’d wait until I reached my breaking point, where the discomfort of not choosing a different path exceeded the discomfort of change. However, that threshold for discomfort has become larger and larger as I become more dependent on and attached to my routines. It feels impossible to make a big decision regardless of how certain I feel it will be good for me, because I know it will inevitably cause turmoil and disrupt my normal patterns and habits for awhile. Despite unhappiness with where I am, it still feels easier to just let things remain how they are. At least I know what to expect, even if it’s nothing good.

I’ve been trying to focus on the positive things I stand to gain from making a change. Part of me does get excited at the idea of beginning a new phase of life for myself. Who knows what wonderful new things might enter my life if I only have the courage to make room for them? However, I am immediately terrified and overwhelmed with the idea of the immediate future that lies before any of those benefits. How on earth can I bear the pivotal moments of action? It seems like an insurmountable task. I wish I was able to press a button, make the decision, and wake up a few weeks later beyond the initial aftermath.

Possibly worst of all is the feelings of guilt, shame, disappointment I feel with myself for not being able to do this. It’s hard to even talk about with other people, because I am so embarrassed. I can’t really ask for advice, because it’s obvious what they’ll tell me I need to do. Part of me is afraid that their certainty will push me into action. No matter how sure I am of something, there is always a small voice in the back of my head pushing me in the opposite direction, warning me that I might regret this. I know that’s not something I can ever avoid for sure. But I already have so many regrets. I’m afraid to trust myself. I’m afraid to be the one that chooses how my future will unfold. I don’t want to blame myself for making the wrong choice someday.

On the other hand, what if I am making the wrong choice by remaining where I am? There may be wonderful opportunities and people passing me by because I haven’t been brave enough to create space for them in my life. I hate feeling like such a coward, like a child, that needs someone else to make all the important decisions for them. I just want to ask for help, but I know that there is no one that can help me to live my own life. Some things we just have to do on our own.

The Search for Novelty

In my endless, possibly misguided quest, to diagnose my own mental ailments, I’ve now stumbled into the realm of ADHD Pinterest. Although it’s difficult to distinguish between autism and ADHD symptoms because many are so similar and often these two overlap or co-occur. As it stands right now, I honestly think I have both. If I could afford it or even had access to a mental evaluation I’d love to have one done. Unfortunately, I’m stuck with internet memes to diagnose myself with for the time being.

Anyway, my newfound knowledge about ADHD has helped me realize my brain’s need for novelty. I can be completely engrossed in a new hobby or interest at first. I could spent every hour of every day learning about it or practicing it, but then without fail, I lose all interest after the initial magic of the “shiny new toy” wears off. This used to cause me a considerable amount of distress. I felt like a failure, unable to stick with anything for any significant amount of time. I would avoid committing to things even if I was obsessed because I knew that feeling would inevitably wear off and I would abandon whatever project or goal I had set. Then I would spent months feeling anxious and guilty about quitting.

Now that I know doing new things, or doing old things in a new and interesting way is what keeps me focused, I have a better chance of keeping myself happy and engaged in the tasks I want to perform or the goals I set for myself. It’s no easy feat to come up with ways to keep changing up my routine though. My autistic traits make me crave consistency, which is at odds with the need for novelty. I get very anxious at the idea of changing up a habit, even once it has become tedious and unpleasant. It takes a lot of mental effort to think of how I can alter my routines in a way that is small enough so it doesn’t overwhelm me with anxiety, but big enough to help me maintain interest.

So far, I’ve only seemed to make progress with this in the realm of my physical fitness. After over a decade of working out, I can get really frustrated and bored doing the same things every day, even if they are always a somewhat different HIIT workout. The one thing that I’ve found to help me stay motivated and excited to workout is having a clear goal in mind. Now before this, while my workouts would change periodically, my goal was always the same: lose weight and/or build muscle. These goals were far too vague and also, for me personally, deeply frustrating and unsatisfying as no matter how hard I try, I can never seem to do either of them to any noticeable degree.

If you’re someone like me who may have ADHD and/or someone who just has trouble staying interested in a regular workout routine, I would suggest picking a goal more fun and specific than losing weight. Something that you can measure without risking tipping over the edge into unhealthy body image and eating habits as I have in the past. Lately when I workout, I try to work towards gaining a new ability through my physical fitness journey. For instance, I want to be able to do a handstand one day in my yoga practice. There are a plethora of exercises I can incorporate into my workouts to build up the necessary strength and balance to achieve that. Doing a handstand is a goal that is fun and feels worthwhile for it’s own sake.

