This is Me
This blog post has been a long time coming.
Four years in fact. I’ve pondered and drafted and even scripted it as a YouTube video, but in the end I always put it off. Now is the time.
Keala’s workshop performance of “This is Me” was the spark that finally set this into motion.
So here goes…
I am a diagnosed Aspie on the autistic spectrum.
If you know much about how ASD presents in females you’re probably not surprised.
But if you’re picturing the kid from Parenthood you might be.
That’s because aspergers is different for everyone. Its not simple and it defies tidy boxes and definitions.
Which is why its called a spectrum. If you know one aspie you know one aspie. And the next you meet will likely be vastly different.
I’ve decided to share because it is a big part of what makes me… me.
And because if those of us who can mask as neurotypical continue to do so, the understanding of autism will remain narrow & stereotypical.
A couple notes about vocabulary before we continue…
I use the terms aspergers and autism here. My diagnosis is for aspergers, which can be considered as “high functioning”, on the autistic spectrum (or ASD). The US no longer holds aspergers as an official diagnosis, but other countries still do.
This means I would now be considered autistic by an American psychologist. But because aspergers was my first diagnosis it has a warm feeling for me and aspie is the term that I prefer.
In the spirit of sharing, here are some of my aspie traits.
Remembering that everyone on the spectrum will present differently.
1. I have sensory processing issues.
Showers are torture to me. I live in t-shirts because restrictive clothing drives me up the wall. And I struggle to understand conversations when music is playing.
This is because my nervous system is highly sensitive and my brain has trouble processing input. So I experience sensations more intensely than most people. Just think of the Princess & the Pea. No matter how many mattresses you stack up I will still feel the pea. The same goes for sound. Or light.
Which is why I’m forever squinting or blinking in photographs. (Yes, I did have a brief foray into t-ball, but was more interested in stomping ants than chasing balls.)
2. I am a big collector.
Keys. Coins. Books. Mugs. Teapots.
Growing up I collected Barbies & never took them out of their boxes. (If you’re curious they are worth less now than when we first purchased them so it wasn’t a brilliant money making strategy.)
3. You might think I’m a control freak.
During my diagnosis I realized that a lot of my flaws are actually coping mechanisms.
Because I can’t always read social situations…
Because the world can often seem too bright / too loud / too much…
Because of my social anxiety…
I constantly run a little computer program in my brain that is analyzing what is happening and determining what to do. I thought this was completely normal, but apparently it is quite unique. This can be exhausting so I really prefer to know what is happening in advance. Having structure and following a plan helps me feel safe and capable. Even the smallest changes can really be a struggle and potentially cause a complete meltdown.
So this is why I’m not good at spontaneity, why I want to know all of the details in advance, and why I probably won’t say yes to last minute plans.
4. I am deeply passionate about certain topics.
The official term for this autistic trait is “special interests”, but I don’t think that conveys the depth and intensity with which our interests manifest.
For example… when I become interested in a creator’s work I consume all of their content in chronological order. I have done this with Joss Whedon, the Vlogbrothers, L. M. Montgomery (2 books to go!), the Michalaks, and The Wizard of Oz (did you know there was a whole series of books?)
I’m also a huge nerd for Sarah Bernhardt, Buckminster Fuller, Doctor Who, NaNoWriMo, and Wheel of Time (among other things).
Some of my newest interests (I’m always developing more!) are around botany, gardening, and herbariums.
5. I am socially challenged.
As a teenager who still collected dolls, and was more interested in books than boys (“late bloomer” is an aspie thing too) you can see how I would struggle to make friends my own age. During those years I formed close bonds with my adult mentors and literary heroines like Emily Starr & Egwene al’Vere.
When I started college I thrived in its structure. I was connected with other people who were passionate about the arts and I could relate to my classmates as Stage Manager or Dramaturg instead of Sarah.
See below… I sat on the side making notes while everyone else was on stage. I’d finally found a way to be involved even while being apart.
Since graduating I’ve found it harder than ever to make friends, but am learning this may be a common experience for many adults in our current culture. (This is a great podcast episode about friendship & loneliness.)
So I’m quite thankful for you.
For connecting online. Where I can collect my thoughts and present them as blog post, or video, or IG post… whichever form they seem best to fit.
One more thing…
The harder stuff (meltdowns, shutdowns, negative thought spirals, and the state my teeth were in until quite recently) isn’t easy to talk about.
So please don’t come away with the idea that ASD is just being quirky and sensitive. This is just the tip of the iceberg.
Even so… weighing it all together I wouldn’t change it. Autism isn’t something to cure or prevent. Our brains just work in a different way. And while that can present challenges, it can also be a good thing. Many inventors, artists, and paradigm shifters were and are on the spectrum (even if the diagnosis didn’t exist at the time.)
Here are some great resources if you want to learn more.
This was a very vulnerable post.
I’d appreciate your support in comments here (or on Instagram).
If you don’t know what to say you can do what my psychologist did and simply say “Congratulations.”
Thanks for listening.
P.S. While I welcome honest curiosity I am not here to prove my diagnosis or debate anyone. Unkind comments will be deleted. Please treat me and all other commenters as you would sitting on my porch with a cup of tea.
P.P.S. This was also inspired by Kate Laing’s Bravery Mission (a project for anonymous stories of bravery). It’s definitely taken some lion courage to be vulnerable enough to share this here. Thanks for your support.