If you don’t know me, you don’t know all my little quirks. If you do know me, you probably don’t know all of them – even I don’t know all of them. But I know enough that I can share them with you here.
Sometimes I avoid watching videos because I know I won’t have the attention span to watch them or that the audio will bother me cos it will either be too loud or too quiet. I can’t work in food service because smells make me nauseous and certain textures send me into a panic attack. Sometimes I bounce in my seat and flap my arms when I’m excited. Sometimes I get told I’m too loud when I’m talking about something I’m passionate about. When I’m overwhelmed, I either shut down and end up falling asleep or panic and cry. By the end of most days, my voice is a monotone. If it’s a good day, I sound like a happy child, but it’s still only one tone of voice. If it’s a bad day, it’s an annoyed monotone. Sometimes I have to ask people if they’re mad at me. Sometimes I repeat myself five times and people still don’t understand what I’m trying to say.
Sometimes I say I have autism, and people don’t believe me.
The thing about Autism Spectrum Disorder is that many girls go undiagnosed (don’t be fooled by my name, I was designated female at birth (DFAB) so despite being a genderfluid individual who presents mainly as male, I’m seen as a girl in the medical field) because doctors still look for signs of autism that you see in those designated male at birth (DMAB). But those signs are different than the ones in DFAB individuals.
My cousin has Asperger’s, so for the longest time I based my knowledge of autism on him. As I grew older, I realized that one person does not define the characteristics of a whole spectrum disorder. I first started looking into autism and it’s traits around my senior year of high school, I first considered that I might be autistic in my freshman year here at Augie, and I first admitted that I was self-diagnosed at the beginning of last year, my sophomore year. Most people didn’t believe me.
DFAB autistic individuals tend to be better at hiding our traits – we take social cues from our surroundings and copy them, even if we don’t quite understand. Our obsessive interests aren’t as noticeable as those of our DMAB counterparts, but they are still just as intense. They aren’t noticeable because we lean more towards fictional obsessions, and we’re more likely to change interests abruptly, whereas DMAB autistic individuals will keep their interests for much longer. We also tend to have less learning disabilities, but higher rates of anxiety and depression – which is why it’s terrible that we’re going undiagnosed.
I was hospitalized for my depression last year. Part of the reason I was admitted was because I had a panic attack because so many professionals did not believe me when I said I thought I was autistic.
I finally got a professional diagnosis from a psychologist willing to listen to why I thought I was autistic and willing to test me, and it turned out I was right. Now I have accommodations that help me. But I often think, what if I had been diagnosed sooner? What then?
I can’t say, because I’ll never know. But I can say this: people say “I’m sorry” when they learn I’ve been officially diagnosed and I always ask “Why?”
I ask because I don’t see anything wrong with being autistic. Maybe I struggle with social cues and empathy. Maybe I act “childish” in public. Maybe I need help to live my life sometimes. But that doesn’t change the fact that I’m a human being with thoughts and feelings. It doesn’t mean I’m stupid, or incapable of doing things. It just means that my brain works differently. My autism makes me who I am, so why pity me for being me? I like who I am, which means I like my autism. I don’t need pity and I don’t need to be fixed. I just need to be me.