Another goal I’ve had since I found out about the exercise, is being able to do a pistol squat. Essentially this is lowering down into an extremely deep, low squat with only one leg, then raising yourself back up into a standing position. I really never thought I would be able to do that, but for a few months, I’ve added in a lot of pistol squat prep exercises into my weekly leg workout. Today, I am proud to say, I managed to do three sets of six reps of pistol squats on each leg! I was so overwhelmed with happiness. It’s the first time I’ve had that much fun in my morning workout for awhile. They may not have been perfect, but I can’t wait to get better and better at them.

At least as far as physical fitness goes, this strategy seems able to provide an endless supply of novelty. I can keep building on my physical ability more and more over time. Once I’m able to hold a handstand with a wall behind me in case I fall, I’ll work on doing it without a wall, then I’ll work on lifting up into a handstand, then handstand pushups, then handstand to crow pose, etc. I can’t wait to see what this body of mine may be capable of one day. Now if I can only find a way to implement this same principle of finding consistent novelty into my other passions and pursuits. Let me know if you have any ideas or suggests or if you struggle with this quest for novelty as well.

Diagnosis

Do I want a diagnosis?
I still can't decide
would it be soothing
to have a name
for my shortcomings?

Part of me would be relieved
to know I'm not just a failure
that my inner struggles are
more than just imaginary
that they have medical substance

It might be a comfort to know
my distraction and distress
my lack of tolerance for 
frustration in any form
are not merely personal faults

But what if a definitive label
would be something I would use
as an excuse to clip my own wings
in yet another new way
a limit to my possible potential

It might reinforce my self-doubt
assure me that I'm inherently limited
in my creative and cognitive abilities
a dark stain on the one part of me
I've always felt proud of

The older I get, the less sure I am
that this brain is something superior
the intellect of the collective world moves forward
as it gets tangled inside it's own inner alleyways
unable to keep pace with progress

If I'm not the smartest person in the room
I'm not sure who I am at all
left doubting the one thing that
made me feel safe in myself
unable to trust even that

Alien

Extroversion takes energy
the one woman show I perform
cannot be dropped in front of another

No one knows the immense effort it takes
to make conversation and answer phone calls
to smile and be presentable and friendly

For once I'd just like recognition
for all the inner work I'm doing to
fit the mold society expects of me

It's hard to accept I must spend
my limited mental resources on tasks
other people do on autopilot

Never knowing if my performance is enough
wondering if little slip ups have gone unnoticed
and made me look arrogant, careless, and rude

It can take hours or even days to return to
a sense of internal equilibrium after an interaction
an animal trembling and pacing from stress

Violently shaking off the charged emotional energy
is generally frowned upon by polite society
so I choke it down and hold it in

People say "be yourself" but 
I've always known that didn't include me
when I speak a different language entirely

Misinterpretation and misunderstanding
my wires are tangled and connected
in ways that do not translate

I've always felt like an alien endangered
by my innocent inability to blend in
envious of how others make it look so easy

Christmas Shopping Anxiety

I just returned home from yet another bout of Christmas shopping after my yoga class. It seems like I do this every year, but never learn my lesson. I start my Christmas shopping early to make sure that I don’t have to rush around at the last minute. I make a list, I get all the items on said list, but then, I continue to buy things randomly for the rest of the weeks leading up to Christmas. It has become something like a compulsion. I can’t stop myself. I am in a continuous state of oscillation between feeling like I didn’t get everyone enough stuff and feeling like I got them too much stuff.

For the majority of the year, I am the cheapest person you’ll ever meet. I very rarely buy any one item that’s more than $10. I spend the vast majority of my money on groceries every week. I don’t go out to restaurants or movies or shows. I don’t buy myself clothes or jewelry. Hell I even procrastinate going to the dentist because I don’t want to pay my new copay. I pretty much solely shop in the clearance section of any store. I honestly can’t remember the time I bought something for myself at full price. Yet when Christmas comes around I become blind to the amount of money I am spending.

The money thing is more just something I find intriguing. I’m not worried about the money. I have plenty to spend and I much prefer spending money on other people than myself. The bigger problem is my fear of what other people will think about how much I’ve spent on them. You see, I like to at least get something little for everyone in my life. I want to get my two closest friends at work gifts even though I didn’t pick either of them for our secret Santa, I want to get my boyfriend’s parents something, I want to get my friend’s husband something, my sister’s boyfriend and his daughter something, etc. I never think much of doing so, until I realize that they may feel bad for not getting me anything, or feel like they are expected to get me a gift the following year.

