For the better part of my formative years and on into my adult life, I have often used the phrase, “I’m not Autistic, but…” and then proceeded to follow it up with something that made me feel a kinship with my Autistic peers. It was, at first, my attempt to prove commonalities existed between us: them, an Autistic person, and me, neuro typical. Early on, say mid to late teens, I legitimately saw this as an ok thing to do. And to my memory no Autistic person ever made me question the decision.
As I entered college and began to learn more about the mental aspects of my disability, I came to the conclusion that, because of my Hydrocephalus, I was what some would consider neurodivergent. Again I fell back on that phrasing, “I’m not Autistic, but…”. There were similarities, I couldn’t deny that. Executive dysfunction, sensory processing issues (what I’ve often referred to as my inner noise ordinance violation), but they were just that, similarities.
As my supreme good luck would have it, I ended up marrying an autistic individual. Before we got married we dated for several years and got to know each other almost as well as we knew ourselves. He was still learning about his diagnosis and how it impacted his every day life, and my role in that was support. But again similarities crept up that I couldn’t ignore, and there again was that phrase, “Ya know, I’m not Autistic but…”. He was gracious to a fault and listened to my experiences, not necessarily agreeing or dismissing.
Many of my friends at this time did the same. I’ve lost count of how many of my college friends first heard about executive dysfunction from me. At that point I was merely trying to share what information I had and hopefully find ways to better cope with stresses in my own life.
It wasn’t until after we’d been married a few years that my husband posed the question, “You say ‘I’m not Autistic but’ a lot, have you ever considered that you might actually be Autistic?” Y’all. It was as if the evidence board in my brain suddenly meshed together. All of the strings twisting back and forth around push pins started to form a picture.
That was all it took. I dove into the internet and researched assessment after assessment and dozens of symptom lists. Most importantly, I started thinking back on all the instances of me saying, “I’m not Autistic but…” and I realized they almost all correlated to a symptom of Autism: sensory overload, sensory processing issues, aversions to textures, attention to detail, executive dysfunction, the list goes on.
My next step was to seek out the Autistic community online and to consult with friends who were diagnosed Autistic. It was pretty much unanimous agreement from those who know me, I’m likely Autistic. Even those that don’t know me agree that Autistics have a knack for recognizing other Autistics.
At this point I’ve not sought a formal diagnosis and I’m not sure if I will. Right now it is enough to explore on my own. It’s already made an immense difference in my daily life as far as approaching things with my abilities and boundaries in mind. I’m being kinder to myself, giving myself more grace. And as always, my husband’s support has been vital. I’m so grateful for his encouragement to get to know myself better so that I can be the best version of me. And I guess now I can say, “I am Autistic.”