Hello remaining blog followers 🙂 you are all very tenacious, given how sporadically I update these days!
I have been meaning to write another post for a few weeks, but life stuff keeps getting in the way. I’ve started another Masters – an MRes (/of research) this time – which is keeping me very busy. I’m currently doing a small qualitative study on gender in autistic people assigned female at birth, planning my thesis on visual perception and autistic traits, and developing software to improve the methodology of visual working memory tasks, on top of general reading for lectures each week, and keeping my business going. Somehow.
In amongst all of this, I have been coming to terms with my new diagnosis. While I referred myself to the diagnostic service, and privately believed I was finally heading towards the correct answers, having others validate this was still very surprising. I am really, really not used to having my internal experiences reflected in other peoples’ words and interpretations. Quite the opposite: what I am used to is having to fight for every tiny glimmer of understanding, and even then having my attempts at explaining what the world is like for me labelled pedantic, over-intellectualised; pathologised as a defence against ‘real’ engagement with the ‘real’ issues.
Since my assessment I have deliberately sought out other people with autism, especially women and non-binary people. And I feel like I’ve stumbled into a parallel dimension. From being a mystery to everyone around me throughout my life, suddenly I am actually quite typical, my quirks commonplace and my life full of such glaring stereotypes I can’t quite understand how the autism had been missed until now. I felt so alone, even among people with eating disorders, anxiety disorders, trauma histories, diverse sexual orientations and gender identities, nerds and geeks and freaks. Now I am one of thousands, all telling such similar stories.
I went to a conference today on women and autism, and I saw myself reflected everywhere. In speakers’ descriptions of personal experiences, and their unfiltered, tangential styles of communication, and their tics, and the way one choked up when talking about what a revelation her own process of diagnosis and talking to others like her had been, and even in noticing how many of us were transfixed by the patterns thrown by the chandeliers in the hotel function room. I can’t tell you what it is like to see myself in other people – I hadn’t even realised that was something to lack until very recently. There have been a few people over the years that I’ve been drawn to because there was something about them – and actually, I think this is it. These are the invisible wires connecting me to the few people who know me intimately. We all have at least one foot in Narnia.
I’ve had a rough idea of what autism is about for years, and I’ve kept an eye on the literature on autistic traits in anorexia since 2010 at least. But actually applying this filter to myself and my life is still very new and overwhelming. I’m not quite on top of how it feels and what it means and where I go with it now. I’ve seen other people discuss the controversy of the puzzle piece metaphor of autism – the othering nature of seeing us as inexplicable. But stealing it for my own purposes, I feel as if I have been a single jigsaw piece all my life (lost under someone’s sofa perhaps), and finally someone has picked me up, fit me in, and said – here. And here I am, part of a coherent picture at last.