The most ironic thing about being autistic is that my autistic brain struggled with believing that I was autistic. My brain LOVES certainty, to the point of it being a problem, since (surprise), real 100% certainty about anything is virtually impossible and that is hard to reconcile. Since I see all the details of my life up close and personal, it is hard to realize I fit the criteria for various things. I mean, I broke my bone and I was like “Really? You sure?” the whole time… Even recognizing I have experienced very clear capital T Trauma has been difficult for my brain to accept. My brain wants extremes and absolutes which are hard to find in a life so detailed and nuanced.
That is why I always need real world examples of things in order to truly understand them. When I read a description of something on paper, I read it very literally and it’s all very black and white. When it comes to reading things like diagnoses, it’s hard for me to imagine them in real life until I see a living, breathing example. So, since I wasn’t surrounded by autistic people I could relate to, I never thought I was autistic since I certainly did not see myself in the DSM-5 description of autism.
What’s funny is, once I started getting exposed to autistic people who were very much like me, my brain couldn’t reconcile it. No way was I autistic, I didn’t have sensory needs or sensory overwhelm. Then I started to realize, ohhhh, my brain had been thinking in extremes, as autistic brains are wont to do, and that caused me to miss the fact that I do in fact get sensory overwhelm, like multiple times a day and for sure I was autistic.
I did have sensory needs my entire life, it's just, after a lifetime of ignoring and suppressing them, I never made room to actually see them so I didn’t know what they were. Once I realized I was probably autistic (and then ultimately, that I could not NOT be autistic), I noticed how much of a sensory onslaught daily life was for me. And how I constantly felt like I was on the verge of a panic attack and melt down. I realized, ah this is what the experience of autism is like from the inside and that I had been denying my needs for decades.