Imagine that you lived in a world white with fog. Every obstacle would be invisible untill you got so close it almost jumped at you. Some things would be so hard to see you walked right into them, sometimes giving yourself bleeding wounds, sometimes bruising you badly. Imagine you weren’t allowed to stay in one spot, but expected to find your way to some destination everyone else around you also were try to reach. So you stumble around, walking into things, bleeding, bruising, increasingly frightened of what things could hit you next time. Any uneven surface could mean you’ll soon step over the edge to a bottomless chasm, so you shuffle your feet trying to feel anything dangerous. And you know somethings is wrong…
…you have friends around, and they don’t seem to be as affected by the fog as you are. Sometimes they walk into things, but most of the time they navigate like they could magically sense what’s around them. When you try to talk with them they tell you that you’re only imagining things. There is no fog. Those obstacles hitting you are easy to spot, and you just need to walk around to not hurt yourself. And, since you’re not blind, you start to doubt yourself. Perhaps they’re right. Everyone is in the fog, so you just have to work a little bit harder to reach the same navigation skills. So you work untill you collapse, or give up and hide, refusing to go any further. You know you have limits others don’t seem to have, but you can no longer tell if it’s because of exhaustion, illness, stress or the all hallowed ”imagination”. Instead you settle for the explanation that you are wrong. You’re not thinking right, working hard enough or being strong enough. The world doesn’t want you.
That was my life before I got diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome. Now, the diagnosis in itself doesn’t change anything, but getting it was like getting a map over the world I’m supposed to navigate. Suddenly I could foresee some obstacles, and understand why my friends saw them before I did. Suddenly I had a list of aids I could use, and suddenly I could feel smart – because I’d figured out many of those aids on my own. And most important; I wasn’t imagining things. Being on the autism spectra means your brain is wired differently to the most common type of brain, it’s the in-brain equivalent of being born with curly hair instead of straight. (It may come with dramatic side effects, especially if you’re on the far end of the spectrum, but at the core it’s not that strange.) With a brain wired differently I’m bound to react differently to things, it’s normal for me to do.
I was forty when I got the diagnosis, and I’m fortytwo when I’m writing this post. These two years have been a process similar to relearning to walk. I’ve spent so many years forcing myself to do things neurotypical do that my habits was ”crooked”, I was stressed out and exhausted, dangerously close to a full burn out. The first thing I did was to throw out all these expectations and settle down. No mingling on parties, no open offices, no multitasking, no juggling of multiple projects and no selfbashing. It’s hard to convey what a relief it was – like taking off a heavy backpack and throwing it away. And though I realised some doors closed, I could now actually see the doors, and see that several others opened.
Being autistic mean being subject to limitations, though the biggest hurdle isn’t my brain but well-meaning people telling me I ”have to” do things that are unhealthy to me, or trying to take away necessary aids (quite remarkable things to do for people who prides themselves in being more emphatic than autistics). With that in mind it may seem strange that I regard my autism as a superpower. I may be lacking in some areas, but other abilities are on a higher level than for a neurotypical. Very few beats an autistic on attention to details, focusing and staying on a project s/he like.
So, I’m still in a foggy world. I still bump into things from time to time, but I don’t bash myself over it anymore, and I have help to avoid the chasms. Limitations are a part of life, knowing more about mine is a benefit. Knowing I’m not alone in the fog is another. Last, but not least, I can know identify and use those abilities where I am on the strong side. Finally I can put my life right.