How much of me is me, and how much is due to the Autism?
Most – all? – of my Autistic traits I have wished gone at some point or another. I’m working on that, don’t worry.
Some traits are more difficult to define, however. I raised in a previous post the point of my clumsiness, which is apparently very commonly in Autistic individuals. It was the first time I actually felt mildly resentful towards the diagnosis because it was the first time the diagnosis actually infringed on a trait I consider part of “me” and not part of “my autism”.
I know a lot of people in the Autistic community consider their Autism to be an essential and integral part of their being. The way I’ve read it, a lot of them consider it to be something deeper than personality, almost. Personalities change over time, as people age or as they experience life events, but their autism is so deeply woven into their brains that you literally cannot remove it without changing who they are as a person. It’s why a lot of people get annoyed at so-called “cures” (also, a lot of these “cures” are harmful, physically and mentally damaging, but that’s a subject for another day) because they feel like someone is trying to take an essential part of their being, or prevent anyone else from ever being born “like them”.
I don’t feel that way.
Perhaps it’s because I’m at a different place in my mental journey – I’m sure I would be a lot happier and mentally healthier if I could get to that place described above – but that’s not how I feel about my Autism. I’ve always felt of it more like a barrier – even before I was diagnosed, even when I didn’t know what Autism was, I always felt like there was *something* keeping me separate from everyone else, and if I could… just… get… past… it…
Upon reflection, that’s probably some pretty entrenched internalised ableism. We can add that to the list of attitudes to work on.
My point is, although I’m glad to be diagnosed and I’m glad to be more aware of who I am, I still for the most part want it to go away. I still think of my Autism as “other” than myself. An invisible glass barrier or bubble that prevents me from interacting with the rest of the world in the way that everyone else interacts with the world.
I am aware of how problematic this attitude is, and I’m aware there are many things to celebrate about being Autistic, and I would never tolerate this attitude in anyone else because, you know, everyone else is beautiful or whatever 😛 but when I think of me and my experiences with Autism all I can think of is the struggles. To the untrained eye I seem to be able to pass or mask a lot – I do have friends, a job, a marriage – and if I had been diagnosed a year or two earlier it would have been Asperger’s rather than Autism so I feel guilty complaining about the hard times when other people have it worse, but nonetheless. The times as a kid I couldn’t keep friends for more than a few weeks. The way how, as I got older, friendships got harder and the pool of people who were friendly – who would even talk to me – shrank. The near constant bullying my entire academic life. The constantly missing connection between me and everyone else that I could not find no matter how hard I looked. The other stuff as well – the sensory issues that only make sense with hindsight. The slight missteps in my patterns of thoughts compared to everyone else.
All these thing hindered me and made my life difficult. I wanted them gone. Since primary school, I have longed, with all my heart, to be “normal”.
So the Autism diagnosis was a mixed blessing. It meant that dream was forever out of reach but the dream had pretty much died anyway since I hit adulthood without growing out of whatever it was that was holding me back. It did, however, give me the chance to shove all things I disliked about myself into a box labelled “Autism” and – well, not forget about them, but worry about them less.
Which is why I was weirded out when clumsiness suddenly seemed to fall into the “Autism” box. It wasn’t something I liked about myself, exactly, but I didn’t dislike it either. It was just… part of me. But now it’s part of Autism, too? Is it possible that Autism is… *dramatic music* part of me?
But where does it stop? Where does “me” end and “Autism” begin? What if all my traits are accounted for by the Autism? What, then, is actually left that is “me”?