It seems like no matter which way I go, more gifts or less, I feel like I am going to make people uncomfortable. I think my anxiety/autism has a lot to do with my difficulties during the holidays. I’m an extremely affectionate person. Yet I honestly doubt most people in my life know that about me. Normally, I am too self-conscious or afraid of being vulnerable to express it. Christmas is the one time of year that I have a socially acceptable way to show the people in my life how much they mean to me. I spend a lot of time and thought on the gifts I get, trying to make sure it’s something the person will like and actually use. I write vomit inducing, heartfelt Christmas cards. I get much more excited to give to others on Christmas than to receive anything myself. Honestly, I don’t care about the latter part at all.

However, being the socially awkward person that I am, I have no way to gauge what is enough and what is too much. I don’t know how to find the balance between expressing my love and going so over the top that the other person feels guilty. I just hope that the people in my life understand that it is truly a joy for me to have an opportunity to give them tokens of my affection. It doesn’t matter to me if they didn’t get me as many things or spend as much money or even get me anything at all. In my mind these gifts have already been reciprocated in kind by their presence in my life the rest of the year.

7 Reasons To Start Your Holiday Shopping Early - Romantic Homes

Vulnerability

How showing vulnerability helps build a stronger team |

Opening myself up to others has never been one of my strong suits. Yet I know from experience, and many things I’ve read, that vulnerability is necessary in order to achieve true intimacy. This is exactly where my dilemma lies. I was fascinated by the realization I happened to stumble upon the other day surrounding this idea and how it has influenced my own life.

Sometimes I end up resenting and pushing away the people I most admire. I become frustrated by how much better I think they are than me. I paint this picture in my head of someone on a pedestal. So far above my strange little eccentricities and flaws that they could never possibly understand me. At first I feel embarrassed and unworthy of their attention and/or affection. I think to myself: well if they knew who I really was they wouldn’t want anything to do with me. Whether that’s really true or not, that thought eventually turns angry and I think: oh, fuck them then. I don’t need them anyway. I grow tired of pretending to be someone I’m not to maintain their approval. (Whether I even need to do so or not, remains unknown.) I either retreat myself or begin to push them away. This seems like a better option than what I view as the only other: that I am seen for who I really am and rejected.

I was running this problem over in my head the other day, when I began to wonder how I have any intimate relationships at all. I mean, of course there are plenty of people that I am able to be vulnerable with, people that I feel safe showing myself too. So what’s different about those relationships? I discovered that there are really only two ways I’ve been able to get close to someone in the past.

One way is when a person gets to know me before I decide I really give a damn about them or what they think of me. This happened more often when I was in high school and college. My first boyfriend knew all of my dirty little secrets before I fell in love with him or even became close friends with him just because we had classes together. In these instances, the fact that this casual acquaintance does not reject me for what they discover is extremely endearing to me. I begin to like them more because they’ve seen who I am and have not turned away, or perhaps even like me better for it. It feels so good to be seen. And I feel that they must be an exceptionally kind and compassionate person if they could still like me after truly seeing me.

The other way is when the other person is very outgoing and open. If they pour their heart out to me, I am usually so touched by their vulnerability and trust that I feel safe enough to offer my own. The closest people in my life have historically been extremely extroverted. Their bravery gives me the courage to open up. They also tend to ask me lots of probing questions, which I actually enjoy. Some people might find that rude, but I love nothing more than having someone ask me about myself or my experiences. I’m far too self-conscious to offer up that information willingly. So unless I’m directly asked, a lot of my life remains unknown to even my friends. Even if I desperately want them to know. I just feel too embarrassed to offer up unsolicited information about myself because I think no one would care.

So having noticed this pattern, how can I get close to someone who does not fall into either of these two categories? I am genuinely at a loss on that one. Not only am I too afraid to let this person find out too much about me and my past, they also don’t ask about it at all. Even if I wanted to tell them, I would have no idea how to bring it up besides just blurting it out randomly. And I don’t think that would be helpful even if I could muster up the courage to do it.

I’m not sure where this fear of being seen began. I cannot even remember a time where I was rejected for showing someone who I truly am. I’ve always been accepted and shown compassion. And each time this simple act of decency and kindness has touched me deeply. Each time I can hardly believe it, can hardly accept it, and feel certain that I don’t deserve it. Even though I know that I only end up liking someone more after they’ve shown me their flaws. I don’t love them despite these imperfections. I love them more because of their imperfections and the fact that they trusted me enough to share them with me.

