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Flying Under the Radar as an Autistic Adult With ADHD

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For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been a little bit different. In pictures from when I was about 3, I’m looking in another direction and fiddling with my fingers. In preschool, I was the hyper kid who did whatever she wanted to. I have vivid memories of playing in the Little Tikes playhouse while the rest of the class was sitting obediently, following what the teacher was telling them to do. I was a free spirit.

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In elementary school, I remember trying to play with the other kids, yet something just didn’t “click.” They would laugh together, and it happened naturally. I would force a laugh and get strange looks. I got along with my peers, however there was still something that set me apart from them.

Next came middle school. The other girls were suddenly interested in things like their appearance and boys. These things never crossed my mind; I was simply uninterested in them. I had an undying passion for playing Sonic the Hedgehog. I was obsessed. I got teased for this, but I didn’t let it stop me.

High school arrived, and I was still much happier playing Sonic than giving a care about boys or what I looked like. Comfort took precedence, and I still preferred t-shirts and athletic pants over “girly” clothes. While the other kids sometimes gave me a hard time about it, I was confident in who I was and didn’t let it get me down.

In college, I continued to play video games while some of my peers started partying and drinking. I was working at the time, and in some ways, I stuck out like a sore thumb amongst my coworkers. A lot of them seemed to find perverted jokes funny, while they grossed me out. They would talk about how they’d go to clubs and stuff that I wasn’t interested in. They knew I was different, yet we all still seemed to get along, which was a plus.

As time went on after college, I began a quest to learn more about myself. I was content with who I was and didn’t want to be any other way. At the same time, I had questions that I needed to find answers for.

I was working at my first full-time job out of college and was doing quite well. However, I noticed myself repeatedly forgetting to do things like fill out my time card. I’d write things down and still forget. I’d been suspecting I had ADHD since I first learned of it at about 12, and now the proof was in the pudding. I went for an assessment, and sure enough, I had hit the nail on the head! I began to take medication and noticed an improvement between that and just being more self-aware.

A few years went by, and I had moved on to working at another agency. Things were going well, and I didn’t really give any more thought to looking for insight. I don’t remember how I came across it, but one day I stumbled upon a blog by someone who had something I remember hearing of in college that sounded an awful lot like “asparagus” to me. If you just thought of Asperger’s, that’s it! I knew it was on the autism spectrum but never had made any connection between it and myself, until now.

The author of the blog referred to herself as an “Aspie.” As I read, I saw myself. Could I be an Aspie, too? I found the author on Facebook and became friends with her. We talked a lot and got to know each other well (Seven years later, we’re still good friends!).

After talking to my new friend and doing a lot of research, I decided to go for an assessment. I went to the same psychologist who had diagnosed me with ADHD, and sure enough, it was confirmed that I was on the autism spectrum. I felt so validated. The pieces finally fit! I actually started my own blog highlighting my diagnosis story, and titled it “The Pieces Fit” to represent my journey.

So how I flew under the radar for so long, I will never know. What I do know is that awareness and knowledge about autism is always developing, as are diagnostic tools. While I sometimes wish I hadn’t flown under the radar for so long, I have faith that everything happens for a reason. I’m autistic and proud.

Getty image by Galina Zhigalova

Originally published: April 30, 2016
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