I want to take a moment to share with you something deeply personal and significant to me that has come to light in the past year. I have been newly diagnosed with autism.
If your immediate response to what you've read as now in this blog post is disbelief, please close this tab in your browser and move on. I am not sharing to convince anyone. I am sharing with the hope it will help others to see someone like me discuss the topic openly and for my own relief of getting it off my chest.
For many years, I've struggled with understanding myself and why I've felt different from others. When I learned that I had ADHD at 34 years old(more than 10 years ago), I thought the ADHD diagnosis would eventually "explain it all" for me as I unpacked myself (my experiences mostly). I’ve always found it challenging to communicate effectively, at times trouble with picking up on social cues, and whether I was excited to navigate unfamiliar social situations or not, it has always felt a little awkward for me initially. Often feeling like an outsider that is still on the inside (if that makes any sense to anyone). I've never quite determine why. However, after receiving my diagnosis, everything began to make sense for me. I finally had a label for what I had been experiencing all these years to explain the parts of me that were not explainable as my ADHD. It has been somewhat of a relief to know that there has been a reason for some of my challenges. There is a small number of people I have confided in with this information in the past year. Some people said, “well that’s no surprise” and others have said, “that is bullshit, you’re fine” (or some variation of not believing me or the diagnosis). And for what it is worth, OF COURSE I'M FINE. I've always been ME and on this journey to self-discovery and life.
At the same time, though, even with my previous advocacy work and professional experience working for an organization (pre-pandemic) that supported people with disabilities, the diagnosis has been overwhelming for me while unpacking it. I knew already with my ADHD, I was navigating a world that wasn't always designed for people like me. With this newly found knowledge and insight into who I am, it has also been exciting to look into and begin learning new skills and strategies to help with communication and connecting with others. I've always been quick to make friends but it takes a lot of time to get close to me. This information and diagnosis was and is a gift because with this knowledge I could and continue to grow understanding of myself in a near frame of reference and light.
But, as some of my readers know, I'm someone who loves a good challenge. I’ve been facing this process mostly alone, head-on, and truly how I wanted to. I continue to research and explore different resources available to people on the autism spectrum (even for those of us who are mostly neuro-typical passing), and I have already seen tremendous progress in my ability to communicate and connect with others over this past year.
Being diagnosed with autism has been a significant moment in my life, and it has brought with it both challenges and opportunities. It has also been no big deal as I've unpacked it all. I AM ME. Nothing has changed. I am typically loud and proud about all things, ME or @recruitingSHEro. This time, I wanted to navigate this on my own terms. I am proud just haven’t been as loud. I’ve been fighting some internal guilt for not speaking up about this sooner but also know deep down that doing what is best for me IS actually BEST. I figuratively had to put my own oxygen mask on first. But I am looking forward to sharing my experiences and insights with others who may be going through similar a situation(s).
Today was a big day for me. I met with a new hiring manager. Before the 1:1 meeting ended, I told them about me and my communication style. I let them know that while I am excellent at my job there may be times when they could potentially misread me or my reactions. I shared a few things like: When I get excited or am passionate about things I can talk 100 million miles an hour. Sometimes my brain moves faster than my mouth or typing can keep up with. Sometimes I forget to smile or show animation over zoom with my face. I shared this in the hopes to be a better strategic partner but mostly in hopes that it would help build a relationship of understanding sooner. It felt scary and really good all at once. I’ve never shared like that before at work – EVER. And honestly, also a testament to my employer and our culture of belonging, it was the scariest thing I’ve done in a long time.
The way my hiring manager reacted and thanked me for sharing with them brought tears of relief to my eyes after I closed the zoom. I haven’t even told my boss (who will likely say, this is not a surprise) or mother at this point, let alone those in my day-to-day personal life. I’ve likely alluded to it over the past 6-12 months here and there with folks and have told more strangers than people who know me (probably because it’s easier that way). I still have a huge fear of people thinking it’s all bullshit just like many of them treated me and continue to react to my Lupus diagnosis (I just do not talk about Lupus or how it is impacting me anymore with those folks). I am afraid if those same folks reject me with this that it will be too much to handle emotionally for me. Then I tell myself how silly it is that I do not tell people and that if people in my life can’t handle it, they can kick rocks.
Ultimately, nothing has changed as far as who you know me to be yesterday. I am the same over thinking, quirky chatter box with a love for Wonder Woman, Ice Cream, DEIB, Pink, Tacos, Pandas (and all fluffy sweet animals), Sparkles, and so many things awesomely nerdy. I AM ME. I’ve just had the opportunity to understand myself more this past year. If you’re in tune with me or the type of person who notices changes, you may have noticed a change in me last year and even more so this past 9 months, as I’ve tried to embrace what I know about myself, become more efficient and more of a strategic partner professionally in office and with my large professional community. So on this one year "since I was diagnosed officially" anniversary, I am nowhere near the point where I am ready to stop learning or getting to know myself (I likely never will be) AND I am definitely at a place where I am ready to share with you.