OK so, here’s the thing.
My GP says there is a ‘strong case’ that I could be on the Autism Spectrum.
So I’ve been put on a waiting list for diagnosis. Funny thing is they don’t tell you how long you have to wait. I wonder if that’s actually part of the diagnostic test; leave you suspended in an uncertain situation and see how quickly your anxiety levels rise!?
So, in the meantime, I’ve had the ‘conversation’ with my family; we’re playing with casting new light on my past and learning about what it means for me in the future.
The struggles for me are multiple. More often than not deliberately hidden. The thing is, no-one can actually see how I feel. So without the knowledge, they assume everything is OK. But when I talk them through it, and how it affects me, it’s like their eyes are opened; suddenly they see it, and they accept it could be true. It’s a bit like when you buy a new car; you get a blue Golf and suddenly you notice everyone else that has a blue Golf!
There are common areas that affect people on the spectrum; social interaction, obsessive behaviours, communication and sensory/spatial problems.
So how does it affect me? Firstly, the biggy of social interaction. (I’ll talk about the other things in later blogs).
To say social interaction is awkward for me is something of an understatement. Its more like cringe-worthy, sickening, nerve-racking, desperately uncomfortable, draining, challenging, frightening, confusing, alarming. Sometimes it is literally physically painful due to the level of anxiety that builds in certain situations.
Thankfully there is some relief; with people who I’m really familiar and comfortable with, who I’m safe with – it can be OK. I can relax. I can speak freely. I can laugh. But generally I am in a constant state of anxiety when there are other people around that I’m expected to interact with. My brain goes into data retrieval mode; I search my experiential data banks to recall similar situations from the past and identify what might be appropriate comments, things to say, ways to react or interact in this current similar situation. It’s not like I can’t interact effectively, it’s just it’s by rote, rather than by instinct.
Sometimes I don’t speak at all in case the wrong thing comes out. Sometimes the wrong thing does comes out, but it turns out to be funny; I cannot tell you how much of a relief those moments are! Other times the wrong thing comes out and it’s confusing, inappropriate. Worse still it hurts someone I care about. That’s the saddest thing. Those times leave me reeling. Cognitively, I learn to file another interaction choice as ‘inappropriate in this context/with this person’. But emotionally I wonder about whether it’s worth the effort.
It is unquestionably always more comfortable and safer to be alone. But I’m still human, I still have a heart, and love deeply. I still desire intimacy, friendship and all those normal things. It’s just for me they are enormously effing hard work.
PS Credit for the image of the abstract mask painting goes to Nancy Zimmerman 🙂 http://www.nancyzimmermanart.com/