I can’t seem to let go of this belief that I am not worthy of anyone else’s love until I am perfect. But that is obviously ridiculous. People don’t want someone who is “perfect.” (I certainly don’t.) People like other real, imperfect people far more. Consider the popularity of the anti-hero. Everyone loves a deeply troubled TV or movie character with redeeming qualities more than one who is infallible. Because no one is perfect. We see ourselves in the revealed shortcomings of others and we love them for it, as we can only hope others will love us for ours.

I am not being fair to myself or the people I hold dear by withholding and hiding these imperfect parts of myself. It’s not fair for me to breed resentment towards someone for my perception that they could never accept or understand me. Especially when I refuse to even give them the chance. I know deep down that I don’t have to be afraid. Certainly some people will reject me, but so many more have already embraced me and my flaws. Not only that, but by hiding myself away for fear of judgement, I am sending myself the message that I am not enough as I am, that I am unworthy of being seen and loved. And that’s not what I believe, not really. What I really believe is best summed up in the words of my favorite poet:

No matter how insignificant I may be, I believe I deserve to be loved.

Federico Garcia Lorca
Vulnerability: The Key to Better Relationships

Autism and Intuition

I’ve been reading a book about the gut microbiome that has led me to some very interesting realizations. In this book, the author talks about the possible connection between different gut microbiomes and mental health diagnosis, including autism. I’ve yet to really reach the part that explains the interaction between the two, but just the idea that there might be some interaction got me thinking. This book also discusses the physiology behind our “gut” instincts. Apparently that is more that just a turn of phrase. We really do receive physical signals from our guts that effect our decision making process. Or at least… some of us do.

My curiosity piqued, I decided to look up if there was any correlation between autism and lowered levels of intuition. I was excited to discover that indeed there is! I found many different research articles pointing out this interesting phenomenon. One of which stated: The ASD group produced less intuitive responses, and the degree of ASD-like traits showed a negative correlation with intuitive responses and positive correlation with reflective responses on the CRT. Together, these results are consistent with ASD being associated with reduced intuitive reasoning and greater deductive reasoning.

I was honestly thrilled and relieved to finally have an explanation for my apparent lack of intuition. All my life, the idea of “following your gut” or “trusting your intuition” didn’t make much sense to me. I never quite understood what people were talking about when I heard things like this. Yet it is such a common part of our language, that I kind of just let it go and assumed it was just something people said. One of those things that didn’t really mean anything specific, but had more of a personal interpretation that would mean something slightly different for everyone.

Then in recent years as I got more involved with spiritual practices like yoga, there was that idea of intuition again. Now it seemed to be something more real and tangible that I just wasn’t taping into. I couldn’t understand why I was not receiving any of these gut signals. I honestly can’t recall a single time in my life when I made a “gut decision” on anything. Even then I would hear things insinuating that meant I just wasn’t trusting my intuition. But that never fit me either. It wasn’t that I didn’t trust myself. There was nothing to trust or distrust. It has always been radio silence from my gut. The voice of my intuition has never spoken to me, so how could I learn to trust it?

Understanding that gut instincts and intuition are real things and I simply don’t have them, has changed my entire perception of the world and the way others make decisions. It finally makes sense why many of the people I meet in life make so many decisions that I cannot fathom. They are using an entirely different mechanism than I am. Now I see that while all of my decision are very calculated and logical, because I am solely using my deductive reasoning skills, others have another source of input that is completely alien to me. It makes much more sense now how and why someone could make a decision that, to me, seems utterly nonsensical. They are factoring in information from both their brains and their guts, whereas my brain has always been all I have to go off of.

Not only is this new insight absolutely fascinating to me, it is also rather comforting. Sure, I’m a bit disappointed to know I may never understand this experience, it’s reassuring that it isn’t because I’m not trying hard enough or because I am cut off from myself. People often ask me why I would even want to seek out an autism diagnosis, and this is a perfect example of why. There are so many aspects of myself that I have lived most of my life feeling bad about. I can’t even remember a time where that little voice inside my head wasn’t asking, “what’s wrong with me?” or “why can’t I just be normal?” Understanding the role autism plays in my personality and mental traits, is reassurance that my differences are not personal failings. I don’t have to keep struggling and trying to be like everyone else. I’m not like everyone else. But I am also not alone. There are so many other people out there like me who have the same difficulties. It’s such a comfort to know that there is nothing “wrong” with me. I’m just running on a different operating system. And that’s okay.

