An Exploratory Post on Whether I Have Autism
Every time a celebrity dies, a tweet comes from @daftlimmy saying
Had the pleasure of meeting [dead person's name] at a charity do once. [He/She] was surprisingly down to earth, and VERY funny”.
This tweet often gets read out by the mainstream media as a tribute to the dead, much to the amusement of Limmy's cult following. I recommend checking out one or more of his sketches, as this is what he's known best for.
The reason I'm opening with this wee advertisement is not because I have been paid cash, but because Limmy is one of my favourite comedians, and I have just finished reading his autobiography. It talks very openly about suicidal thoughts, sexual problems and feelings of inferiority; important mental health stuff. It was nothing completely new for me, I'm part of the generation that is taking mental health more seriously. Even if mainstream health funding hasn't completely embraced these progressive ideas, my media consumption is certainly full of the stuff.
The secret to good mental health as a young adult I think is a simple concept that takes a second to understand: other adults feel like shit too. Despite its simplicity, I still grapple with its application on a daily basis. It's nice to have little reminders. For me they've come in forms such as reading this autobiography or taking acid. I hate putting quotes on here at risk of sounding preachy but here's one I like because it puts a positive spin on on a bleak existential conundrum:
We're born alone, we live alone, we die alone. Only through our love and friendship can we create the illusion for the moment that we're not alone.
I fear that writing anything away from my direct subjective experience comes across too highfalutin, so let's bring it back to what I feel. As I've said in numerous bs blog posts, I tend to feel kind of empty and uncomfortable in social situations, which is disrupting my life as I can't make friends. I follow general mental health patter and it's quite straight forward really. Do more of the things you love, with the people you love. Eat well, drink responsibility and look after yourself. Don't blame your external situation, look what you can change about yourself and your behaviours.
But to be honest, I don't feel like my thoughts need re-framing. I'm very reflective anyway. At the end of last year I decided to take a significant action to help myself. That action was to leave my girlfriend of three years, as the relationship wasn't making me happy. Five months down the line, I'm feeling lonely for it, but it was the right thing to do. I can't find someone else, and remember fondly what it was like to be together, but I don't regret it. I've got a blog to talk to instead. It keeps my feelings in check.
For all my investment in mental health, my life hasn't improved, so I've started to consider mental illness. I've seen plenty of depression and anxiety in others and feel fairly well informed about them. Meeting someone from tinder, they suspected I was depressed after looking at my Instagram. I don't post dark shit there, I think it was just because my pictures are bit ambiguous and don't tell an obvious story. Another time it was suggested by a read.write.as-er that I may have depression. My blog posts certainly tell a fuller story than my Instagrams, so I started to think about it.
I went back to a facebook conversation I had in 2014 with a girl I was seeing, as it shaped my reasons for not self-diagnosing myself with depression. She told me she felt completely hopeless, and that I could never understand how it felt to think that no matter what she did, she would always go back to feeling like shit for the rest of her life. She was right, I couldn't know. I had my down days but I never felt an existential hopelessness. A friend opened up to me about his diagnosed intrusive thoughts, how he thought his mother would die if he didn't follow his routines. I like to touch the door handle as I pass, but if i don't, my life continues as normal. Another girl I was seeing skyped me as she scolded herself with hot water. However low I felt, I would never consider self harm.
No two experiences of depression are the same, so the philosophy that I'm not as bad as them, so I'm okay, isn't a great one. So I thought about it on a pragmatic level; was low mood disrupting my life? The answer was no. There was never a time when my mood stopped me getting out of bed. I thought broadly about my life, and where my problems originated. It was mainly a feeling of social inadequacy that I've mentioned one or ten times on here. So I googled social anxiety. It's 'the fear of being judged and evaluated negatively by other people'.
'Yeah maybe', I thought, before thinking how I love being the centre of attention, and have maybe too much confidence. Then I watched on YouTube a girl struggle to go round the supermarket despite the help of a counsellor by her side. I function in life with no problems. Although anti-depressants don't work for everyone, as a thought experiment I imagined what would happen if I took them and they worked. And the answer is that they wouldn't give me friends, or life direction. So today I revisited something I dismissed a while ago. What if I'm bloody autistic?
I have a niece who has been a little terror child at school. After visiting a few specialists, she was diagnosed with some rare form of something relating to autism. My mum said to my aunt something along the lines of 'autism! omg!'. And my aunt replied to say that if you think about it, everyone in our family does show some signs of autism. She was referring her 5 siblings and the 6 nuclear families they now lead. I thought of my mother and how she sticks to religion more religiously than most other people I saw at church. I thought of our frequent family gatherings, and family holidays, about how each one is almost completely interchangeable from the one the following year. I thought of my grandmother unable to stay at any event beyond 5pm, and how my mother is heading in that direction.
I thought of my ex-girlfriend telling me I follow too many rules. I thought how when I try to find new music, I do so until I find one song I like, which I play over and over. So I looked up autism and this is how I match up:
- Finding it hard to understand what others are thinking or feeling I would say I can understand how someone feels from their facial expressions and words
- Getting very anxious about social situations I will go about my day avioding social situations where possible, it's the reason I take the stairs to the third floor.
- Finding it hard to make friends or preferring to be on your own I love being on my own but I need friends and I can't make them
- Seeming blunt, rude or not interested in others without meaning to Massively true
- Finding it hard to say how you feel See my first ever blog post where sat in front of a counsellor saying nothing
- Taking things very literally – for example, you may not understand sarcasm or phrases like "break a leg" I use irony way too much so not sure about this one
- Having the same routine every day and getting very anxious if it changes This is more true than I like to think.
I had dismissed autism as I'm not super clever, I don't massively obsess about things and I don't monologue excessively. I certainly don't have any extreme version of autism but a lot of these things tie in perfectly. I've read of people getting diagnosed in adulthood of a disorder and I think it will be a big help if this happened to me (I can't remember who, but someone on here shared their ADHD story). So I'm going to talk to a GP and I'm a bit worried in case I don't express myself correctly. I don't want them to dismiss me because it's not super super obvious. This is really affecting my life more than anything else.