I’m going to tell you a few facts about me. These things have always been true. They are, on the whole, things that I have always known about myself. For the last 45 years they have been steadily accumulating, and just regarded as my “quirks” by everyone who has known me and known about some or all of these things.
1. I never go to the cinema. Although I went a few times as a child it was never at my initiation and as an adult I’ve hardly ever been. The last time was over a decade ago and we left after the first 20 minutes.
2. I was really naughty at primary school, constantly on headmaster’s report, constantly in trouble for various things, and not really getting any significant work done.
3. I do not know the name of any other person (apart from my husband) in the town where I live. I do not know my neighbours’ names and have never spoken to any of them.
4. I am deeply unfashionable, never wear make-up or a bra, and am utterly unable to comprehend why, say, wearing socks with sandals could be wrong since it’s comfortable and easy.
5. I really like even numbers and most particularly numbers with lots of factors. I like square numbers, and I believe numbers have a sort of hierarchy where some are more relaxing than others.
6. I scratch my head a lot and pick the skin off my scalp. In my 20s I did so very very badly and had open wounds on the back of my head. I didn’t know why I did this, it was just a thing I did.
7. If I spent 20 minutes or so in our storage unit I start to feel very very exhausted and sick. I have to sit down and I then deteriorate to the point where I have to go outside.
8. Sometimes I go really really quiet and just stop talking. It usually happens when I’m really exhausted or really stressed or I’ve just become really angry about something.
9. I cannot tell the time easily from a traditional clock face. Neither am I very good at telling left from right without thinking about it really hard and making writing movements with my fingers.
10. I was bullied all the way through school, even at secondary school where I wasn’t regarded as naughty any more, but as a bit of a geeky strange kid.
11. I’m a really rubbish cook. Before I was married I lived mainly on takeaways and toast, and I often forget to eat and have very little idea of how hungry I might be.
12. I sometimes get really really stressed and angry at everything in a really really short space of time and need to run away or hurt myself and I have absolutely no control over it.
13. I have never been able to keep a job for a sustained period of time and most of the jobs I’ve had I’ve left with some sort of mysterious mental illness, usually given as depression.
14. Left to my own devices I take my shoes off and sit with my legs crossed like in primary school assembly, or sometimes with them folded underneath me.
15. I get really stressed when I’m near the fridges in supermarkets. I usually leave my husband to do all the fresh food shopping and spend my time sniffing every single sort of fabric conditioner.
16. I have never had, or wanted, a satnav machine. I love looking at maps and if I have to go somewhere I don’t know then I look it up in advance and memorise the map.
17. If I am going to do an exam and I agree to meet up with people in the pub afterwards I will be much much more nervous about the pub than I am about doing the exam.
18. When I start a new hobby (or resume an old one) I take it very very seriously. I buy loads of books and research it online and often work on it late into the night.
19. My legs jiggle almost constantly if I don’t consciously try to stop them. I cannot sit still and have been known as a fidgety person all my life.
20. I will automatically assume, once I’ve finished writing this blog post, that you’ve already read it, even though I haven’t posted it yet! I will have to keep reminding myself that this isn’t the case!
If I had listed these facts a year ago I would have seen no connection between them whatsoever – they would just have seemed like a list of random unrelated facts. In fact, I would never have even contemplated making such a list – why on Earth would I have connected my inability to cook, with my avoidance of the cinema? or my behaviour at primary school, with the fact that I have never owned a satnav? or getting exhausted at the storage unit, with resisting fashion trends and not wearing make up? Thinking about these these things there seems to be very little connection, if any at all, between many of them.
Until you start playing “autism bingo”!!! I should imagine that, if I gave this list to a group of autistic people, many of them would look at it and say “Yes, me too, me too” or something similar. Obviously, not every single thing would apply to every single person (everybody’s different after all), but the minute I started researching autistic traits and examining my life, the above list of apparently disparate facts suddenly links up and makes perfect sense. It seems that I wasn’t really “quirky” in the way that I thought – these are all just standard manifestations of autistic characteristics!
I’m fairly certain that I will discover many more things that could be added to the list above as I continue to examine my life from an autistic perspective.
It really is about understanding.