Intuition and sixth sense: How to train your gut feeling

Paxil (5mg)

I cannot believe I have only been taking 5mg of Paxil instead of 30mg for nearly two weeks now. Back when I was around 22 or 23 I began taking this SSRI every day and only recently found the nerve to try to wean myself off of it at 27. There were many times throughout the years when I wanted to do this, but when you read the horror stories about Paxil withdrawal it’s quite intimidating. A big part of my hesitation to give up the medication was also psychological. I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to manage without it.

Before I began taking Paxil, I was petrified of most (if not all) social interactions. It was a monumental task to even call my doctor to set up an appointment or to order food in a drive-thru. Meeting new people was always a nightmare, and I had a very difficult time making friends. After a month on an SSRI though, I was a completely different person. I didn’t think twice about making a phone call or talking to a stranger on the street. I felt like the shackles I had been wearing all my life were finally removed. That ever-present fog of fear had finally lifted.

But what if even after years of living in this newfound freedom, Paxil was still the only reason I was able to do these things? What if that old fear came back to overtake me as soon as I stopped? Not only that, I was afraid there would be no turning back for me once I began this journey away from Paxil. There are many accounts online of people attempting to cut back only to realize they desperately need this drug. However, upon increasing their dosage again, they found the medication didn’t work like it did the first time. I was afraid if I was making the wrong decision, I would be stuck with it.

Despite all these fears, with the support of my loved ones and primary doctor, I managed to start weaning myself off my Paxil. I tried not to think too much about it or look for any negative symptoms rearing their ugly heads. Much to my surprise, everything has remained pretty much the same, even now on practically no meds at all. I have only noticed positive changes such as rediscovering my formerly blunted range of emotions. And I could not be happier or more proud of myself.

The other day as I was driving home from an impromptu meeting with my boyfriend and his family, something incredible dawned on me. I can’t believe I just did that, I thought. I just spent the whole day with my boyfriend and his family. I just met his developmentally disabled aunt and elderly grandfather without having any idea I would be doing so beforehand. Wow. This might not sound like anything out of the ordinary to most people, but imagining how I would have handled that situation before Paxil vs. now is like night and day.

At 21 if my boyfriend had sprung meeting these people on me at the last minute I would have been petrified, angry, desperate to get out of the situation somehow. But that day, it never even occurred to me that it was of any significance. I simply shrugged and agreed when he said we’d be going to see them. I had no problem at all talking with them. I feel like I even managed to make a great impression. It actually brings tears to my eyes to say that. (Tears I now feel forming much more often and easily on my lowered dosage.) I am just so proud of myself.

Even though I’ve been through many similar experiences in the years since starting Paxil, this was the first time I can remember doing something like this pretty much on my own, with no significant chemical assistance. I genuinely never thought I would be capable of maneuvering social situations on my own. This incident has allowed me to more fully appreciate the things I’ve continued to do every day with no problem since lowering my dosage. I’ve still been meeting new clients every day at work, making follow-up phone calls, shooting the breeze with my coworkers, etc. All things I have become accustomed to, but had always given all the credit for to Paxil.

So to anyone out there who has been leaning on an SSRI for support, wanting to venture out on your own again, but are too fearful to try, don’t be afraid. You can do it. (With the help and support of a medical professional, of course.) I had hoped that the new pathways I have been building for years inside my brain would be strong enough to stand on their own after so many years of Paxil assistance, but I couldn’t be sure. Now I am. I know I can do this.

In summation, first I was throwing total support behind psych meds, then I was wavering more towards being against them all together. Now I have a better understanding of how to use these tools without becoming dependent on them. SSRI’s are not a miracle cure. They are also not something to avoid entirely. I finally see that they are like training wheels. Paxil gave me the courage and the confidence to gather new experiences, to learn that social situations don’t have to be scary. It gave me the time to practice better coping skills. My brain used to associate small talk, phone calls, meeting people, etc. with terror. Now I have years and years of conditioning under my belt to remind me that I can do these things and be perfectly okay. There is nothing to fear. Paxil has taught me that, and I am so grateful. Now with my new neural pathways in place and the old self-destructive ones faded and withered, I am ready to forge ahead on my own.

