Nattily from Notes on Crazy
My identity is not your enemy. #StopCombatingMe
When I was seven or eight, a friend told me that some people have “photographic memories” and explained what that meant. She dove into the pond. I sat on the dock and thought to myself, “That’s what I have. I have a photographic memory.”
When I was in high school I read a webcomic mentioning “super-tasters.” I looked it up, thought about it for a while, and thought to myself, “That’s what I am. I’m a super-taster.”
When I was in thirteen, people in my middle school started calling each other “gay” as an insult. I still hadn’t had the sex talk, and I spent most of my free time thinking about what exactly sex was, since I knew I was supposed to know about it and it wasn’t ok to ask. I didn’t know what gay meant, and I decided for myself that it meant “someone who thinks about sex a lot.” I sat in my eighth grade honors algebra class solving systems of equations and thought to myself, “That’s what I am. I’m gay.”
Over the years I have decided that I have red hair, that I have hazel eyes if you look really close, that I have this health issue or that health issue, that I’m agoraphobic, that I am schizophrenic, that I am defined by any number of things that are not only not defining identities, but not necessarily true of me in the slightest.
The summer after I turned twenty-five, I did a lot of research on autism, in particular how it looks in adult women. I sat on my bed, scrolling through blog after blog and clicking link after link, and I thought to myself, “That’s what I am. I’m autistic.”
The difference is, of course, that I am autistic. Wholly. Completely. It is precisely who I am. I cannot be separated from it.
When I thought, “I’m autistic,” I began to cry, and I didn’t stop for a few days. Sometimes I think I still haven’t stopped.
I cried not because I was sad or frightened or angry that I was autistic, but because I was sad and frightened and angry about putting the pieces together in that moment. I cried in relief, and in grief.
If there is one indisputable fact about who I am, it is not necessarily that I am autistic. It is that I have known my whole life that I was different. Not better, not worse. Different. I have always known, and I have always looked for the solace that would come with putting a word, an image, a lemma to what exactly made me different. The difference that I could see so clearly, and that everyone else ignored because they could not name.
I have been labeling myself since I could speak. I have been searching for the magical word that could fill in the blank – “I’m something” – and would let me rest.
I’m not a hypochondriac. I’m not a pathological liar. I’m not making anything up for attention. And you never know, maybe I am like your child.
I never told anyone that I had a photographic memory. I never told others that if you looked in the right light you could see that my hair is really red and my eyes are really green. I never asked a doctor if maybe I might have schizophrenia. I never acted differently when I considered these options or asked anyone to treat me differently I never asserted to any other person to be any of these things. I just tried them on for size, in my mind, privately, safely. Some I held onto for a while; others I dismissed almost immediately. Some were actually true (I really am a super-taster), but I realized quickly that they were the right answers to the wrong questions.
Now when I ask myself the question “Who am I?” I’m not haunted with isolation, shame, and uncertainty.
I know the right answer. I am autistic.
I am not defined by a disease. I am defined by myself. By the entirety of who I am and how I operate. How I think and sense and speak and behave. It just so happens that there’s a word for it. The word is autistic.
The word brings comfort. The word brings peace. The word brings community. The word brings identity. Hope. Love. Future. Past. Present.
Solace. Completeness. Empathy.
I am not interested in being anything other than exactly who I am. I ask you formally, articulately, concisely, and authentically: please…
…stop combating me.
#StopCombatingMe #BoycottAutismSpeaks #ActuallyWeLikeOurselves #SeriouslyWeAreSomeReallyAmazingPeople #TryListening