To many people I’m the bubbly, friendly, excitable and somewhat eccentric lady who knows how to let go and have fun. I have plenty of friends, I’m a gifted writer and I’m talented in the arts of pickling, preserving, relish making and cross-stitch. I love to sing, read, live, love and laugh.
To my WI group I’m the new girl; the one who made an immediate impression with her slapstick approach to life, her willingness to laugh, her ability to make yummy things and her passion for Doctor Who. I’m affable, compassionate, very happily married, talkative and laid-back. I will smile at and talk to anybody. I’m exuberant, adventurous and will try anything once (unless it has tentacles).
To other people (fortunately very few) I’m aloof, self-centred, snarky and thoroughly unpleasant. I like to go out of my way to upset or ignore people and am something of a snob. I have no recognisable sense of humour and I seek to be as hurtful as possible. To quote one of my detractors, it’s all about me and I “suck at sympathy”. People will react negatively to me or suddenly turn on me verbally, and I won’t understand why.
The plain fact is, of course, that I am autistic. I struggle with many social situations and have learned not to speak until I’ve listened to a conversation for about half an hour – unless I’m with people that I know really well and then I can just be myself. I like being myself: I can have my friends laughing until they have stitches within moments because I’m not afraid to be silly; I can talk science fiction and cross-stitch until the Tribbles come home. I wear bright, bold colours and I combine some clothing items in ways that others wouldn’t expect – and I manage to make it work. I dare to be different, to stand out from the crowd.
Of course, being autistic also has its down side. I’m terrible with money, terrified of numbers and the quietest sound is amplified to the point of annoyance. I can tell you exactly which flat across the road from my house has the rattling fridge. I can’t stand to be barefoot and have to wear socks all the time. Any minor upset will have me curled up in a ball in the corner of the sofa rocking, fingernails biting into my palms and screaming and crying until my throat’s raw. I’ll cross roads with oncoming traffic if I’m alone. I am generally a danger to myself because my perception filters are slightly out of whack.
Just lately there have been spurious claims abound that children – especially girls – “grow out of autism”. In fact, until recently, even my father believed that “autism only happens to boys”; therefore he was shocked by my diagnosis.
Both of these myths need to be put to bed – permanently. Nobody “outgrows” autism; some people find coping mechanisms and others don’t. Autism is, apparently, less likely in girls and not as severe as it can be in boys, but is that true?
I have become so frustrated by accusations, untruths and misunderstandings that I began an online community on a different blogging platform and am considering creating a blog specifically about autism here too.
Autistic adults exist. I’m fairly certain, anyway, that I am not a figment of my own imagination.