It’s been several days since I’ve posted. Partially that’s due to impaired executive function. I can’t seem to get a handle on how to manage my time and tasks effectively. It’s always been an issue for me. Teachers would never understand how I could be so brilliant and yet be unable to remember to retrieve my work from my locker before class, for example. Still like this. Only, adults who can be amazing at a million different things but can’t manage to remember to eat or can’t manage to do simple things like go to the grocery store aren’t quite as acceptable as a lazy, underachieving brilliant student. Obviously I’m a slacker. No. I’m not, I just can’t organize information well and act upon it.
At any rate, I am now in the midst of my assessment for Asperger’s. I’ve had two appointments and completed some formal assessments. My next appointment is less than a week away and at that appointment, I should be finishing up going over my history and hearing my psychologist’s impressions of all the assessments we’ve done. I should get my answer about whether or not I am autistic. I am both excited and nervous about this. Although I have not yet received my formal diagnosis, I feel that there have been several hints that I already have my answer and it is the one I suspected. I am pretty confident that I will be told I am on the spectrum and that I do have Asperger’s. When I told my husband that I felt like I already have my answer and am just awaiting confirmation, I asked if he had any thoughts, questions or comments for me. He replied that nothing will change other than we will have a name for what makes me a little bit different. That’s true. I will be the same person both before and after diagnosis. But, it’s also true that things will change for me in a few significant ways.
First, if I am autistic, it will reframe a number of incidents from my past. There are so many things that have happened in my past that I pull out and reexamine periodically, looking for some new insight into why they happened the way that they did, why I didn’t respond differently, and why I failed at some seemingly simple task. I never get any closer to an answer, but I continually search for one. I’ve told my husband that it’s like an equation for me, except each time I do the math, I arrive at a place where I have to divide by zero. If you have any experience with mathematics, then you know that you cannot divide by zero. It’s undefined. I know this, and yet, each time I get to this undefined place in trying to understand these incidents, I keep trying to divide by zero even though I know it won’t work, and only end up making myself worried and stressed out about something that I’m never going to understand. But, if the reason that these things happened the way that they did, if the reason that I responded the way I did, if the reason I failed is that I am autistic, then I can hopefully let some of this go. It’s not that I want an excuse for these incidents. It’s that I want a reason. A reason is very different from an excuse, at least in my book. A reason means there’s a defined explanation for something. If my brain works a little differently from most people’s brains, then that explains why I struggle with some things that are seemingly easy for others, and it explains why I couldn’t grasp what to do in certain situations in my past. Having an explanation means that I can have closure, and while I may not be able to completely forget about these incidents, I can at least put them to bed having solved the riddle behind them.
Secondly, if I am autistic, then I can learn to be kinder to myself. I struggle so much with negative self talk. In my head there is a constant monologue denigrating me for not being better, more functional, normal, for Christ’s sake. If I am autistic, then the answer there is that I’m never going to be good at being normal. But I can be awesome at being autistic. What I mean is, instead of constantly castigating myself for not being more social, for struggling with executive function, for having a million sensory issues that no one else is bothered by, instead of being embarrassed that something which seemingly every single person on the whole planet takes in stride turns me into a complete wreck… Instead of engaging in negative self talk and forcing myself to do things that make me miserable… Maybe instead, I can cut myself some slack and understand that maybe I will never be the type of person who enjoys social situations, for example, but there’s an explanation for that, and if I know that forcing myself to engage in them anyway is going to make me ill and maybe cause me to have a meltdown, it’s okay to say no and I don’t have to be upset with myself for taking care of me.
Finally, regardless of the diagnosis, a light has been shown on many differences in the way I think and react versus how the majority of people think and react. I can now approach these differences, at least some of them, with some solutions. For example, I have always struggled with executive function, I just didn’t know there was a name for it. Having a name for it and an explanation for why I struggle with these things means that I now understand that I can do things to help improve my executive function. Some things I’ve stumbled onto blindly on my own. For example, I do much better getting things accomplished if I have a list. If I don’t have a list, I flutter about from thing to thing ineffectually. Calendars are incredibly important to me. For the past several years, I’ve used the calendar on my phone and programmed in all of my events and appointments, along with reminders set to go off 2 days before and then 2 hours before I’m supposed to do the thing. If it isn’t in my phone, and more importantly, if I don’t set a reminder for it, it straight up isn’t going to happen. I love the gps feature on my smartphone because I only know ONE way to get anywhere. I learn how to get somewhere one way, and I cannot deviate from that path without an enormous amount of stress. I also have no idea where I am at any given time. We’ve lived in the same time for around 4 years. It’s not a huge place, but I still have no clue where I am unless I drove myself there, nor do I easily relate where I am currently with where another place is. I don’t know my left from my right. Genuinely, I do not. I have to think carefully about it, and I’ve even developed a cheat so that other people don’t know that I’m clueless. I feel the writing callous on the middle finger of my right hand so that I know that is my right hand. It sounds ridiculous. I’m 35. I should know my left from my right, but I don’t. Not really. The gps is an easy way for me to work around my shortcomings without drawing attention to them. I used to carry an atlas in case I needed to navigate somewhere even a little bit unfamiliar. I used it a lot. But a smartphone is a lot less conspicuous and also gives alternatives if my original plan doesn’t work. This is important because trying to come up with a solution after my first plan didn’t work is impossible. My husband has fielded many calls from me asking where something is because I can’t find it. I can’t ask someone else because that involves speaking to a person I don’t know, and other than backtracking to where I started, I can’t navigate a different path. He’s probably had no idea how completely lost I am for all these years, but the secret is out now. Sorry, babe. You married someone who uses you for your impeccable sense of direction. Ha. But, now that I understand that the reason I struggle with time management, organization, and the like is faulty executive function, I am aware that there are apps and tools available which are designed specifically to help me overcome this. I’m very excited to try out some of these to see if they improve things. Even in the (I think unlikely) event that I walk away without a definite diagnosis, I now understand some things about myself better, and understanding them means that I have some ideas for how to help myself overcome them to some degree.