This is the third, and shortest, excerpt from what I wrote the evening after finishing Aspergirls.
Reading that book had given me a lot to think about regarding my past. It both validated my perspective/memories and gave me a great deal of hope for my future:
I guess I thought that everyone else was like me but that I was failing worse somehow… that they could handle it and I couldn’t. So, knowing that I’m apparently not like everyone else is nice in that way. At least I know I’m not a complete failure or a *controlling person.
Knowing that I wasn’t a complete failure was huge. It still is. Knowing that there have always been reasons for my difficulties and that it wasn’t all a personal failing on my part has been an incredible relief.
The failure label was one that I had assimilated in part from my parents. I had failed spectacularly at college and nothing else seemed to matter to my parents at that time. I subsequently failed at having various housemates. I failed at living up to anyone’s expectations – both other people’s and my own. I failed to be successful at several different jobs. I failed to be a good friend and utterly failed to understand why. I failed to know when to speak up and when to be quiet. My life was full of failure.
I couldn’t even do normal things that everyone else did all the time, like make phone calls and go to the bank. What kind of a person had to give themselves a pep talk while visualizing the process for at least a week before taking a trip to the bank? For even longer to make a simple phone call? Just me, as far as I knew.
But most of my failures existed in the first place because I didn’t respect my difficulties and had been trying to be someone I wasn’t. I even told my parents, through the tears I couldn’t hold back, during one particularly difficult childhood moment when they threw all my books from the space by my bed into a box, “That was the only place where I could be myself.”
In just one intense moment they had effectively destroyed my sanctuary.
Reading books for hours and hours while tracing numbers on my electric clock in the middle of the night. That was who I was. That’s who I still am, really – minus the ability to stay up most of the night on the regular and still missing my beloved electric clock that bit the dust years ago.
I’m hopeful that now, with my official autism diagnosis behind me, I can get back to the business of figuring out who I am and who I want to be instead of trying to fit into a mold that wasn’t designed for me.
Because somewhere along the way, I lost my actual self by becoming a poor approximation of the person whom everyone else expected me to be.
*I have written a post about the “controlling” bit that is scheduled for Monday. Briefly now, I just want to say that being called “controlling” was a recurrent theme in my life – especially in college – and being able to examine that label from the perspective of being Autistic has been particularly helpful for me.
**And if you have an undiagnosed child whom you are afraid to “label” with Autism, please read this post and remember that for many of us who were diagnosed as adults, it’s a relief to find the autism label. It’s a relief to realize that we weren’t lazy, horrible people. Because the labels will happen no matter what, but the autism label can be a positive one, while the ones that will happen without it will almost certainly be negative.
Not having the label doesn’t make someone any less Autistic.
What’s in a name? That which we call a rose,
By any other name would smell as sweet.
~William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet