Wow. So it’s been awhile. Long time no blog, lil’ Abs. So, why not hit the ground running again with something personal and freeing, with just a touch of advocacy?
Life is weird.
I’ve recently been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), more specifically, the kind that used to be known as Asperger’s. This has been something I had wondered in the back of my mind for the last 4+ years. Given my family history, my fairly eccentric personality, quirks, high sensitivity, general naïvety and social struggles I’ve experienced growing up, it really… makes sense. The confirmation has seen me gain a sense of relief, closure, an opportunity to understand myself better, and a lens by which to view some of my (at times) unorthodox social behaviour.
Saying that, I don’t really think of myself any differently – I have always been and always will be my strange and wonderful self, and will continue to grow and evolve as a human being. I am sharing this because I am not shy about it, and think it is a really positive thing for me to embrace.
In true Abby style, just before I started the diagnostic process, I wrote myself a little PSA under the assumption that I did in fact have ASD. I wasn’t 100% sure I would go ahead and publish it, but I originally imagined I may make a Facebook post about it…ya know, for advocacy and such. I have decided to go ahead and work in some of what I wrote here, after making a few edits:
Hey beautiful people – FYI:
- ASD is a developmental disorder associated with communication/social interaction. Essentially, social interaction (which comes fairly naturally to the general population) is something I that have had to actively learn and make myself aware of all the time. For example: I used to not like looking people in the eyes once upon a time (sometimes I still don’t), and I didn’t really get the point of making friends as a young kid – it was difficult, confusing and sometimes, a cause for embarrassment. I often missed many of the nonverbal cues that make up about 90% of communication and social interaction. I have come so far, socially speaking, from when I was a wee one.
- Females with Autism often go undiagnosed because we are generally better at mimicking/observing social scripts than males with Autism. Our symptoms are vastly different to males (and often less obvious), so a lot of the scientific research and diagnostic criteria surrounding ASD is tailored towards a male-centric view of the disorder because of this.
- I am sharing this because I am a wahine toa, une femme forte, and I’m not afraid of people knowing. Moreover, I’d like to see more visibility in the ASD community, particularly with females, so why not be the change I want to see?
- I’m not stupid: I’m actually kinda intelligent imo… in psychological jargon terms I am of the “high functioning” kind… Of course, it goes without saying, but treat me like you would Any Other Human Being On This Planet.
- I’m sorry if/when I hurt people accidentally because I can be socially inept. I blend way better than I did as a tamaiti and most people who knew me then probably didn’t notice or understand. However, some did notice weird stuff I did along the way: usually the educators, and family friends too.
- I care a lot – sometimes too much, and sometimes the feelings are absolutely overwhelming.
- Fucking stop to the people that I know who take the piss out of the autistic community. It is not funny, never was and never will be. Stop damaging us in your ignorance and attempts at drawing cheap laughs. Labels can be empowering but they can also hurt like hell. This is genetic. I cannot change any of it – just as I cannot change my homosexuality.
- Immense arohanui to all my friends and family and people who have taught me stuff by accident and on purpose through their reactions and emotions to events/interactions.
I’m going to be transparent about some of my mental health struggles here:
When I am depressed, I often withdraw socially and sometimes stop talking altogether. I used to forget to eat and I used to have seriously disturbed sleep. Oh lord what hell that was: when fourteen-year-old Abby very nearly lost her mind in the first term of year 10. I still do have insomnia sometimes, but I manage it with good ol’ medication. I have never acted on suicidal thoughts, and I know that will never ever do that, though they do sometimes plague me when the black dog returns, as he will continue to do. I can be very hyperactive and at times I get carried away and interrupt people. Like all of us, I’m figuring shit out, and I’m in this weird young adult stage of life where I’m trying to work out who I am and what I stand for. Sometimes I feel like I have all the answers I need and I know what I’m doing with my life – then I’ll turn around and erase the entire mental blackboard and have a panic about how little I have decided and discovered. I have to keep reminding myself there is time, and bucketloads of it: I’m not even 21 yet, and the world is my oyster.
Closing remarks: we’re all diverse humans, we all have our quirks our foibles, and that’s part of what makes life so interesting!
If you’re still here – thanks for reading, and feel free to let me know if you have any thoughts you’d like to share! Here’s hoping I don’t neglect this blog for another 5 months… xx