Laughing, crying, dreaming, trying, That’s me, here I am
Taking, giving, loving, living, this is who I am
These are the opening lines of a song “I Am” that I co-wrote last year. It was featured in a film, which I’m very proud of. It’s a song about identity. 2 weeks ago, after my partner’s insistence, I received my formal diagnosis of Aspergers. Finally my life makes some kind of sense, but it is also scary – who wants a label of “special needs”? National Autism Awareness month seems a good time to be starting this blog. My main aim is to help others like me, and to connect with other females on the spectrum.
I’m now nearly 45, and knew from an early age that I was different. My main difficulties have been social. I guess I’m lucky in that I don’t have all the typical traits of autism. I don’t have temper meltdowns. Loud noises, flashing lights and shopping centres don’t bother me. I don’t suffer greatly from anxiety or stress, and my general mental health is good. I don’t have a need to follow routines or rituals, although my days are generally happier with a structure to them. I’ve been in the same self-employed job for 20 years and with my partner for 15, the mortgage is paid off and money is stable. So, I guess I’m on the highest functioning end of the spectrum (although I hate that phrase, makes me sound like a robot!) But, watching “The A Word” this week, I see similarities between me and the 5-year old kid, Joe. The school playground scenes were especially painful to watch. Like Joe, I was the kid who always played on her own, mainly through choice. I didn’t join in games of tag or bulldog where I’d always be caught as I was the slowest runner. They were the predominant games at my primary school. Instead, I made up a fantasy world in my head, peopled with imaginary families based on the people I actually knew, and my playtimes were spent concocting scenarios for them. I was happy! I often skipped up and down the length of the playground in happiness. I loved school: the work, the structure, the teachers. The only problem was the other kids. Luckily I was not badly bullied, but I was called names and was basically misunderstood. I didn’t understand them, nor they me – what a relief to know now, that our brains are wired differently. I preferred the company of adults to children my own age, because with them I could be more myself. No one thought anything was wrong with me: I was doing well intellectually, I answered questions when spoken to, and it was the 1970s: no one mentioned autism then, or even special needs apart from the most obvious ones. In some ways I wish I was a kid growing up in the 21st century, then perhaps I’d have received a diagnosis and help sooner. But then again, my life would have been very different, I may not have achieved the stuff I have achieved because of being hampered by a label. Labels don’t define who I am! Aspergers may be an explanation for my behaviour, but it will NEVER be an excuse. I am determined to overcome any difficulties I have, and I will always try to be the best I can be.