Every now and then I see a conversation in which someone (usually not autistic, but occasionally autistic) says that self diagnosis of autism is not okay. I’ve never dived into the conversation publicly before, because it’s a tough one to have and, to be honest, it’s exhausting defending yourself to people who’ve already made up their mind and don’t want to listen. But I do have some pretty strong thoughts about this, and I’m going to share them here.
It might seem to contradict what I have said in other places,
It’s about a year since I got comfortable with saying I’m autistic. Shortly after I publicly “came out” I was asked why I would identify as disabled or allow a label like autism to be applied to me. I didn’t quite know what to say at the time, except to tell the person that labels aren’t negative and that I found it helpful in understanding myself. A year later, though, I have a more detailed answer.
I have been having a really hard time lately managing the often perceived to be small things of a normal life. Cleaning, shopping, planning meals, answering emails.
I’m in an uncomfortable state of shifting thoughts and feelings lately. I’ve written in the past 6 months about learning to live better with an increased understanding of my needs. But writing about it is easier than the doing of it. It is one thing to process these things as thoughts, and another entirely to live it.
“Labels are for cans, not for people”.
When we meet someone new, it is expected that we get to know each other to some extent. The context of the meeting tends to dictate the sorts of questions that are typically part of the conversation. Where are you from? What do you do? Do you have any children? There are also some answers that are typically considered to be appropriate, and some answers that will generally attract a negative reaction.
I know we can’t change the past. I know that things in our past help us become who we are, and that is often a really positive thing. I know hindsight gives clarity and we probably shouldn’t spend too much time looking back with regret. But I have to admit I’m feeling angry about something that has happened, and happens to lots of people, that has meant I missed out on something really good for a long time. Looking back could be dangerous if we dwell there and don’t move on, but if we are willing I think there is something to be learned from it.