From my very earliest memories onwards, I knew I was different. I had recently landed on these Irish shores, selectively mute, hyperlexic and very foreign. My father, the chain-smoking Turk with broken English. My mom, the prodigal wildchild returned home over burnt bridges, to write poetry in Irish no less. With that background, what chance did I stand? No doubt about it, I was weird. An enigma. To everyone outside my family, perhaps to my family (who called me a Space Cadet), but also to myself. Who was I, really? Why was I so different? These questions would become my focus, my obsession, for the rest of my life.
I developed an early interest in trying to “place” myself. Categorise myself. Starting with the most obviously: Horoscopes. I was a Pisces with Scorpio Rising. Born in the Year of the Snake. A Water Snake. I became quite an expert, filling in Star Charts, learning the nuances. But that wasn’t enough.
I poured over the Enneagram, thinking I could unlock who I was with a personality trait test. Then Myers Briggs, with its infernal acronyms that just confused me. Could my Numerology Personality Number hold the key? Each and every self-test I could find. My teenage years passed while I scoured the library for psychology books that might explain to me who I was.
Was I bi-polar? Borderline personality disorder? I did at one point get diagnosed with “atypical depression” but the psychiatrist said I was “a perplexing case” as he too couldn’t put his finger on what made me who I was.
And then, I had kids. And after some years my son was referred for an ASD assessment. I have a cousin who is autistic. But he has trouble speaking, and very high needs, and he shaped my views of what it meant to be autistic. So I’d discounted being autistic, until some of the traits were highlighted in my son. My mother thought I was jumping the gun, when I expressed my concerns about my son. “But all that stuff, those behaviours, are perfectly normal. You were just like that at his age.” Nevertheless, I thought it best to get him tested. Then, when answering the questions in the Parents Questionnaire about my son, I realised I could have given the exact same answers about myself. The penny dropped. Those long years of searching were over. I now knew who and what I am. I finally know myself. I am autistic. And knowing this has made all the difference.
Melissa Murphy blogs at Autistic Zebra.
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