It’s my Aspieversary!
Yes, today is my Aspieversary, exactly two years on from the day I went up to Cork for my formal assessment with the psychologist.
... what a fucking couple of years it's been.
OK, so let's get the obvious out of the way:
How's the pandemic been for you?
A question I get asked a lot; a question most of us autistics get asked a lot so far as I can tell. And it seem many of us have struggled with the change in routine, the uncertainty, and, for some, even the fear of the disease itself.
But for me?
Insensitive as it's going to seem, things have never been better here, and for me this pandemic has been great for my mental health and my business.
Just to be clear — I'm not revelling in the death and economic destruction we've witnessed; rather, I'm talking specifically about how the pandemic has affected me personally as an individual.
And if you are "triggered" by that kind of objectivity and take offence, then you probably should read some other autism-related blog, because you won't like this one. Or me, come to that.
Other than that, I don't have much to say about COVID-19. The last 15 months or so has seen the usual procession of armchair-experts, conspiracy nuts, and all manner of stupidity, ignorance, and irrationality trundle across my screen, and I'm tired of it.
So, enough about that.
What about the last two years?
The last thing I said to Caroline, the psychologist who diagnosed me, was "This changes nothing; but at the same time it changes everything".
What I meant by that was although I was the same person I was walking out of her office as I was walking into it just a few hours before, I now had an explanation for everything in the past and the present and, most important of all, something to help me plan for the future.
And that's where the change was, hidden in the detail of those plans, because getting a diagnosis forces you to realise some of the things you thought you could change about yourself with sufficient and diligent work or study, you simply can't.
Even after self-diagnosing a few years before, there was always that lingering and tacit feeling with just the right course, programme, book, seminar or even plain old effort I could nail the challenges I had with the world and be "normal" like pretty much everyone else.
But, of course, that's not possible.
It was never possible, but having it revealed to you as an inescapable truth is a different thing from merely suspecting it.
My first step
Was to take a few days out in the wilds of Suffolk in an AirBnB, just to let it all sink in.
It was euphoric, and those four days number among the happiest four days I can remember in my whole life.
What I had no idea about, and didn't even suspect, was the shitshow to come.
See, now I knew there were certain immovable and insurmountable barriers and boundaries in my life I had to figure out ways around, through, under, or over them. And unless you're autistic yourself you cannot possibly have any idea what that means in terms of everyday life.
I could go into exquisite and excruciating detail about the myriad changes I've made but it would take me all day and make for terribly boring reading. Suffice it to say I've rearranged, reorganised, and redesigned my whole life and business to accommodate the differences my being autistic imply.
Hitherto I'd have shrugged and just attempted to "power through" it all, quietly chastising myself for being weak or lazy; but now I understand these things just ain't gonna go away by the application of what's tantamount to brute force and ignorance.
It's common with adult autism diagnoses to get a lot of resistance from friends and family, and even society as a whole.
I've experienced some of that, but only once from anyone who matters.
Fortunately, Mrs EBG and my business partner, Connor, take it all in their stride. My kids... I think they're secretly pleased about it, because it means their dad is even more special, even more different from everyone else's dad, you know?
But some people simply can't handle the fact you're never going to change, no matter how hard you try.
I think the worst thing anyone ever said to me was to call me a "sociopath", particularly cutting since she knew how much I struggled with my lack of empathy at times.
But then I figured what other people say and think about me is their concern, not mine.
Their bigotry is their problem and can hurt me only if I allow it to.
I've not heard a word from her since September 2019, and I suspect I never will, now. It's a painful lesson, to be sure, but one we all learn one way or another: tough times show you who your friends are.
Two years on and the dust has settled.
I can look back now and say getting a formal diagnosis was for me one of the best and smartest things I've ever done. I'll write a separate post about the pros and cons of adult diagnosis because I get asked about it a lot, but for now I'll say despite all the shit I went through, and all the times I wished I'd let sleeping dogs lie, I'm now glad I did.
It would have been helpful to have been diagnosed while (much) younger, but as the Chinese proverb goes, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”
Better late than never, in other words.
And the best is yet to come.