Autistic Anniversary

Happy anniversary to me!

About this time last year I was finally certain I am autistic.

I joined several online autism groups and began asking questions.

I was amazed as I discovered so many things I struggled with were “like that” because of autism. I am still learning about ways I have been affected, and each time for just a few moments I wonder… what would I have been like, who would I have become, if I had not been autistic?

Other older people have commented that getting a diagnosis nearer the end of your life than the beginning is a shock. Many have compared diagnosis at this age (I was 65 when I first suspected I was autistic, and age 66, when I was certain.) to the grieving process.. Shock, denial, bargaining, grief, anger, acceptance. I have now completed my first full year of knowing my diagnosis. I have gone through that cycle over and over.

It is popular in some autism circles to speak of autism being a gift, or simply another “operating system” rather than a handicap or a disability. I am firmly on the side of its being a disability. I have struggled with too many things in life that would not have been a struggle had I not been autistic.

Painful interactions with others top the list. Had I understood emotions, my own and others, and understood that I causing pain to others, had I understood that any correction or misunderstanding on the part of others was not a mortal mistake and been able to accept that, offer apologies and move on, much suffering of others and my own would never have happened. Perhaps I would have had friends and fewer failed relationships, and not always have been in trouble with people at home, in school, at work. Perhaps estranged family members would not be estranged. Perhaps my first marriage would not have failed. No way of knowing for sure, but perhaps.

I might not have gone through life afraid. I might have gone to college, might have had a profession. Alas, all too late.

The Best thing about finally knowing I am autistic is that now all of that other chaos and pain in life finally makes sense. I finally “get it” and can see how autism has affected every day of my life, and how it still affects me.

The huge difference is that now I can forgive myself and others, now I have a lamp in the darkness, I can see how autism surrounds me and encloses me, and also now, how I can smooth my own path and use new ways to survive and even thrive.

The growth this year in my personal understanding and the relief I have in finally knowing about autism is boundless. So many formerly impossible things are understandable and manageable in context of autism. So much that was perplexing, confusing, frustrating, and depressing is now understood and outcomes of any activity attempted are not presumed to be inevitable failure. What a relief to know about autism and that I have so many “new to me” options and outlooks!

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