(re-posting from a few years ago, for the holidays.)
When I was in elementary school, my social struggles developed into an intense fear of other people.
I sought out friendships, connections, but lacked the basic communication skills necessary to traverse the social world. I didn’t know that I lacked body language; I didn’t know that my mind was unable to catch the nuances of non-verbal communication. Needing people, interested in others, I repeatedly jumped into interactions, only to stumble for reasons I had no way of understanding.
As a little one, you didn’t understand facial expression. You didn’t even know it meant something…you just knew faces shifted and moved and you couldn’t make sense of that.
Final semester, 1998
Interactions online about the autism spectrum can result in a lot of heartfelt discussion…and a lot of heartfelt disagreement.
That holds true with everything I write here, no matter the specific topic. I receive some amazing, positive feedback from people. And some very pointed criticism as well.
One thing I’ve noticed is that the criticism usually breaks down into four broad categories. I thought I would summarize those four types of criticism below, along with my response to each.
Events from early in high school; no particular order.
Growing up, I always found the last week of summer to be a bittersweet experience. I relished the freedom, yet felt terrified about the new school year ahead. I’d start to build up an overwhelming amount of anxiety that would travel with me into the classroom.
“Sketching Roots” is an ongoing series featuring family memories and all of the fun awkwardness that that implies.
I grew up in a place where, at a very early age, girls are encouraged to be “girly” and boys are encouraged to be “manly”. Like, cartoonishly so.
I was too shy and socially-disoriented to really make it happen. Early on in life, I was pretty scared of people…I couldn’t make sense of them; I just saw people as these vague, menacing specters. As a result, I needed a lot of down time. I just wanted to be alone, reading, hiding away.
In 2005, at the age of 30, I began therapy and received a diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome (now Autism Spectrum Disorder). It caught me off guard, because I had gone in specifically to receive help with depression and social anxiety. A spectrum diagnosis was not on my radar, and it took me over a year to fully come to terms with the reality of it.