My Life With Undiagnosed Autism

For me, ever since I was a small child I had always been keenly aware that I was somehow different from other kids, but I could never quite put my finger on the problem.

While in the Navy people were always complaining that I was rude and lazy, and worked at a slow pace. I was never good at “playing the game” and it took me years to figure this part out.

Socially, I would get to the point that I thought I had been accepted, then find out that everybody around me thought I was weird or downright creepy, and I’d have no idea.

I tried to ignore it and hide it mainly because I didn’t have a word for what I was dealing with. I hoped that if I ignored it, it would eventually just go away.

I was aware of Autism – I had even toyed with the idea of being borderline Autistic – but my understanding of it was too limited to truly understand the obvious symptoms that I had been demonstrating since my early childhood (stimming, stereotyped behaviors, obsessions).

This had the most marked effects on my love life, as from a young age I had experienced the traumatic effects of misreading social situations, which caused me to avoid them in lieu of confronting them and overcoming these misreadings.

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The most traumatic occurrence happened during the first couple weeks of my freshman year of high school:

“After a couple of minutes, Blondie’s boyfriend came over with a friend for back-up. I didn’t realize at the time, but although I perceived myself as meek and frail, I was of a rather imposing stature, even at that age. I was about 5’7 and 175 lbs., so he may have regarded me as somewhat intimidating. He told me to leave his girlfriend alone and was slightly polite about it; he even told me a lot of girls liked me. In the same vein as my distaste for having boundaries forced upon me by the girl in the orange shirt, I pushed back and made the same mistake I made in fifth grade by jumping straight to a death threat. Soon enough, the class let out, and my two best friends approached me, explaining to me that I was like a shadow. They had recognized my goal of turning their duo into a trio. A random stoner I had never met came up and asked me why I was stalking Blondie. I felt like everyone in the school was staring at me. I was so paralyzed by fear that I didn’t move from that spot at the table until the bell announcing the end of the 15-minute break rang. I avoided eye contact with everyone.” The Machinator: An Autistic Navy Veteran’s Critique of Normality (Justin Nizza)

The club/party group I rolled with also wasn’t conducive to quality practice, and my experience in this environment only made things scarier.

By the time I was actually in therapy, I had developed so many work-around to this, that I was functioning at such a high level that I was able to blend in almost perfectly. It took a year for my therapist to think I even need to be screened for autism.

Once I was diagnosed, it was actually a relief because I finally had a word for it and I knew that these difficulties I had been experiencing all of my life were actually for a reason; my negative experiences weren’t my fault and all of the bad things people had said about me weren’t true. People simply weren’t wired like me, therefore they couldn’t understand my experiences.

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