Am I or Aren’t I?
Having lived my life with the knowledge that I wasn’t a ‘normal’ person, it was a beautiful feeling to realize that there was a reason for this. As a child, I chose the nickname of Tigger (because ‘I’m the only one’), so when I found out that there were more of me, I was very pleased.
I’ve spent my entire life being unusual in practically every way possible, so I suppose that it shouldn’t have come as a surprise to find out that I was a somewhat unusual autistic. Before my diagnosis, I wondered if my communication and perception skills were too neurotypical for me to be diagnosed with an ASD (see spider web graph from the Aspie Quiz).
I’ve been obsessively studying human interactions for as long as I can remember. All the times I sat in silence, I was watching and analysing their behaviour – like a scientist studying a family of meerkats.
I can see the on-going struggle for acceptance and the subtle attempts at social climbing. I see the deliberate sharing of ‘opinions’ that are not necessarily intended as a true statement of belief, but function more as the glue that holds the group together. I don’t have any choice but to notice these things. It’s something of a curse, but once you’ve noticed that the earth is round, it’s impossible to keep on pretending that it’s flat.
I can sense people’s feelings, but I’m not sure how I do this. I look at their faces, but I don’t make eye contact as such (I have to confess that I’m not entirely sure what that means). I am so good at this that I once managed to determine that someone was ‘seriously bad news’ just by looking at his back.
Unfortunately, my spidey sense doesn’t work when I’m playing poker, as players are deliberately hiding their thoughts!
My analysis is constant. When I’m sitting on a bus, I’ll be analysing the person in front of me. I’ll study their hair cut, jewellery, clothes, type of bag, what shops they’ve been to, where they put their bag, how they sit, everything about them. It’s a hobby of mine. I will determine their age, class, personality, possible political opinions etc.
One thing I don’t know is other people’s opinions of me. I haven’t got a clue. I find it safest to assume that they hate me, unless given compelling evidence to the contrary.
Just for fun, I’ve done a couple of lists, showing how it is possible to draw two different conclusions, depending on which information you choose to use.
CONCLUSION A – WHY I AM AUTISTIC
I didn’t talk until I was three and even then, no-one could understand me
I used to walk up and down shouting nonsense words
I didn’t like being cuddled
I refused to play with dolls, as they were just ‘bits of plastic with hair on’
I had a particular terror of the road sweeping machine, whenever I heard it, I would run inside crying.
I had a series of nervous tics and obsessive, compulsive behaviours
I spent a lot of time on my own, pursuing my intense and unusual interests.
At school, I would sit in silence for most lessons. This icy silence made me feel like I was dead.
I bite my nails and compulsively flick the ends of my fingers.
I find that social occasions are overwhelming. I quite often sneak out and hide in the darkness where nobody can see me, until I can face going back inside.
My interests are just as intense. I can spend hours and hours studying and not even feel the need to eat.
Lots of people think I’m ‘weird’ but I’m not sure why
I’ve existed on the edge of various social groups all my life, but never feel like I’m really a part of them.
I’m particularly sensitive to sound, smells and touch. I have to cut the tags out of my clothes. The only fabric conditioner that I can use is ‘the white one with the baby on it’ because a lot of washing powders and fabric conditioners make me feel sickly and faint. I can’t use those big nylon puffy things in the shower, as they make my skin itch.
I can hear distant music before other people, by the time they mention it, I’ve already spent a couple of minutes trying to work out what song it is. If I go to visit someone and we end up sitting in the kitchen, I can smell the rubbish bin.
I am hopeless at job interview, as the searching personal questions make me squirm inside. I would sooner that the interviewer looked through my underwear drawer.
Eye contact makes me feel uncomfortable, it’s like looking into someone’s soul.
I am obsessive about punctuality.
I value truth over tact.
I analyse everything and try to make my decisions using logic, rather than emotions.
I have the occasional shutdown
I try to organize everything and make an endless succession of lists
Conclusion B – Why I’m NOT autistic
I am very verbal, good at both spoken and written communication. I have no problem with the use of idiom.
I have an excellent sense of humour and fully understand jokes and sarcasm
I can sense what people are feeling and thinking
I enjoy reading fiction as well as facts and have an excellent imagination.
I don’t feel the need for a set routine. The best days are ones where I wake up and there’s absolutely nothing written on the calendar.
I like trying new things.
I don’t have meltdowns
…… so you see, it just depends on how you look at it.