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Day twenty-seven.

A problem that you have had.

I’ve mentioned this before. I suppose it deserves a bit more detailed of an explanation.

I have an Autism Spectrum Disorder, or ASD. Before the DSM-V (a volume of diagnoses for mental health professionals), I would have been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome…if I had ever had the chance to be diagnosed at all.

Socialization was never my strong suit as a child. I grew up ostracized by my peers for being strange and different. I suffered through adolescence and young adulthood without any knowledge of why there were so many things I did that made people angry or upset. For the longest time, my parents would always say that I ‘needed to mature’.

I first started looking into possible mental illnesses when I was in high school. I knew there was something different and wrong with me, but I had no idea what I was looking for. My search finally narrowed down when I was a senior. I had been fired from my position as class treasurer after some students reported that I had argued with them in our Facebook group. My frequent, sometimes-offensive outbursts online betrayed a lack of cognitive filter, but I was used to thinking that I was ‘immature’ and simply needed to wait for this magical ‘maturity’ to appear. Yet, as my searches led me into this particular form of disability, I started to realise that more and more of the bullet points actually did apply to me.

I have intense, tunnel-vision-like obsessions that can come on at any point in time, over essentially anything in the universe, and stay with me for life. I am a walking encyclopedia when it comes to the show Cats, my first real obsession, and several other subjects.

I never really understood the nuances of social interaction until I was much, much older–and by then, it was more a matter of me learning how to ‘fake’ neurotypicality than it was me really learning how to naturally converse. I hate to make eye contact and I often offend people, either with overbearing talk about my points of view or by speaking in a tone of voice that to me, means exactly what I want it to mean, but to them means something different. I always notice that I’ve spoken too much or for too long after it’s too late to really stop. I interject at the wrong times, and it makes people unhappy.

I also have sensory overload. I cry very, very easily if I am taxed emotionally. If made to stand in one place for a long period of time, I will experience blurred vision, auditory processing issues, and dizziness. I hear most sounds at the same volume if they are not totally blasting loud or pin-drop quiet.

Those are some of the disadvantages. But there are a few advantages, too. I am fiercely loyal to my friends (if not a bit clingy, but if you can deal with it, you can stay). I have an IQ of over 140 and my academic skills are beyond compare. I have enough of a brain to get me so far in terms of faking normalcy so I can maintain employment. And I have found a community that truly accepts me for who I am, because we are all in this boat together.

I remain undiagnosed, because I fit a profile of ASD that is relatively new and not well-researched, that being an adult female presentation of Asperger’s. It is also incredibly expensive for an adult to seek diagnosis due to insurance companies refusing to cover it past childhood. But my research is solid, I have taken most of the diagnostic tests given by psychologists and scored well within the range for diagnosis, and I have grown into this identity to the point of some form of self-acceptance. There are a couple of leads I am currently following for professionals in Canada and Australia who may be able to give me a diagnosis via Skype, but that is also uncertain. For now, I keep my identity pretty public, but I keep my undiagnosed status private unless it is necessary to reveal it. There is considerable stigma against people like me. I have claimed a few assistance accommodations but in general I am capable of ‘normal’ function…but that’s just me.

If you meet someone with autism who has comorbid disabilities, is nonverbal, or is otherwise not functioning in the way society would expect them to be, don’t pass them off. I may be lucky enough to be successful, but it has come at the cost of hiding a lot of who I am in public. Everyone who lives with autism is valuable. Everyone in general is valuable. ❤

~Sam

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