How #ActuallyAutistic people understand ourselves – when we don’t know we’re autistic

lines-outline-dots
When you don’t understand the underlying pattern, you connect all the dots in different ways – which may not make much sense.

I’ve written before about the patterns we use to “decipher” autism, when we don’t know what we’re looking at — especially from a society-wide clueless/frantic/desperate level.

Now I’d like to talk about the ways that we autistic people ourselves can understand the overall patterns of our lives — when we don’t fully grasp the fact that we are, in fact, autistic.

Many, many folks on the spectrum can — and will — freely share about the myriad traits and symptoms that punctuate their lives.

  • Social confusion, missed clues and cues
  • Sensory overwhelm in large, bright spaces
  • Light-sensitivity
  • Noise-sensitivity
  • Touch feeling like pain
  • Literal thinking… missed jokes, misinterpreted innuendo
  • Fascination with certain topics, which oddly no one else seems to share
  • Trouble understanding the pacing of conversations
  • Inability to put thoughts into words
  • Exhaustion
  • And so forth

When we’re not fully aware of what’s going on with us, the world can just feel like all static:

random-noise-static
Static, static, and more static.

I think this is especially true as kids, when all the world can be an undifferentiated sea of competing noise, none of which stands out as more important than anything else to us.

As we become more self-aware and grow into our lives, we learn to determine the aspects of our experience which are more pronounced and ‘cluster’ around certain themes – like the bullet points listed earlier.

a bunch of dots arrayed on a field of static and spectrum colors
And this is what we experience, abstractly speaking

And as we mature, we can refine our understanding of them further.

red and blue dots on a background of red and blue static
Some of the “signals” we pick up more strongly than others. They seem to make more sense to us. They’re part of a theme.

Each of these points is like individual signals about individual parts of our lives:

  • Social confusion, missed clues and cues
  • Sensory overwhelm in large, bright spaces
  • Light- and noise-sensitivity, as well as touch feeling like pain
  • Literal thinking… missed jokes, misinterpreted innuendo
  • Fascination with certain topics, which oddly no one else seems to share
  • Trouble understanding the pacing of conversations
  • Inability to put thoughts into words
  • Exhaustion
  • And more exhaustion.

It’s totally depleting. And because our minds are very pattern-oriented, we look for themes, we look for traits that make sense in a certain context. And we use our logical cause-and-effect to determine how all those points are connected.

lines connecting dots in a series of crossed lines
We connect the dots, but we don’t fully understand how and why everything is connected. And beyond our own experience, the pattern doesn’t have much meaning.

So, we do see connections, but they can be haphazard. And the connections can vary from person to person. They can also vary from day to day. We struggle to see an over-arching pattern, a meaningful way to interpret the connections and contradictions in our lives. We have what seems like a collection of explanations, but we don’t have a “meta-pattern” to guide ourselves by.

We see so many stars, but we can’t pick out the constellations. And we can’t pilot the metaphorical ships of our lives through the surging seas.

Stormy sea at night with old sailing ship and lightning
We can’t see the patterns in the “stars”, and we can’t find our way through the storms.

This might sound dramatic, but it’s been my exact experience, metaphorically speaking.

And I know I am not alone.

One thought on “How #ActuallyAutistic people understand ourselves – when we don’t know we’re autistic

  1. Pingback: Everything Makes Sense | Mamautistic

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