Christine Christensen is on the autism spectrum and is a self-advocate. In this blog post, she discusses how being diagnosed with autism changed her, and the early warning signs that showed she has autism. This was originally posted on The Mighty.
My previous therapist suggested I go in for autism testing. Being nervous about this, I decided to try to monitor my current behavior. That way I could be as prepared as possible. Now, after multiple hours of testing and numerous years of questioning, I have finally gotten an answer. I am autistic.
Since I was young, I have always felt that something was different about me. I didn’t make friends or keep friends as easily as my siblings. I preferred to be alone and still do. I didn’t really want to join clubs or go to friends’ houses. It was to the point that I used caring for my sisters as an excuse up into high school, even though my sisters didn’t need me to actually take care of them anymore. I desperately avoided people outside of school. In my life I have spent so much time pretending to be “normal” and understanding others. Talking with people is a performance. It was even written in my results that when I spoke it was like I was performing a play. They could tell I was trying really hard to copy what my peers do. I try to be neuro-typical. I try to understand these rules.
I now look back and see where my autism was obvious, like how I spent so much time just talking about what I liked. I never caught the cues that said I should shut up and listen now. I never knew that sometimes people just needed their chance, that their faces would show that. Sometimes facial expressions don’t mean much to me when they tell neuro-typicals a thousand things. I get the basics; a frown, and/or tears indicate sad or upset, smile and/or laughter means joy or happiness, red cheeks and avoiding eye contact can mean shy or embarrassed etc. There are other things like when my friend ignored my messages for months and I just kept making excuses that they were busy. This was clearly an act of not wanting to speak to me. I kept sending messages though, little ones like asking how their day was or congratulating them on an achievement. I am desperate to keep friends, to the point I give way more than the friend gives.
As a person I am very honest, probably to the point where it is a problem. I don’t exactly get the cues about what I should and shouldn’t do. I feel like if a stranger does something really nice for you, like give you money so you can afford a McChicken, then you can give them a hug. I once told my cousin who is a new mom that her baby looked like a cute alien. Let’s just say she wasn’t too happy about that. I go to bed and find myself falling down a rabbit hole of “I should haves.” Then I am left racking my brain hoping I will figure out what is wrong with me.
Now I realize nothing is wrong with me. I am just different, and I am finding out who I am as I get further into adulthood. I am learning the pain that comes with losing people and the joy that comes with realizing other people never left. They just gave me my time to come back to them, like that saying. “If you love someone, set them free. If they come back they’re yours; if they don’t they never were.” Well they let me go and when I needed to know who was there, they told me.
This diagnosis has made me realize that being autistic doesn’t mean I am broken or something is wrong with me. It’s like role play games where you put different points into different skills. I just happened to not put as many points into charisma as my peers. Instead my points went to honesty, passion and creativity. Those are some of my best qualities, and I am going to keep reaching for the stars to be the best me I can be.