I read a post this morning that got me thinking (now removed, but was about someone’s concerns that a person they knew might be pretending to have AS), and what follows are my broader thoughts around this issue generally, not specifically the situation they described. I had not previously considered the fact that the speed at which I lapped up my Asperger’s (AS) diagnosis might lead some people to suspect that I had jumped on the proverbial band-wagon. I am not sure why someone would choose to say that they have Asperger’s, given some of the problems and reactions it can create, but then I guess Neurotypical (NT) people might get something out of it that I can’t perceive.
I self-diagnosed before my official assessment, and this occurred so rapidly (I had only read one article when the penny dropped) that I guess it could be seen to be very quick. But as to whether it is too quick, I don’t think so. Asperger’s is one of the few individual differences that you can go your whole life without knowing you have, but which has a significant impact on every aspect of your life. When you receive a diagnosis as a child you grow up knowing that you are different. You may not appreciate exactly what that means until you are older, but you probably have a parent or another adult advocating on your behalf, and explaining things in a way that you understand. Your diagnosis (unless hidden from you) does not come as the same bolt out of the blue. But if you receive your diagnosis as an adult, perhaps like me after 10+ years of adult life, and without anybody ever suggesting it as a remote possibility, it can be an immensely profound and life-changing moment.
As soon as I realised, *everything* started to fall into place, my brain *immediately* and frantically started reframing everything, going over every part of my life, everything in my past that had gone badly, all the things I struggled with and didn’t understand why, the things I assumed were my fault because I was weak, lazy or just not good enough. And it’s not only me, very recently I have watched a friend go through the same thing. Within 24 hours of her moment of realisation she had reassessed her relationships with her family, her partner, her children, they way she lived her life, her job, her choices, so many things because everything looked different immediately.
For me I continued this process for months and months. I was obsessed. Asperger’s, and my Asperger’s in particular, became my new special interest. I read everything in sight and talked to everybody I knew about it. There was so much to process with my new-found insight, so much to revisit. I had to train myself not to bring it up in every conversation I had with every person I encountered. I had to learn how to differentiate (if possible and appropriate) where the Asperger’s ended and I began, what was due to my different way of thinking and my difficulties, and what was due to my personality, upbringing and experiences. In my house, my (unofficially diagnosed Aspie) partner and I have borrowed a phrase from special education, “Naughty, not Autie”, to call each other out on things that we are blaming on our Asperger’s, but which we are just trying to get away with. It is an affectionate reminder to ourselves and each other that despite having Asperger’s, we are first and foremost people!
So anyway, the reason that the post got me thinking was that I really, really hate being questioned and second guessed about my diagnosis, who gave it to me, whether they were ‘qualified’, whether I’ve had a second opinion(!) etc (I mentioned this in yesterday’s post 10 things not to say to someone with Asperger’s). But I also really see this person’s point of view, I too would hate to think that there were people pretending to be neurodiverse just to gain some advantage (although I still can’t see what that would be, living a life of pretence is just about my worst nightmare). If someone feels they need to pretend they have AS when they don’t, then it suggests that they do have issues, even if they are not because of AS. In general, I don’t think healthy NT people live an Asperger’s life for the fun of it, or just to get free rent and sit in their room all day.
Such a person would (I imagine), irrespective of official diagnoses, still need support and understanding with the difficulties they are facing. There is already so much disablist propaganda at large in the UK at the moment, newspaper stories about ‘scroungers’ and ‘benefit cheats’. Suspicion of and hate crimes against people with all types of disabilities are on the rise; I do not want people within the autistic community viewing each other with the same suspicion. If this person does not have Asperger’s, then they will soon self-diagnose with something else and move on, and people whose lives are genuinely affected by autism will remain, here for each other.
© Catastraspie, 2012.