Sunday, August 25, 2019
I didn’t actively pursue any information about autism until my daughter was two. I’d begun to wonder about myself a few years prior to her birth, but it wasn’t until I started to see all the ways I had reacted to certain stimuli as a child reflected in her responses to similar things like noise and social situations, that I began to look more closely at the diagnostics for ASD. I tested as a gifted student in elementary school and was placed in a TAG program but failed out when I entered middle school because I couldn’t handle both the academic and social demands, and I was so tired of feeling lonely and weird that I devoted all of my energy to learning how to mask to fit in.
As an adolescent and well into adulthood, I worked jobs that were so poorly matched for my neurology that I would often have daily meltdowns and bouts of intense anxiety that would keep from achieving much of anything outside of showing up and doing the job I was paid to do. The level of masking required to work as a server in a restaurant is otherworldly. I failed out of college at one point because I couldn’t balance work and school, and the times I managed to hang on in a traditional four-year setting were terribly overwhelming and interwoven with periods of debilitating burnout. The first job I ever had that fit my brain was a research assistant position I applied for during my sophomore year of undergrad. I convinced a microbiology professor I was perfect for it with literally no previous experience or even the science knowledge necessary, through impressive masking that I’d cultivated since middle school. I spend days (sometimes weeks) recovering from masking that encompassing, but I can do it when necessary. I then gained a graduate level understanding of microbiology in just a few months time through the autistic super powers of special interest and hyper-focus.
When I was 31 and newly a mother, my ex-told me that he had always assumed I was Aspie during our relationship but what had convinced him was an entry he found in an old notebook I’d kept for my studies at a fine dining restaurant. The entry was a full page about asparagus, but it wasn’t ways to cook/store asparagus -it was the detailed culinary history of asparagus.