The Big "A"



Just kidding! It’s autism!

I am not officially medically diagnosed with autism. But I have a strange relationship with the condition that, due to the fashionable nature of the condition right now, I keep being drawn back to. Considering this month is “autism awareness month” I decided to put the topic to the internet at large for strangers to gawk at.

Am I autistic? Am I just a weird cunt? Did the internet give me autism? Or do I just have some other mental issue that makes me the way I am? Will I ever become normal? These are questions that, while they’d floated around in my head before, have been floating around a lot more often due to how trendy autism is in pop culture right now. So I’m gonna ramble for a bit about my thoughts on my not-autism.

When I was a very small child, my parents did this program called ‘Parents As First teachers’ where my developmental progress was tracked and I was, amongst other things, screened for learning disabilities. I came up 100% NOT autistic. I was very enthusiastic about socializing, I was a very expressive and emotive child and I started speaking earlier than average. Once I started speaking my vocabulary progressed incredibly fast and I never stopped talking.

According to my parents I started speaking like a “tiny adult” and had a full understanding of sarcasm and concepts like rhetorical questions when I was around 4 and it was very funny to any adult who witnessed it. I would often use sarcasm to badmouth my classmates to their faces in kindergarten when they annoyed me because I had picked up on the fact they couldn’t yet understand it. This is Non-Autistic Behaviour, right?

But then, my mum thinks I decided to start talking because I wanted to ask questions about dirt. My first “thing” (or as nerds on the internet would probably call it, “special interest”) was decomposition and dirt. I was very interested in how things decomposed and became a part of the soil and I wanted to learn about the bugs and fungi and microbes.

The order of my “things” as a child from 3-17 is as follows: dirt, flags, fossils, ancient egypt, astronomy, astrophysics, Sonic the Hedgehog, My OCs and drawing them, Choromatsu from Osomatsu-san.

I was also very sensitive to loud noises (my mum noticed I “freaked out” when things were too loud so she bought me some kiddy ear muffs and kept them in her purse because the moment she put them on me I would be normal again) and heat (I had cold baths, have cold showers to this day and was generally terrified by fire and kitchens).

Do you see what I’m getting at? I’ve got this pattern of super tard behavior, followed up with advanced social skills. What the fuck? What’s wrong with me? This is a question I’ve been asking myself for as long as I can remember. I’ve known something was not right about me since I entered primary school. I noticed that I moved differently to the other girls. I didn’t dance and sing pop songs randomly like they did. I wasn’t adept at hand games and I was bad at doing complex dances during the mandatory dance classes we did. I’d always spoken differently, but now the girls considered that a bad thing and were mean to me. So I started hanging out with the boys.

The boys loved me! I was great at socializing with boys when I was under 10. I enjoyed wrestling, video games, computers, card games, building things and mechanics. I had lots of boy friends and was invited to most boy’s birthday parties! We would play swords and yu gi oh and play pretend as Ninja Turtles (I was always April). You know, proper normal kid stuff that autistic kids shouldn’t do right?? And it wasn’t like I was a tomboy or anything, I was still wearing little pink outfits and playing with My little Ponies. And I wasn't trying to flirt with them either, we just got along! Of course, this all changed when my boy friends either became aware of their attraction to the opposite sex or got teased about hanging out with their “girlfriend” rather than their girl-friend :’D

But this is all to say I both had good social skills and I didn’t! I was really excited to talk and socialize, but girls would instantly pick up on whatever “off” vibes I was giving off. I do remember feeling sad that girls didn’t want to play with me. Wrestling and building box karts was fun but I wanted some girl friend to play Littlest Pet Shop with. I viewed these girls as “more mature” than I was and kept telling myself “someday I’ll grow up and grow out of this and I’ll become normal and know how to talk and move just like other girls”.

And I kept telling myself that until I was about 20 and my at-the-time boyfriend suggested to me I might be autistic haha.

When I was in highschool my two best friends were autistic. One had been my best friend since primary school and is now a trans-man. But at the time he was a girl just like me. We became friends over a mutual love of Sonic the Hedgehog and wrote fanfiction together. The other one was a cis man who was also autistic, but he was the kind of autistic that struggled with social situations and didn’t make eye contact and used 4chan religiously. I was instantly attracted to him the moment I first met him and forced him to be my friend (I ended up being his only friend in highschool). These two autistic men disliked each other, but they were forced into proximity by me forcing them to be my friends.

We were in English class and for class we were reading “The Curious Case of the Dog in the Night Time”. The teacher was explaining what autism was to the class, when she pointed at me (in between these two visibly autistic dudes) and said “we even have an example of an autistic person in our class”. To which I was incredibly offended and had to explain that I’m not autistic and I’m perfectly normal. The teacher was confused and claimed she thought I was.

This market the start of several weird instances I had where random people accused me of being autistic (regular teachers, special ed teachers, university lecturers) until eventually my then boyfriend suggested it to me and I was like “well hang on a second this is fucking weird”.

