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Struggling With Uncertainty as a Person With Autism

I have what many people describe as “high functioning” autism. My IQ is up there. I have a graduate degree from an Ivy League school. I work full time in a competitive field and enjoy trying new things and new places (as much as my solar urticaria and food allergies permit).

But there is one way my autism really impacts me — how I understand uncertainty, especially in timelines. See, if I’m excited about something and it’s not scheduled (doesn’t have to be specific, just “this summer” or “next winter”) I believe that it cannot possibly happen. And this can be incredibly hard.

Grace's dog.
Sunny the dog.

I first saw a picture of my dog Sonny before we made a plan to pick him up and take him home. So I assumed we never would. I had to work myself through accepting that I would never have this beautiful little puppy. Usually I can do that. I can get to a place where the anxiety doesn’t bother me because I’m not that invested in whatever the outcome is. I do this when I’m planning to meet friends, go places, learn new things, etc.

But there’s one place where this doesn’t work.

Marriage.

My boyfriend and I have been together for about a year. He’s assured me that he wants to get married and a proposal is coming. But I don’t know when. Nothing beyond “should be before our second anniversary.” And so my ASD has made me believe it is impossible for us to get married, in spite of the fact that I know we both want to and there aren’t any major logistical hurdles in our way.

It’s not just nerves either. It’s a pit of the stomach fear that makes me shake and sob. It’s terror. Because this isn’t something I can convince myself doesn’t matter — up there with giving birth, getting married is one of the biggest things that happens in your life. So convincing myself that I’m not bothered either way isn’t an option. Which means I just have to work through the fear and remember that it will go away eventually.

Reassurances from friends help. Hugs help. Telling me to “enjoy the dating process” sends me into complete panic — because my brain interprets that as meaning “this is all you’re going to get.”

It is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to deal with.

But if The Mighty has taught me anything, it’s that I can get through this. Because with a loving community like this, anything is possible.

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