Friday, December 27, 2013

Hi, I'm Autistic

This week, I went to my doctor for some help with what I thought was adult ADHD. I listed these things as what I have continuous issues with in my life (as in, ongoing for years):
  • disorganized thoughts, except when I hyperfocus
  • extreme anxiety, then I seem to explode over little things- like a tidal wave rushing over me
  • sensory overload
  • verbal diarrhea (yes, I said that)
  • impulsivity with little thought to consequences, especially when upset
  • the feeling that gears are literally turning in my head when my thoughts are processing, putting information together; which makes it hard to always formulate coherent sentences
  • it's easier for me to write sometimes in a fluid manner than speak, unless I write down what I'm planning on saying
  • perservation on little or big things, which probably don't matter to other people. 
  • even at rest, I'm always moving
My doctor typed some stuff into her computer and asked some more questions. She worked with me for over an hour on case history, some of which was painful. I kept getting more nervous and I was doing this thing I always do when I'm nervous, where I rub the palms of my hands over the tops of my legs and pop my jaw, faster and faster. She observed this and then asked me, "Are you familiar with the terms autism or 'Aspergers?'" 

I laughed. I quickly pointed out that this term, Aspergers, has been removed from the DSM, which she acknowledged, but then she said, "You match all of the criteria for this... and that moving? Even while at rest? You know what that's called?" I had to laugh.

Hi, my name is Jessi and I'm an autistic adult.

I'm not sad, upset, or anything but relieved. I have a name for the way my brain is wired and why I seem to be different than other women I know.

Why I can't seem to shut up when there is a stream of information coming directly from my brain out of my mouth. Or why I don't always understand that people are bored with what I'm talking about.

Why, when I'm "prickly" and I'm upset, there seems to be a tidal wave of emotions rushing forward and I cannot stop them at all and I lash out and yell. Or cry. Or fall apart. Those are meltdowns. Bec explains them beautifully on her blog, Snagglebox

I now have a name other than just anxiety for why I have aversions to places, textures, and smells.

Maybe this is why I think of my brain like a computer system, where someone is trying to access files. Sometimes those files are corrupted, permanently open, or hidden.

I get now why I cannot interpret intent in situations sometimes and why people's actions genuinely confuse me. Why I can't let some things go- even years later, though I hold no ill will, I just remember them in detail. I think now I can understand why I only see the big picture or the little minute details, but never both. 

I've been rereading Mutha' Loving Autism's post on females with Aspergers this week and nodding my head, just like I did the first dozen times I read it. What she experienced in her head as a kid, at least on the surface, could have been me. We've also been chatting on the phone and comparing notes as moms, women, and women with autism. I've never had that much in common with another woman before (we had a whole discussion about the "right" weight and length of shirts), and I'm 31. I find this weird and really cool. I've had female friends and still do, but to talk to someone and compare notes about all the "weird stuff?" Amazing. And, it's not "weird," it's autism.

I've known that other people didn't think like me since I was a kid. I'm a very visual thinker (when someone says, "cuts like a knife" I actually picture a knife cutting something), but when I discovered others aren't, I was confused. So I kept quiet and mimed what I saw other people doing. I was a great mimic and still am. But being a mimic is very hard and incredibly draining. All I'm really interested in is being a great me, not a copied version of someone else. What kind of inauthentic example would I be setting for my sons with that?

I told the boys on Christmas Eve. Morgan thought it was cool that my brain works similarly to his. He thinks, he says, that this is why I'm kind and why I "get" him most of the time. Bay, on the other hand, teared up and said that I can't be autistic because I'm pretty. Ummm.... I whipped out my phone and immediately showed him pictures of women I know who are autistic. "Aren't they pretty? Remember, autism looks different in everyone, just as everyone looks different. Mommy's autism looks different in her than in Morgan. Looks have nothing to do with autism, baby." 

As for my husband? He thinks the doctor is 100% correct. He's been living with me for ten years now. He's seen me at my very worst and my best and loved me all the same. I believe him when he tells me I'm not crazy, as I've been insisting for years. I love him for insisting on making me believe that.

