Not too long ago, after a lengthy round of psychological testing and lots of other mind-probing activities, my psychologist broke the news to me that I do officially have autism. The autism I have is a high-functioning type called Asperger’s (or at least it used to be called that, now they are starting to just refer to it as “high-functioning autism”). So why did I even go at my age (30 years old) to be tested? Because of some of the issues I was having, especially with sensory problems and anxiety.
I have always had sensory problems. In fact, I still have to cut all of the tags out of my clothes, can’t stand the feel of many clothing materials against my skin, refuse to eat many foods due to texture and scent issues, cover my ears when I am around certain high-pitched noises and sometimes have mini panic attacks in large crowds due to the overwhelming amount of noise and movement around me. I have learned to control myself so that most people don’t notice in public, but believe me, if you lived with me, you would think I was crazy sometimes.
As for the anxiety, I always knew I had generalized anxiety and social anxiety, especially around “small talk” situations. I am fine talking at length about things that interest me and that I know a lot about. In fact, I have learned to limit how much I talk about my “obsessions” because it starts to bore others after a while. In the past, I just survived the anxiety by avoiding most social situations, but now that I am finally living my dream as an award-winning author, the last thing I want to do is give up that dream because I am afraid of discussing the weather with strangers.
So anyhow, ever since I have been diagnosed, some people seem to act like it is some big, shameful secret I should hide. Heck no. I am proud to be who I am, eccentricities and all. I do not consider myself “disabled”. At only 30, I am following my passion, have a wonderful marriage (to a very understanding husband) and have the true love and devotion of those closest to me. That is another thing, many people seem to thing being autistic means “unable to love”. Not at all. Sure, we can be harder to get to know and seem out of it and self-absorbed at times, but once we let you in and get close to you, we can be some of the most loyal people around.
So, yeah, we might rock back and forth or hum when we get nervous or get lost every time we venture more than five miles from home. We may stare off into space all the time or freak out over stuff you don’t understand. We might have weird eating habits and lots of OCD tendencies that raise eyebrows. We may collect nerdy stuff and want lots of alone time to recharge. But we have very good hearts underneath it all. And remember, just like so-called “normal people”, no two autistic people are exactly alike. Get to know us as individuals. If you take the time to do that, I truly believe that you won’t be disappointed.