It’s funny where life takes you when you’re treading new territory.
Well, I say new, but I mean old territory with a new name and new requirements.
You might remember, if you read my piece last year on TBS about my son’s Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) diagnosis, that I was feeling a touch anxious about navigating this newfound landscape of “early interventions” and such. Maybe more than a touch – I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t stop thinking, researching, collecting information like a hoarder.
As I read and delved and drove myself half-mad with details, I discovered something that changed the ballgame considerably, in ways both grand and not-so-grand.
A couple of months ago I was formally diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome. All that research had given me many ways to help my son, but had also opened a door I thought would remain locked forever. So much of what I found was like reading about myself. My younger self came barging through the door with a ferocity I thought had been long lost to adulthood, responsibility and reason. All of a sudden, sitting in the psychologist’s office receiving my diagnosis, that child resettled herself in my head and said, “So, what do we do now?”
And that is the struggle – a familiar one for girls and women on the spectrum. We’re often diagnosed late, or not at all. At first I felt free, waves of relief making me the calmest and least anxious I had been in more years than I care to remember.
But then I started to think back, and reconciling the past with the present became something bigger – bigger than even my childhood confusion and fears ever seemed at the time.
Finding myself. Again. I had thought back in my teen years that I’d done this. In reality I’d just made myself a caricature of what I thought an interesting girl should be, and that’s where I stayed. Well-rehearsed and unflappable, almost scripted, a social mimic trying to hide in plain sight. Now, that person seems naïve and sheepish.
I’m 35 years old and yet I’m like a lost child when it comes to myself. That’s not to say things won’t readjust themselves to some semblance of equilibrium. It’s just that right now, I’m the kid in the playground sitting on the see-saw alone, stuck at the bottom. I am optimistic, don’t get me wrong, but it wasn’t something I thought I’d be doing now.
The other night, as we cuddled up in bed and had a chat, I told my son I wasn’t feeling well.
“I have thousands of power-ups, Mum. You can have a healing power-up if you like.”
“Thanks Charlie, that’d be great.”
“It’s my last one, but you can have it. I use them at school when I fall over or have a bad day.”
His last “power-up,” and he was giving it to me. Just when I thought I should be sucking it up and getting my shit together, my son handed the small girl in my head something more valuable than information or strategies. He gave me his care, and also showed me just how easy it should be to just “be,” something I never allowed myself as a child.
I’m still searching and stressing and all that stuff, but when I grow up (again), I hope I find my power-up so I can return the favour.
For those interested in obtaining more information about Aspergers Syndrome, contact Aspergers Services Australia, an organisation serving the Aspergers community for over 20 years.