I’ve been doing a lot of reflection lately and something I thought about was “how life would have been different had I known about my Autism as a child”.
I was a little angry at the world about this – that not one person picked it up! And I let this thought anger and distress me. I let myself feel sorry for myself and all of the “lost generation”. About all the misunderstandings and struggles we all faced at various levels with no explanation.
I can’t conclude whether this is a bad thing or good thing for anyone else but myself. So my personal view on the matter is that although I felt this sadness and anger about it – I am glad I didn’t know. This may go against the grain of the majority, but allow me to explain..
It’s one thing to “feel” different to others, it’s a whole other thing to KNOW that you are. Sure, a few accommodations would have come in handy but I would rather have struggled in silence like I did with no explanation than to be singled out and minimised because of this “difference” by others. For them to use it as an excuse for my behaviour or misunderstandings.
I’m glad I was able to observe, absorb and adapt to the world around me as I did. Although I have developed maladaptive coping techniques from past experience this has also allowed me to be an “outsider insider” to the neurotypical life. If I had known I wasn’t neurotypical, or if others hadn’t, I don’t believe I would have had this opportunity. I believe I would have isolated myself, or been isolated because of my difference.
“Difference” is a way of segregating people. The history books show that. Being white I have privilege, being female means I have a little less than white men, being a disabled white female means I have even less, but still more than others I have no doubt about that (I’m being honest here, doesn’t matter what way it’s spun, in my opinion white = privilege). It was hard enough getting “heard” throughout my life, there was always a “just” – “just” a kid, “just” a girl, “just” a teenager, “just” a stupid female. I can only imagine how hurtful being minimised to “just” Autistic would have been especially when judgment of my opinions and decisions based on my age and sex were often considered “wrong” anyway.
So I am glad I have this knowledge as an adult. It’s mine to disclose at my own discretion. It’s my “ace up my sleeve”; it’s my power. I “don’t look Autistic” and have passed for years. I know now why I struggle with some things – it’s not because I’m “stupid” at all. As a matter of fact I think that’s where Autistic adult power lies – in being underestimated. People focusing on our challenges and wondering “why?” yet missing our strengths. Our power is being able to offer an explanation, to say, “I am Autistic, I process things a little differently so can you explain *it* in this *way* for me please?”. It’s the power to look back and make sense of our past, to forgive ourselves for not knowing then what we know about ourselves now. It’s the power of self-discovery, to get in touch with ourselves, to learn about ourselves, to figure out our wants and needs, to find our limits and not push them because it’s a neurotypical expectation to do so. It’s our power to say “NO” without explanation to others because we have an explanation for ourselves.
It’s our power NOW, as adults, to chose what’s right for us – as a kid that power would have been in others’ hands, so for me personally, I’m glad to have that power now. I’m glad it wasn’t known. I’m glad I wasn’t forced into therapies. I’m glad I have the freedom to choose the right therapies for myself now. I’m glad there wasn’t another excuse to be minimised and dismissed throughout my life. Im glad I’ve been able to learn about myself, and make sense of my life, on my own terms. I’m glad I have met other Autistic adults, to know I am not alone – because, as a kid, living in a very small country town, I can guarantee my life as a child would have been miserable and isolating even more so had I, and everyone else, known.
This is my truth, my perspective. My life. Your story might be completely different and that is okay! We are all different with the same Autistic core. I’m sure I will have days where I hate my Autism, I will fall back into the trap of being miserable about my past I cannot change – this is realistic. Today, however, I’m simply just glad I know now.