January 30, 2018

“How did you find out you’re autistic?”

In my mid-twenties, I met a new group of friends. I didn’t realize at the time that most of them identify as autistic. All I knew was that they understood me in ways that no one else did. They also actively appreciated parts of my personality that others often found annoying.

A few years later, while hanging out with these friends, the topic of “utopias” came up. One friend said that her idea of a utopia would be to live on a separate┬áplanet with all the people who are easy for her to talk to, and none of the people who aren’t. I eagerly agreed, since I love her clear and direct communication style, and would enjoy a world full of such people.

Then she added, “Oh, and ‘autistic’ is a short way to describe the kind of people I mean.”

I was like, “Wait, what? So… would I get to be on your planet?”

I knew almost nothing about autism at the time, except that it sometimes causes kids to rock back and forth. And yet, I secretly hoped that the answer to my question would be yes.

“Of course!” she immediately said.

I felt confused and curious. She encouraged me to go online and read autistic perspectives, to see if I relate to descriptions of how it feels on the inside. I ended up doing the reverse: I thought of who I relate to most (the character Jane Eyre), then searched to see if she’s autistic. According to one academic paper, she absolutely is.

When I continued to research autistic traits, I didn’t resonate with all of them. But then I learned that autism often looks different in women. I began to read about female autistic experiences, and many of them mirrored mine perfectly. I learned that I’m not alone in the challenges I face, and I began to benefit from copying the strategies that other autistics find helpful.

I wanted to share everything I was learning, both to help the people in my life understand me better, and to help other autistics (especially women) understand themselves. But I wasn’t sure if people would believe that I’m on the spectrum, so I sought an official diagnosis, and got the result I expected: I am autistic!

P.S. I write from my personal experience as an autistic. What I share is not a substitute for advice from an autistic medical professional. Also, some of my opinions have changed since I first wrote them.