April 2, 2019

My friends and I have always been into personality theory – exploring who we are, what we share in common, and what makes us unique.

One time, a friend asked everyone at the dinner table, “How would you describe yourself in five words?” I couldn’t narrow it down to five, so I chose seven: Driven, linear, delighted, analytical, precise, brave, and wholehearted.

That was still in the early days of discovering all that autism means to me. I didn’t yet realize that I could have answered with a single word: Autistic.

That realization was sparked a few weeks later, by a question from another friend: “How would you be different without autism?”

I wouldn’t be as driven to improve everything, because fewer things would make me uncomfortable.

I wouldn’t be as linear in my thinking, because my brain would transition more smoothly between unrelated ideas.

I wouldn’t be as delighted by so many things, because my senses wouldn’t be as strong, nor my emotions as finely tuned to the effects of my senses.

I wouldn’t be as analytical, because my brain wouldn’t be structured to make the same kinds of connections that I do now.

I wouldn’t be as precise in my communication, because I would more easily be able to read between the lines and infer meaning from vague statements.

I wouldn’t be as brave, because fewer things would require courage – like crowds, and small talk, and water on my skin, and ambiguity.

I wouldn’t be as wholehearted, because I wouldn’t have the devoted focus that’s typical of autistic hobbies, interests, and relationships.

Being autistic comes with many challenges, but I wouldn’t give it up for the world.

Without autism, I wouldn’t be me.

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.