I am taking a break today from telling about my attempts to find a professional diagnosis and instead tell you of something I discovered last night. I have been interested in social struggles with autism and yesterday I was reading the 2005 book “Unwritten Rules of Social Relationships” co authored by Temple Grandin and Sean Barron. I hope to improve my social functioning.
Each author takes a few pages at the beginning of the book to relate personal social experiences and comments or insights about social interactions. I have a very difficult time relating to Dr Grandin, since she sees/processes everything so visually and I struggle to understand many of the thought processes she explains. I can only imagine the way she thinks, since I can not visualize at all. ( aphantasia).
I was stopped by this sentence in her comments, however.
“For some kids coming to the realization that making mistakes is okay, or that errors have different levels of importance, is difficult and pervasive and impedes every aspect of their functioning, especially in social situations”
Stopped? No, I was stunned! Of course, now it is obvious, but it took another person to point out the obvious to me once again. It is downright profound in its application to my own life experiences!
I had believed well into my 20’s that I had to be careful never to make any mistake. I was told over and over I was bad and wrong and was punished for any error , and I believed wholeheartedly that I must never make mistakes. It was too emotionally and physically dangerous. I was always upset, nervous, fearful, worried deeply about being “caught” being wrong about anything; it truly did very deeply impede all aspects of my life. I began to unlearn this over the next 40 years, but have never completely lost the anxiety over the unforgivable nature of making mistakes of any sort.
” OH”, the metaphorical lighted billboard in my thinking processes said at long last,
” THAT WAS AUTISM!”
Rigid thinking developed probably before I could even use words… “if I make a mistake I am in danger… I must not make mistakes, must not do the wrong things”, later, “must not say the wrong things”… autism! It was AUTISM!
This added 4/1 2019 to the original post. Somebody sent me a message and scolded me saying my fears had nothing to do with autism, since the idea was probably taught to me. I agree, this is something I learned, but where autism kicks in and is a very real part of my struggles is in the perseveration, the continued rigid thinking that held me in that pattern for over 30 years… my 3 siblings had it figured out before they were out of middle school, but I persisted in being able to see only that original belief in the same way. THAT is the part that is definitely autistic. It is failing to recognize the differences that others might see at once. I ended up getting some very good counseling that showed me I had other options besides those ‘rules’ I grew up with, and could make different/ better choices regarding many things. If I did not make it clear in my first post, let me make it clear here, the autism interference came not in the belief itself but in my rigid thinking surrounding the belief and the inability to independently deduce that I had many options and that there are ‘shades of gray’ in almost every aspect of life. My autistic black and white thinking could not change until somebody helped me see what was obvious to almost any neurotypical person.
I have been very sure of my autism for over a year now, but having lived 66 years never knowing about autism at all, you can understand there is a lot of deep questioning and processing going on.
I spend hours daily reading autism blogs, books, participating in question and answer sessions on ” autistic only” forums… It is always gratifying when I can look at something from my past and see how autism was involved. Finally after all these years to know and understand so many things after so much anxiety, depression, distress and dismay. Autism once again had its hand in my thinking and the way I understood (misunderstood?!) my world and things that happened in it. What a relief to know and understand!!! I got the book in an attempt to learn more about social interactions. That gem was planted in the pages of the very first section. I can’t wait to see what else I learn!