What if I am a little autistic? How could I have gotten to be in my thirties without a diagnosis? I have some thoughts about that.
First, I was a smart kid. I’m not saying that I’m not smart now. But when I was a kid, I excelled at school. Math was the best, but I even did pretty well in spelling, reading, science, anything that grabbed my interest. I was a quick study. So when people said things like, “Don’t do that, that’s rude,” I learned not to do that. I learned the rules. I learn the metaphors. I learned not to take everything literally. I remember watching people’s mouths when they spoke. Sometimes I still have trouble understanding what someone is saying if I don’t. And I remember being told to look people in the eye. I did my best to follow this rule, but I also got confused by it. Which eye was I supposed to look at? Going back and forth was distracting. So I started looking at the bridge of their nose. By this point, who knows what they’re saying to me? Doesn’t matter. I look like I’m paying attention, right? So by being a smart kid, I learned to look and act as close to normal as I could. Changing schools many times over the years didn’t help. I have a feeling that a few teachers and administrators started to get a sense that I was different, but then we would change schools, move to another state, or whatever, and I would get lost again in the shuffle.
The second reason is my looks. I was a cute kid. Adolescence was a very awkward time for me. Glasses and puberty came together in a very unfortunate way, totally demolishing what self-esteem I may have had before. I easily disappeared behind a book during this time. But luckily, by my senior year, I started to emerge from my ugly duckling phase as a pretty decent looking swan. I was thin, a decent height, with muscular legs, and by then I was wearing contact lenses, so no more gawky glasses. As a young adult, I was quite attractive. I could get through the social scene pretty effortlessly on my looks and goofy sense of humor. If I stayed quiet, I wouldn’t look too weird. If I had a couple drinks, my behavior could be dismissed as a result of my inebriation. Once I was comfortable around people, I could get loud and boisterous, but that was forgiven as well. Pretty girls can get away with a lot.
I dropped out of college and met my first husband. I got pregnant. I had my son and got married, and later had my daughter. My marriage was a disaster. He was only with me because of my looks, then only because of the kids. We drove each other crazy, and not in a good way. Depression, rage, suspicion, there were a lot of feelings that I could not cope with. And he could not cope with my seemingly irrational behavior. He lied to me every day since the beginning. My naivety was to blame for the first couple of years, and after that, I was tied to him by our marriage and our son. Divorce, custody fights, and more lies. But I had finally learned that he could not be trusted. Now his words have no value to me whatsoever. I cannot believe anything he says.
I’ve been divorced now for ten years. A decade since I put my foot down and stood up for myself. I have come a long way. Another marriage, two more kids, a diagnosis for ADHD, which explained a lot to me. And I started school again.
But working on a psych degree is another learning process that has brought me to a realization that I never expected to make. I could be a little autistic. In fact, I see Autism in many of my family members. And I don’t think that I am jumping the gun. I am watching and paying attention. I am learning. I am researching. I am fixating, the way I tend to do. And I do say something to my husband every now and then. Sometimes he blows it off, but sometimes it sinks in a little. He brought up what I had said about his dad a few days after I said it. I guess I’ve got his gears turning as well.
I’ve stopped worrying about my looks. I dress to be comfortable and try not to look too odd. I remind myself to shower and brush my teeth. I continue to learn, but I don’t force myself to socialize. Socializing is very anxiety-inducing for me. It isn’t worth the meltdown. I’m learning to move forward. I’m really bad about living in the moment, and I’m trying hard to set goals for myself. I still need help in a lot of areas, but I can accept that. I’m a work in progress.