After eight years pretending to not be autistic, I decided to self-identify. Internalized ableism was one reason I hid (from) my autism. Another reason I refused to accept my autism was that I had neither the time nor money to afford a diagnosis. This is still the case, has always been the case.
I somehow thought that to identify as autistic would be to identify as a fraud. Would, as some say, “take away” from those who are actually autistic. What I would take away, I didn’t know, though I’m sure I saw self-identification as a form of cultural appropriation.
And though therapy has been beneficial to me, I do feel that some therapists are responsible for my prior confusion.
A therapist who said, “But autism is a lack of social skills. You have social skills.”
A therapist who said, “Autism? You’re too intelligent for that.”
A therapist who said, “What if someone told you you weren’t autistic?”
By the time the pandemic arrived, I’d already known I’d needed to stop pretending to not be autistic and to learn about autism, to work towards normalizing myself via normalizing autism in my mind. I was too tired, too achy, sweaty, too irritable, too confused, too anxious.
When the pandemic drove me to work from home, where I luxuriated in solitude, I decided to accept my neurodivergence as a way to maintain my newfound peace. When I began to learn about autism, I realized my eight years of pretending had ended.
Then I learned about autistic burnout, and realized that before the Lockdown, I’d been headed towards another stage of burnout, that I could no longer afford to avoid learning about my brain.
For me, self-identification was necessary. Rejection of my neurotype was a rejection of myself, a result of self-hatred that deepened my self-hatred. Rejection of my neurotype was also, in some ways, perpetuated by my psychological dependence on an inaccessible medical system.
Accepting my neurotype meant accepting an important aspect of my identity and enabled me to identify other aspects of my identity—my agenderness, my araciality and asexuality—as well as my true interests, and how my identity and interests interconnect.
Many neurodivergents seek diagnosis because a diagnosis can bring a sense of comfort through confirmation. I understand that. I’ve also come to understand that the way I don’t need a doctor to tell confirm my sexual orientation, the way I don’t need a diagnosis to know my race, I’ve never needed a diagnosis to confirm my autism.