Recent Twitter exchanges have reminded me of various ‘labels’ (or more honestly insults) that have been given to me throughout my life.
I was diagnosed 8 months ago so I’ve made it through primary school, secondary school, gap year, university and the start of my working life being autistic but not knowing I was. I have expended 28 years worth of energy attempting to learn the rules that would make me ‘fit in’ (read: go unnoticed, i.e. not be a constant source of amusement to others for my failures). I have measured myself against every possible social and relational standard I could find. And I have utterly.
I never seem to keep friends long. I can make acquaintances; I can make small talk with most people for a short while, longer if the conversation is structured (i.e. work related), and some of those longer conversations can lead to superficial friendships. But people tell me that you can be honest with your friends; and at this I have never succeeded. There is something about the honest thoughts that go on in my little head that have not been truly welcomed by anyone to date. So I have squashed my capacity for original thought. I sprout popular opinion (and still manage to get this wrong most of the time) and I nod along with opinions that grate against my soul.
‘shy’ ‘reserved’ ‘impolite’ ‘weak-willed’ ‘boring’ ‘sheep’ ‘follower’ ‘guarded’ ‘unoriginal’
And then when I have tried to be honest with my feelings: that I don’t think much of myself, that I think I will ultimately end up alone, that I don’t have any friends, that I don’t feel part of the group; I am told simply that those things are not true. So I hide my feelings until they explode out of me in meltdowns. I become desperate to find someone, anyone, who will understand. And so they leave.
‘too much’ ‘over-emotional’ ‘manipulative’ ‘mentally unstable’ ‘overly-sensitive’ ‘suicidal’
And so to the weirdest one: ‘inconsistent’. I’m not quite sure what kind of immutable beings that person thought humans were but, in my experience, people change daily, hourly, constantly and for a whole host of reasons or none. I think the problem really was that he, like so many others, did not understand me, and at the time I didn’t understand myself enough to explain.
Now armed with my diagnosis I feel I can offer an insight into my behaviour that I couldn’t back then. Whilst my emotions can change quickly, I am not inconsistent in myself. When I have strong feelings about something, I cannot hide them. I am being truthful and that, to me, is more important that external consistency.