Chemical conversations: The story and science of how medication helped with  my depression | The Anchor

High Functioning Autism

At my office, autism has been on our minds a lot since the release of Love on the Spectrum, Season 2. My friend and I can’t stop discussing it and how much we genuinely love the people on the show. However, it is somewhat hard for me to discuss from a neutral position. If you’ve read a lot of my posts, you may already know that I believe I am on the spectrum. I’ve mentioned this to my work friend, but he seemed to shrug it off as if I was mistaken. I’m one of the many people that are just starting to be diagnosed later in life who “don’t look autistic.” My friend sees the way I behave and how well I manage interactions and daily responsibilities and assumes I couldn’t possibly be autistic.

But that’s part of the problem. It’s why so many people like me go undiagnosed for so long. Autism Spectrum Disorders are just that. They’re on a spectrum. Many people with high functioning autism, formerly known as Asperger’s, are able to fly under the radar for most, if not all of their lives, especially when these individuals happen to be women. People assume we function just the same as everyone else, but no one can see or hear what goes on inside my head. Even though I am able to appear “normal,” no one knows what immense effort that takes. How much time and energy I have to invest in learning the correct social etiquette for different situations, how awkward and anxious I can be when caught off guard or placed in an unfamiliar social environment. The only reason I am able to mask my struggles so well is because I am also extremely intelligent. Even though I don’t have the natural intuition for social cues, I have worked tirelessly to teach myself throughout my life.

Autism is still a fairly new disorder, and I have faith that we will be able to understand it better as time goes on. We have already made a lot of progress. However, I find it frustrating, given my experience with autism, that it is used as an explanation for a lot of the struggles for people who are autistic and low-functioning. In my opinion, their autism isn’t necessarily what is making it so difficult for them to function in society. It plays a part, but I think there are a lot of cooccurring disorders that are also playing a role, as well as the difficulties faced by those with general intellectual disabilities and low intelligence. If you have an IQ below 70 you are going to have a lot of struggles, regardless of whether you’re autistic or not. I don’t think it’s accurate or fair to pin it all on autism, especially given that there are so many people that function so much better with the same disorder.

I think this misunderstanding and/or misdiagnosis does a lot of damage to the general public’s understanding of autism. My friend at work actually mentioned a potential “cure” for autism. I know he meant well, but I was still slightly offended. I don’t want my autism to be “cured.” I value my differences. Autism is an important part of who I am as a person. Would I be an atheist or a vegan if not for my autism allowing me to disregard social norms and societal expectations? I can’t say for sure, but I have to think it’s at least a possibility. It seems like a lot of the vegans I follow online sooner or later come out with an autism diagnosis. Of course correlation (especially anecdotal) doesn’t prove causation, but it’s an interesting theory I’ve been mulling over for awhile now.

I’ve heard a few autistic individuals refer to it as a superpower and I am inclined to agree with that description. They are certainly drawbacks and I often wish that I could “just be normal,” but if I had the choice, I doubt I would change myself to fit in better in the world. Society sees autism as a tragedy. How sad it must be to not understand these treasured social norms. But for those of us living with autism, we could care less about your social norms. You’re perplexed why we don’t understand, and we’re perplexed why you think they make sense.

I love myself for exactly who I am, autism and all. And I hope that the day comes where I can afford to be formally diagnosed. I also hope the day comes when I won’t have to fear disclosing my autism to others. I am simultaneously fearful that they will think there is something wrong with me, or that they may think I’m not really autistic. I am very selective with who I confide in about this conclusion I’ve come to. I haven’t even told my boyfriend about it. Honestly whenever I do get tested I think he should be as well. His older brother is definitely autistic, although undiagnosed, and autism does have a genetic component. God only knows if I’ll ever discuss this with him though for fear of offending him. I am equally fearful that he will look at me differently when I disclose my own autism.

The increasing number of people being diagnosed with autism and the sheer amount of it I see in my own life, leads me to believe that it is a valuable part of human evolution. And it’s nothing new. It’s just starting to be more understood and recognized. Autistic people are important. Our contributions are important. Our perspectives are important. I’m sure plenty of the eccentric, brilliant people that have made important contributions in the past would have been diagnosed as autistic if they were alive today. There is no “cure.” And there doesn’t need to be. I don’t think of it as a disorder at all. It’s just how some people are, and there is nothing inherently wrong with that.

Autism is My Super Power. Lettering. World Autism Awareness Day. Quote To  Design Greeting Card, Poster, Banner, T-shirt Stock Illustration -  Illustration of design, campaign: 125997775