This blog is going to make use of “I” far more often than this writer is comfortable with. This writer hopes to nurture a blog that might help people like her, and their loved ones. Eventually the writer might graduate from using “I” to carefully dispensing guidance and support to a nebulous and expansive “you”, if you can stand her that long.
My name is Megan. I am a 26-year-old woman and I have self-diagnosed autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This is new to me.
While I wait to receive responses from two counselling firms and several unfortunate souls with public email addresses, autism specializations, and geographically convenient locations, I thought I’d start a blog. I’ve made the very personal decision to seek a more formal diagnosis for a few reasons, not least of which is my tendency to gaslight myself, but am waiting for some wheels to turn and next steps to be made before this can happen. I will post about the decision to seek diagnosis once I have done more research and spoken to some professionals for perspective.
I may often go into more detail than is strictly necessary but I do so with the intention of creating common ground and a safe space to discuss life with autism from a woman’s perspective through rich and unadulterated description. Wherever possible, I will do my best to link to publicly-accessible and credible sources.
I solemnly swear not to sugar-coat.
I have always been different in both overt and nuanced ways. My otherness gradually took on a burdensome weight during the early years of my primary education, which began when I entered Kindergarten at 4 years old. As I studied my peers in an attempt to suss out the essence of their normalcy, I found solace in the company of books (non-fiction and fiction), solitary imaginative play, educational television programmes, and adults who found me to be precocious and dear. It did not take long, however, for this weight to overpower me.
I did not let the weight of my otherness crush me. My burgeoning existentialism provided the impetus that drove me to obsessively study other girls and mimic them in all respects with a clinical tenacity. Each September marked the selection of a new and unwitting ‘prototype’ for me to strive to emulate until late-June. My observations eventually led me to develop informal and semi-rigid constructs to typify my peers. Once I had identified a peer (or group of peers) as belonging to one of these constructs, I would modify my behaviour accordingly, often based on what I had voraciously consumed from my “research materials” (i.e. reading teen magazines like instruction manuals on how to be a passable and acceptable version of myself).
For as long as my vivid memory serves me, I have been a chameleon. My aggressive pursuit of the enigma of normalcy has been a relentlessly destructive force in my life to-date; stretching relationships well past healthy boundaries, aggravating my mental illness cocktail, and annihilating my sense of self. I have always struggled to conceptualize how others have a “voice” in their heads, as I have most often experienced something not dissimilar to a maelstrom. Thousands of internalized rules pulse through my brain and attack me whenever I am not in a safe space. My psyche is like an autoimmune disease that attacks every thought, posture, movement, and behaviour that does not conform to my carefully-crafted and inherently-flawed internal construct of normalcy, perhaps best described as dreadfully akin to a sort of “breed standard”. Staying safe means staying hidden, like a chameleon who only sheds her clever patina and dons her pale, milky scales while she sleeps.
In my early 20s, after a brief 6-month stint as a ‘bar star’ in a seedy rock and metal club (not the minerals), it began to become apparent to me that there was something materially and insidiously awry with my psyche – I was fundamentally different from others in a nearly tangible way. Since that painful revelation, my mental illness resume of diagnoses has filled up faster than the first year film studies class at my undergraduate alma mater – chronic depression, anorexia nervosa, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), probable attachment disorder, panic disorder, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The latter diagnosis was almost comical given my extreme aversion to doing anything (i.e. fidgeting or being hyperactive) that might draw unsolicited attention to me. Thankfully, mental health care has been reasonably accessible – thanks for footing most of those bills, mom – and I’ve had the pleasure of working some shit out with no less than a half dozen therapists over the past 15 years, with another clipboard-wielding, chaise-lounge-owning professional confidante in the chutes.
Autism was never on the proverbial map (shout out to my exploratory detours, “gluten intolerance” and bipolar disorder) when I embarked on my self-inflicted 20-year existentialism tour and mental-illness-resume-building exercise but, like a one-way ticket to Gary Indiana, it’s the card I’ve been dealt.