Learning Not to Second-Guess Myself After My Autism Diagnosis


I’m in the car, stopped at traffic lights. I’m at the front of the line. Our traffic light turns green. The car next to me doesn’t move. I check the traffic light again — it’s green. Green means go. But I must be interpreting this situation wrongly somehow. The cars behind me start honking their horns. Is it to warn me not to go? The driver in the car next to me realizes the light has turned green and speeds off.

I second-guess myself a lot. It’s because I get seemingly obvious things wrong when I’m so sure the answer is different.

It was the same when I finally went to get myself assessed for autism as a 26-year-old woman. I was so fed up with feeling like there was something horribly wrong — even though I have a wonderful family, live in an amazing country and work at the best place in the world doing a job I love. Since childhood I have often felt so overwhelmed and disturbed that it leads to despair.

I made the decision not to tell anyone about the assessment. I had already done all the research and their doubt would stomp all over my certainty. I left three hours early to get to the appointment that was located only half an hour’s drive away, because I had never been to this place before. So of course I got lost and panicked and confused about where I was allowed to park, and took three hours and 20 minutes to get into the building, crying and shaking.

They asked me questions for two hours, then I showed them some of my drawings. They called me soon after to confirm that I have autism. This was great because for me it tied up so many frayed ends of psychiatrist suggestions of major depression, OCD, BPD, ADD and whatever else I had received throughout life. The awful sensations I felt about everyday things that didn’t seem to phase anyone else — like having to hold my breath when walking through a grocery store, scratching my skin raw when I see a texture that makes me uncomfortable, calming myself down by being alone and doing something repetitive like picking every grass seed pod from a garden, shelling and sorting each section of it into piles (this is how I spent my time after school every day as a child).

A year later, some people are still coming around to the idea of me being on “the spectrum,” but will concede that I “have difficulties” because their mental picture of autism conflicts with their image of me. Others weren’t surprised by the diagnosis at all. Others still have been so respectful and asked questions to understand more.

I work at a wonderful school that loves to help the kids who are wired differently, like me. And as I work to help them, I get to learn a bit about myself, too.

My different way of seeing things can give people a wider perspective. My obsession with art can bring joy to people. My going through horrible feelings means I can understand and be there for people going through horrible things.

So I’m learning not to second-guess myself, but tune into the way I’m wired. We’re all different and have something crucial to contribute to the world — and I’m thankful for the special things I get to share.

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