Wednesday, July 16, 2014

My diagnosis was about them being different, not me

I was diagnosed with both Asperger's Syndrome and Sensory Processing Disorder at age 22. They were a long time coming. The symptoms had been life long, I'd been coping with them on my own, and now I finally had been labeled. It wasn't being signaled out, being told, "you are so different, look, we need to give you a special name." No, truthfully, my diagnoses weren't about me being different than others, they were about others being different than me.

Some people are against diagnoses. They worry about labels for themselves. They worry about labels for others. They think that people will be told how different they are, and really in this society different is commonly viewed as lesser. The truth is, we are different either way, its a question of knowledge. Giving people more information won't make them anything they aren't. It will, help explain.

Some people I talk to, describe growing up knowing how different they are, knowing there's something odd about them, searching, wanting to know. They describe finding autism and this meaning they finally understanding their childhood. This wasn't me. I didn't know how different I was. But in both cases, knowledge can be helpful.

For me, like I said, it wasn't at all, about me being different, it was about others being different than me. By the time I was diagnosed I knew I was different, I even knew I was autistic, but I didn't understand it. Through the diagnostic process I learned a lot of what my impairments were; because they were things I assumed were true about everyone. Over a year later I'd be reading yet another book about sensory processing, and say "wait, that's not true about everyone?" and learn yet another way that I just have adapted, and have been coping. I assumed others were like me, rather than assuming I was different. I forced myself through things, but I didn't do it in a way that was taking care of myself, or that was allowing me to get much done, while others were developing anxieties. In both cases, we needed to stop, and learn how to do things properly.

I'd adapted a lot to the world on my own, by assuming it was what everyone was doing. It wasn't in a way that let me get nearly everything I should be getting done done. It wasn't in a way that lets me manage myself properly. So, when I realized this wasn't what other people did, and that there ways I could do things that allowed me to manage myself more properly; I needed to learn them. My own techniques were and are, a great resource. But now I'm learning about myself in ways that mean I don't need to manage making myself nauseous every time I shower.

The diagnoses told me they were different. It told me what I didn't know. It told me how I could learn. It gave me the opportunity to make things better by finding new solutions. It gave me the opportunity to figure out that not everybody has some of the limitations I assumed. Telling me I'm different, might not tell me where to go, but I had somewhere to go. I had a lot to learn. And I've learned a lot about myself. Comparisons aren't always bad. You just need to know what sorts of comparisons you are making, and to try to learn to make fewer assumptions in the process.

Now I deal with the assumptions being made about me, because of my diagnosis. They assume what I'm like, because of my label. This is why they don't like the diagnoses, I suppose. Because they don't like the assumptions. But I still think these assumptions are better, because now I know, and before I didn't know that I didn't know, and that makes a huge difference.

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