Realising That I Was Autistic
I can’t turn it off, it’s a constant analysis of everything and everyone around me. Previously known in my head as ‘this thing’ or when I was in a particularly good mood ‘this gift’. A thing which I believed that I had inherited from my father.
It’s a white hot burning confidence in my abilities and beliefs, a security in the knowledge that I can exist without reference to others. It’s also a vulnerability, a delicacy that permeates my whole being, one that cannot be disguised. I’m always aware of the dangers, like a cat amongst wolves, my eyes constantly scanning from side to side, my ears alert for every sound.
I grew up when I was 3 and spent the rest of my childhood waiting for everyone else to catch up. According to my mother, I didn’t speak properly until I was 3 and a half. I suspect that I was practicing in private until it was perfect. She caught me unawares one day and found me singing a nursery rhyme.
She taught me to read when I was 4, using a phonetic method of her own devising. I practiced in secret on ‘The Sun’ letters page, then I read Alice in Wonderland.
I used my very early childhood to study the world around me. As I didn’t talk, my brain was free to think and I became aware of the unstated conventions, undercurrents and hidden agendas that surrounded me.
Being such an unusual child, I didn’t think it surprising that I was bullied. On my first day at school, an older girl ran up to me in the playground, punched me very hard on the arm and ran away without saying a word. “That was strange” I thought and carried on walking.
For years, I wondered if I was born ‘normal’ and it was my early life experiences that had made me who I am. I assumed that everything could be explained away by my intelligence, my determination and my upbringing in a house where failure and emotions were rarely tolerated and logic and critical thinking were praised.
My childhood compulsive and repetitive behaviours being a natural response to stress by a child put in an intolerable situation. My social difficulties could be explained by my traumatic early life – the constant bullying leading to behavioural changes that then led to further bullying. That was what I believed for 49 years, having no reason to believe otherwise.
A chance remark led me to read about ASDs. I spent about 10 days reading everything I could, doing every online test I could find and analyzing my past. At the end, I felt:
- a) like I had been hit over the head by a brick or
- b) that my brain was like a Pot Noodle that had been stirred around by a fork
It was obvious – I am autistic, ‘this thing’ has a name.