Autistic? Did not see that one coming, but now that you mention it..

photo of quote at top of page: “I don’t really want to become normal, average, standard. I want merely to gain in strength, in the courage to live out my life more fully, enjoy more, experience more. I want to develop even more original and more unconventional traits.” Anais Nin

Much of this has to do with the events in my life that took place over the last 10 years. I am not going to dwell on the fact that I am gay, always have been, couldn’t put words to my feelings and didn’t know I was “different”. There is a pivotal moment that I remember specifically that created the butterfly effect as to why I didn’t recognize my own gayness as being queer. I once commented on how beautiful a woman was in a magazine. I mean she was so pretty; I couldn’t take my eyes off her. I wanted to know more about her, I wanted to see more photos of her (she was/is a supermodel) and I mentioned this attraction to a family member. Their response, though their truth, put my understanding about myself in a category classified as “hetero sexual”. They said, “of course you are attracted to women. Women are beautiful creatures. They were made by [God] to be attractive to everyone. They are [God’s] artwork” In my mind if everyone is attracted to women and most everyone is hetero, I therefore am “normal” just like everyone else. My attraction to women is the same as everyone else’s.

So, every time I obsessed about a female, I went under the idea that everyone felt the same way. I had this belief in my mind until about 10 or so years ago, when I started to question what “attraction” meant to me and what it meant to the person that said it to me as a teen. I started recognizing differences in myself in the specific area of attraction.

Like I said, this post is not about my coming out as a lesbian. But in finding my own queerness and figuring out exactly what my definition is for the way I feel and my attraction to women is what caused me to really start analyzing my other behaviors and ways of thinking. I asked questions out of curiosity and kept asking.

This self-discovery got very intense once I started working from home during COVID onset. The fact that I worked at home is only correlated to the time frame, not the cause or catalyst of my discovery. I started taking time to think about conversations I have had with different people that had given me feedback about myself both positive and criticism. About 10 years ago, I began to get over my social anxiety and embrace my awkwardness- and I wondered why? What happened that made me ok with being around people and not being so nervous I wanted to vomit before I went anywhere? How did I get brave? Was I really “over it” or was I coping in some other way?

I did come out to certain family and friends about 5 or 6 years ago as gay and in doing that I started being exposed to others like me. Obviously, I mean other queer people, but beside that I was around other people that would point things out to me and saw me differently than people that had known me most of my life. One of the first things that happened that made me start to really pay attention was when someone casually said something about my stimming and sensory issues. It wasn’t a critique, and they weren’t poking fun. It was more of an awareness, and they said it in a way that they assumed I knew what they were talking about. Sensory issues?? Stimming?? Hmm??

Around this time, my therapist retired and I found a new one who is also part of the LGBTQIA+ community. Upon our first meeting we did the sort of small but obligatory invasive conversation about who are you? And why are you here? Have you ever seen a therapist? What for? I told her about my diagnosis of Bipolar as an early adult. (I’ll get to that more later).

I saw her weekly and a few weeks I went 2 times a week. Mostly it was just to check in. I had some major traumatizing life events going on and the main reason I found a new therapist at the time was, so I had an established relationship with someone if I had a mental break. (More on that later too).

I sent my youngest kid a Tik Tok video of an 8D sound recording. The caption was a question about how you hear this sound vs how others hear it. When I listened to it, I felt like I was the music. It flowed into me and from me. I couldn’t separate what I was hearing from all my other senses, though I cognitively knew that only my ears were involved in the sound stimulation. If you know you know, am I right?! It was mesmerizing, I listened to it on repeat at least 20 minutes. I couldn’t imagine how others heard it, it seemed so impressive and obviously moving that I never imagined that my kid would text back, “yeah it’s cool Mom, but I am not neuro divergent like you, so it doesn’t sound the same.” WHAT? I didn’t even know what those words meant. Was that a good thing? Was he giving me a back handed slam- typical teenager? I had no idea.

So, I went back onto Tik Tok and searched for videos about #NeuroDivergent. Now, if you know anything about Tik Tok there was a reason that video landed on my FYP but I didn’t know that at the time. I listened to video after video of women talking about their journey with being Autistic particularly interesting were women my age that had been recently diagnosed. I could have starred in nearly every video I watched. Some felt so familiar I watched with my jaw dropped.

I talked to my therapist at our next visit. She was brutally honest with me (which is my preferred method of communication.) She told me over the time we had been meeting she has not seen or heard me talk about any thought, feeling, actions or anything else that would point to me being bi-polar. She encouraged me to see a psychologist for some further evaluation.

After several long testing appointments with a doctor, thorough questions from her to me, my therapist, family members, my wife, reviewing my report cards from grade school, multiple self-assessments, and many that were filled out by other people in my life as well as many conversations by email and in person I was given my psychological test results. I have severe ADHD combined type. I am also Autistic. The doctor concurred with my therapist that I do not show classic bi-polar symptoms. The signs I do have for bi-polar are also typically seen in Autism and for me they fall under that classification rather than bi-polar when looking at the whole story.

The diagnosis in my early 20s could have been a misdiagnosis, from what I have found out many women my age were given the label of bi-polar in their early 20s and have since gone back and realized it wasn’t correct (or at least was not the full picture). There is also some chance that the diagnosis at that time was correct and brought on by the influx of pregnancy and postpartum hormones during that time, I had 5 kids in 7 years and breastfed. But is no longer present. Who knows….

But now I have an updated more precise map to use for my continued journey of self. So much more to write on this topic.