So I asked my mum about it and she broke some devastating news. When I was maybe 6 or 7 my teacher had a special meeting with my mum to tell her that she thought I might be autistic. And to not ever let anyone diagnose me or let anyone try to talk her into sending me to a “special gifted children’s” school. Because my elevated intelligence meant my current school was already hankering to send me to a gifted school for the clout it would gain them. But if I was sent to one and deprived of interaction with normal kids, it would horrifically stunt my social development. My social development was doing just fine on its own. My mum was coping with raising me fine without any intervention. I would have a lot to lose and nothing to gain from a diagnosis, so I should be protected from one.

Which, don’t get me wrong I am extremely thankful for this. I now know people who were like me who were sent to “gifted” schools and they’re all manner of fucked up. My parents had a friend who went to a gifted school after being diagnosed with that new fangled “autism” thing and he eventually killed himself (first funeral I ever went to btw). My parents didn’t really understand this “autism” thing they were warned about, they just continued to raise and love and accept me as they always had. Because of this warning, I was able to grow up to be a functional, normal member of society.

But it also gave me the realization of “oh shit. I probably am autistic. I’m never going to grow out of this and become normal and move and speak and think like everyone else does. I’m stuck like this forever”. And I did start researching autism and started working on trying to accept this new revelation and it was going sort of alright I guess.

But then the great tiktok-autism-diagnosis of 2021 hit and man. I just don’t know anymore. All of these Tiktoks saying the most benign things are signs of autism. Shit everyone does. Meanwhile the most obnoxious people I’ve ever seen online claiming to have autism, larping autism, autism becoming this cute quirky thing.

I’ve always been the “cute”, “quirky” kid. I’ve always been told I speak like a cartoon character or I sound posh or British or I have an old soul. It’s like I’m high all the time or I’m super confident or I’m a “child at heart”. Or I’m just plain old cringe! And I don’t want it!! I’ve never wanted it! I’ve always just wanted to both be myself and also be normal. But every time I’ve tried to emulate “being normal” it’s come off as wrong and off putting and uncanny. People have always been attracted to my authentic self. People find me fascinating or gifted or wise or humorous. People want to know me or observe me or be my friend or (mortifyingly) be like me and I’ve always hated it. It’s like being an animal in a cage. Autistic people can’t have friends so I must just be fucking weird right??!

If I am autistic, if that’s what’s caused me to be like this. Why on earth would anyone want to be like this? It’s horrible. I feel like an alien. Everything I do is extraordinary or strange in some way. I want to be normal. If I could be reborn without autism and just be a normie who watches reality TV and goes clubbing every weekend I would. I feel like I’m not meant to be here. I feel like Ryo Asuka before he discovers he’s actually Satan.

I don’t want to be compared to age regressing babies who are addicted to discord and fight toddlers in the toy section for a limited edition Bluey plushie. If this whole “autism” thing had never been revealed to me I would still be happily telling myself “ah just enjoy being weird while you can, eventually you’ll grow out of it and be normal like everyone else! You’re just a little behind, that’s all”.

All I’ve ever wanted is to do the things I enjoy and for it to be normal. I want to move effortlessly like the girls I saw in primary school in a way where my hands aren’t stiff and my actions flow effortlessly and unconsciously. I want to use language that doesn’t alienate others and be able to tell when it’s my turn to talk when I’m speaking on the phone. I don’t want to be autistic. I most definitely don’t want a formal diagnosis as being labeled “mentally disabled” would be both a blow to my self worth and my employment opportunities. But I guess it would be nice to have an answer.

Many young women in my situation (high functioning, “gifted children” to “weird adult” undiagnosed autism), develop depression and suicidal tendencies at some point in their teen or early adult years. I didn’t have this. However, I believe my autism caused me to develop a catastrophic panic disorder that took years of my youth from me. It became so extreme I had to miss a semester of university. I spent over a year unemployed in my 20s. At times I would entirely lose the ability to leave the house, to stand up by myself, to eat any food at all. It became so severe at one point, doctors speculated I must have a brain tumor because there was no way a healthy person could be in a constant extreme state of physical distress.

Years of heavy medication and practice have taught me to ignore these intense, physically painful, violent episodes. I still have them, constantly. Very often I have them at work where they are triggered by the chaotic noises and strange indoor lighting. Or sometimes by just nothing at all. But while my heart is racing and my muscles are painfully contracting I have to continue serving customers with a smile on my face because that’s just what adults do. Nobody ever notices. I’m very good at hiding it.

Lack of eye contact is one of the most popular and, dare I say, fashionable signs of autism. My mother has profound hearing loss. Due to this, she mostly lip reads. As far back as I could remember, I knew that my mum could not hear me unless I was looking directly at her. Because of this, for a long time, I thought people couldn’t hear me and couldn’t tell I was listening to them unless I was making direct eye contact with them. This caused me to often be told off by adults for “rudely staring at them” and then be told off for “talking back” when I explained I was just listening to them.

So how could I possibly have autism if I can make eye contact like that?