Knowing I'm autistic gives me a firm ground under my feet and removes the thought from my head that I'm some sort of freak. This diagnosis has made my own pieces fit together and given me clarity. It's not a huge deal, but it is.

I'm me. I'm a woman, a wife, a mother, a sister, a daughter, a writer, an artist, and I'm autistic.

I love being me.





17 comments :

  1. Me too! :) welcome to the club!

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  2. Me three! You may want to check out Tania Ann Marshall ' s blog/works too. Samantha told me about her, and it's been very helpful. XO

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  3. Wowee, Jess. I'm so psyched for you that you got some answers. (Oh, and that picture is gorgeous, by the way.) Go you!

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  4. So glad to read your story. I was diagnosed with aspergers about 18 months ago as a result of my daughters diagnosis. For me it also explained so much of my life as well. And now I know why I understand the children with aspergers that I teach so well. Im glad you have answers.....and thanks so much for sharing. Your story is so familiar

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  5. This is all too familiar to me and I know just how you feel.
    What a relief it is to finally know, after all this time..... why.

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    1. Exactly. I thought about the autistics I know like you, Lizbeth, Flan, Bec, Erin, etc., while I was sitting in that office and thought, "well... I'm good in company."

      It really was a relief.

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  6. Yayyy! I am myself in the process of being diagnosed.. im not scared or worried. . It makes sence to me

    I see it in myself. .the same as I notice some big similarities between me and my daughter. . ASD its genetic so why not me?? I have a gut feeling I am... now my trifle aversion makes sence. . I can not mix cake jelly custard and cream. . Separate on the plate please.. pavlova bace crwam fruit. . Separate please.. I don't sleep and its not insomnia ( doctor cleared that this morning) I can't be still I cant be quite. . My brain is going a mile a minute and I have to blurt it out... when you know. .. you just KNOW.

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  7. But you have the most beautiful smile. Autistic people don't smile like that! Wait a minute! Of course they do! Love you doll.

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  8. When I took my daughter to the spectrum psychologist in this past spring, and we were going over family history, and I described to him how I felt. He looked at me and said "Do you need to make an appointment for yourself? Here's some paperwork, take it and fill it out and we can talk. You most likely have Aspergers too." Hm, yea, I never filled it out and took my daughter back, but when he brought up my schedulign an appt, I shut him down real quick, lol!

    Can't get it out of my head though. I have almost every single symptom you've described here. Even w/out the formal diagnosis, I know what's going on. I've known I was very different as a child.
    Thank you for writing and sharing this post.

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  9. This sounds just like me as well. However, what does it mean? Where do we go from here?

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  10. For me, it just means that I feel okay to be comfortable in my skin, which I never really have been. It means that I might be able to develop better coping mechanisms. It's like I've found the most comfortable pair of jeans ever and I never have to take them off (sensory issues, you know?). I don't completely know, long term, what exactly this means. But I do know that, short term, it means this will make me a better mom because it will push me to learn more about myself, therefore learning to cope... and then learning more about my son.

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  11. Is it weird that I'm thrilled for you? I love that you have an explanation now, a framework in which things suddenly make sense. More so, I'm thrilled with how comfortable you are in sharing it with the world. THIS is how we destigmatize (is that a word? I think it's a word...) autism-- one story at a time, one person at a time. <3

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    1. I don't think it's weird at all. I agree about the destigmatization. In order for even more autistic voices to be heard, more need to speak up. I think it helps for more parents of autistic children to come forward, acknowledging that they, too, are somewhere on the spectrum. A lot of us, myself including, have been medicating for a very long time for issues we don't actually have. Those issues, instead, have been the fallout for covering up autism. It's not right. Maybe then, with further destigmatization, we can live.

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  12. Congratulations and welcome! Self knowledge is almost always a good thing. I'm so glad that you have some answers that can help you be happy with you.

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