Tuesday, 7 April 2015

A Post About Autism in the Life of a Woman Reborn

Throughout my adult life my mother worked to an assumption, a belief that could not be shifted.

She believed, wholeheartedly, that she understood me thoroughly. And that affected the way she acted towards me.

I have had a long history of mental health issues and I have spent my life not quite coping with that life in general, with relationships; with others and with myself. My mother would say to me very frequently, “You think that because you ...” or “You're doing that because you ...” Bless her, she was trying her best. But in the majority of cases I could only disagree with her conclusions. Her words to me showed consistently that she didn't understand me or the way my mind worked at all. She could not have understood me in any case – for I was, to all appearances, her neurotypical son.

And she had another habit, arising from my mental health history and a history of not feeling physically great without developing any obvious serious diseases. She would give me diagnoses. Many diagnoses of physical ailments and mental health conditions that would explain what she thought was wrong with me. A new diagnosis would crop up with alarming regularity depending what she had been reading or what someone on Radio Four had talked about that week.

All of my mother's possible diagnoses for me failed. All of them sank into the background and were quickly forgotten about. Or they were knocked out of their place by the next diagnosis.

All of them were wrong. Obviously and demonstrably wrong.

Except for one of them.

Probably fifteen years ago my mother came up with a new diagnosis. She had been doing some reading, following another health issue being discussed on Radio Four.

And I have spent these fifteen years having to deny that diagnosis. Reject it. Swear that there was no possible way that it could be the truth. Mother, you got it wrong again. Very wrong.

Fifteen years ago my mother diagnosed me with Asperger Syndrome.

I rejected that – just like I rejected every other one of her diagnoses. And yet it stuck. And stuck. And persisted. It just would not go away.

Too many things fitted. And later I aced the test available at that time to lowly lay people – the Autism Quotient test devised by Simon Baron-Cohen. There were other clues too that added into the pattern.

But I still rejected it. I could not be autistic in any way. Impossible. And, psychologically I couldn't accept the possibility that my mother was right in a diagnosis, even if that only meant accepting that she had struck lucky on one occasion. Perhaps, sadly, I am only able to deal with this now that she has gone. Most certainly I am only able to deal with this now that I've dealt with my gender issues, accepting and embracing myself as a woman.

There has been a joke about me in my family for years. The joke, which really isn't funny, is that I speak in certain ways, think in certain ways, act in certain ways because I haven't got Aspergers. I am who I am because I am NOT an Aspie.

I couldn't be. No. No. No. There was no way and I refused to look further into the matter. Except it kept popping up and there was no way to escape it for very long.

A great deal has happened recently. I've had to do a great deal of rethinking of my life and of my mind, my brain. There have been many revelations. Discoveries about myself. Discoveries about how I've used logical rules and brute force to suppress and reject things about who I am. Discoveries about just how much guilt and shame I've felt about these things that led, in part, to me building impregnable defences so the truth couldn't leak out.

A great deal has happened. I will be writing about it. I need to write many things in order to understand it properly for myself. And I need to write many things to explain quite how these things happened and how I can be so sure of my conclusions. But for today the writing needs only set out one basic fact of my being.

A great deal has happened: It's a process that has led from me rejecting any suggestion of Asperger Syndrome, any possibility that I am somewhere on the Autism Spectrum, to being one-hundred percent certain in my own mind that I am autistic. I. AM. AUTISTIC.

I've been having to come to terms with a lot. I've been having to strike down those defences. I've been having to start to learn to be who I am.

In a very real sense, for the second time in two years, I have had to come out to myself.

This accelerating process is proving to be very difficult for me at times. And combining it with suddenly having a very different set of hormones within me (As of a month ago I have been taking a testosterone blocker and increased oestrogen) is adding to those difficulties. There have been some awful days. And those around me have been subject to those awful days. At some point I will be writing about those awful days.

Realising this autistic truth about myself is not in itself a solution to anything. But it is a map, an explanation, a guide to why I am as I am. And that's a good starting point for gaining a better life.

It doesn't necessarily change as much as my revelations about my gender. But it's so much harder to deal with. All the gender revelations brought only joy, release, relief and understanding of much of my past. Coming out as transgender and living as myself, female, is pretty easy in comparison to coming out as autistic and having to work through so many things that are painful and have no easy solutions or simple solutions and sometimes, or often, will have no solutions at all beyond accepting them as part of who I am and getting on with life accordingly, without the old shame and guilt.

So, now I sit, impatiently.

I have been referred by the GP for a proper assessment for autism. I went to her prepared. I knew that asking to be referred for assessment would lead to the question “Why do you want to be referred?” So I took along lots of reasons, several pages of reasons to cover the very basics. I hadn't got a quarter of the way through when she cut me off and said “Yes, we'd better refer you.”

This referral may take a while, a long while, because like so many parts of the NHS, especially mental health services, there is a shortage of cash, a shortage of staff and a shortage of facilities. I crave the day the assessment begins or takes place. I can only hope the experts agree with me, and agree with autistic friends of mine, that this is the truth.

This is the truth:

I am autistic.

This is my coming out to the world. It may be premature since I am not officially diagnosed – not that official opinion will affect what is already truth. This is me. Coming out. En masse. Coming out as transgender was such a slow, adrenaline fuelled, tiring, terrifying thing. If I could do it again I'd get it over quickly. So here's a new coming out. To everyone at once.

I. Am. Autistic.

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