It was the fifth night in a row that I found myself sitting on the floor of the shower, legs folded under my chin and arms hugging my knees.
Rocking myself, I sang “My Favorite Things” between whimpers as tears mingled with the warm water puddling around my feet.
I was having an autistic meltdown though I didn’t know it at the time.
An autistic meltdown is unnerving. It is usually brought on by overstimulation, whether by stress, changes in routine, lights, sounds, socializing, etc. The only way to deal with it is to let it run its course.
I’ve had meltdowns all my life but never twice a day for five days in a row. They were persistent.
When COVID-19 came to Texas, our overworked and understaffed communications department was flung out of our ordinary world. And I was unable to cope.
When the offices and schools closed, my husband had to close his small business. While it was a big hit to our finances, it did mean he had the time to handle virtual learning for our son and ensure I didn’t die of starvation.
For the first two months of the lockdown, I worked remotely all day, every day – no weekends off. I marked my time by the plates of food my husband shoved between my keyboard and me at mealtime.
Although everyone else on the team was exhausted and stressed, they handled things in stride. Or they just handled it. But I didn’t.
I’ve struggled all my life to make and keep friends, socialize, manage the stress of a full-time job, and motherhood. Always, failure nipped at my heels, and depression reigned supreme.
I am different and unable to adequately function in a world that seems so foreign to me.
While I suspected for quite sometime before the pandemic that I was on the autistic spectrum, I was conflicted about pursuing a formal diagnosis.
But COVID-19’s force majeure on an unsuspecting me was too much. Already holding myself by threads, I decided it was time. It was time to confirm what I already suspected.
I scheduled the necessary appointments, took the tests, and received the diagnosis: Asperger’s Syndrome (aka high-functioning autism).
As the diagnosis was read to me, nothing magical happened. No light bulbs went off. No fairies sang. No rainbows danced over my house. And nothing inside me changed. I still have meltdowns and struggle with a stressful work environment. A “How to Survive the World as an Aspie” manual didn’t come with the diagnosis.
But one thing the diagnosis did come with – understanding. This is me. And I felt for the first time in my life I had the license just to be me. Finally, at the age of 39, I was able to look in the mirror and introduce myself…to myself. Finally, I understand why I am the way I am. And now I have something to work with.
It turns out understanding yourself is a powerful tool when living life. I only hope I can put it to good use.
Why did you seek a diagnosis? Did it change your perspective? I’d love to hear from other women diagnosed with autism. If you are willing, please share in the comments below!