A Light at the End of the Tunnel

Posted by mouthyb | Posted in | Posted on 1:13 AM

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Last week, I finally got a definitive diagnosis of Aspergers after years of fill-in-the-blank, this-is-what-I-feel-like-today diagnoses given by the professionals I've contacted over the years. (And really, I'm incredibly grateful diagnosticians are actually looking at autism as a diagnosis for people with consistent social, but not academic, delays.) I've had one of everything so far, even though the diagnoses are contradictory, and sometimes radically at odds with my experiences. When the new results came back, it was all I could do not to stand up and yell, "fucking FINALLY."

Most of the people I know don't understand why the diagnosis is so important to me. After all, it doesn't actually change the way I go about day to day living. It's true, I'll still get up in the morning and go about the minutae of my day. However, the diagnosis itself has a series of pervasive, ameliorating effects on how I treat myself and what I know to be true of myself.

Here's the thing: I am BAD at social stuff. Interacting with people, especially with large groups of people or multiple neurotypical people is nerve wracking in ways that I can describe, like the constant tedious balancing act of running through non-verbals that are considered to be validating, while paying attention to what they say, and in ways I can't describe. How can I describe why extended eye contact with unfamiliar people makes my eyes water or why when I'm asked to remember a place, I "drive" there visually?

Hell if I knew--and in fact I didn't know other people didn't visualize the way I do until last week. I didn't know that other people don't dream vividly and in color, with music (and text) until about four years ago.

For many years, I had thought I should somehow manage to figure out how to not just behave the right way, but to be the right way. I've felt incredibly guilty and, frankly, defective--how smart, I thought, could I actually be if I couldn't possibly manage daily conversations?

It is a relief to find out that rather than some deficit of personality, there's a neuro-chemical problem. I don't have to blame myself for not being smart enough or somehow being subconsciously self-defeating. If I fail at social tasks, it is not a punishment, nor is a punishment necessary.

But more importantly, I don't have to be quite so bitter. If I don't understand the confusing (and sometimes cruel) behaviors of people who are neurotypical, it doesn't mean that they're playing a game with me or being offensive on purpose. You see, I'm not normal, and no game they play could be more confusing than what they are.

The answer to why I don't see some things (or over-see others) is not their cruelty, nor is it my own ignorance or stupidity--it's biology.

The urge to yell finally is for this reason: I can finally stop kicking myself.

I can learn better behaviors because now I know where to start. That particular light at the end of the tunnel is the most beautiful thing I have seen in some time. It means that while different, I am whole.

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