I just spent some time with some wonderful kind people who got me to that manic place of talking where I just won’t shut up and it gave me an opportunity to explain to someone something that has left me somewhat, perpetually, gobsmacked since my third and final appointment with Dr. Emily Crawford-Thompson last Tuesday.
I went in to the first appointment having read and researched and put in hours and even in a sense, years of self-discovery and analysis to arrive at finally having a reason why I’m just a little bit different from everybody else… A little bit more different than everybody else is different from everybody else.
So certain and yet full of uncertainty and fear.
Terrified that an attempt at a late diagnosis would be sabotaged by all the masking and direct eye contact and forced executive functioning control over my mouth and body, would be unsuccessful.”
“Yeah sure, you might have been autistic once, but now you’re just a little bit different like everybody’s a little bit different. If you find out otherwise, what do you want, a T‑shirt?”A Friend
I didn’t know what I showed her in that first appointment. I didn’t know how much my mom was able to tell her of my developmental years through the lens of her perception that would indicate autism.
The second appointment was intensively and exhaustively diagnostic. Questions, forms, spatial perception, and memory challenges. I at least walked out of the door that day with her kindly assuring me that I finally arrived at a successful terminus of a journey down so many disparate and failed paths.
I honestly didn’t know what to expect from the third appointment. I wasn’t even sure that I wanted there to be a third appointment. I walked in and she handed me a staple packet of at least two dozen pages. Such strong and surprisingly mixed emotions going through her observations and then my test results.
I needn’t have worried, though it’s very odd to phrase it like that.
It was actually profoundly painful to see clinical observations that echoed non-clinical observations that I had heard in one form or another, for the first half of my life. Heard from exasperated parents and teachers and from mocking children and peers, and later friends and employers… From well-meaning people who sincerely wanted to help (but were eventually forced to give up) me see why what I was, was odd and how to be otherwise if I wanted to hurt less.
My mask may pass for everyday interactions, especially if people do not have reason or opportunity to look too closely. My friends are either used to it, or dismiss dealing with the guy behind an unconvincing mask as part of the cost of doing business, or indeed friends who sometimes never realize that they are dealing with an assumed persona.
Not so, she.
From the moment I walked in, I showed her a person living as an adult with Asperger’s.
For emotional security I had to bring the laptop bag that I have to bring with me everywhere. It was notated in her notes. She didn’t miss that I’d sewn on attachment points for a shoulder strap, or to hold a roll of electrical tape, or from which to dangle a pulse oximeter clove-hitched to an infrared thermometer.
My practiced eye contact and forced smiles with honest but trained Duchenne signs hid nothing.
My fears, while legitimate, were not legitimized as fact.
It felt somewhat like being teased and laid bare again like in middle- and high-school, but for one last time and for a good cause.
I walked out of there feeling pain I hadn’t felt in decades.
I walked out of there elated. I wasn’t Asperger’s.
I am Asperger’s.
I’m a bit odd, but not quite in the same way as everybody else.
I’m a bit odd, and I know why.
I’m a bit odd and I no longer have to waste and worry and hurt about the ‘why’.
I’m a bit odd and I can get on with learning what a person who is a bit odd can learn how to do to navigate his path with fewer stumbles and barked shins and less wasted energy worrying about the why, the when, the how of stumbles and barked shins, energy that can be put towards dealing with the inevitable, getting back up, finding the wisest path to traverse.
“Hi, I’m Christian Cepel, and I’m soon going to change my name to Christian Puddleglum Ransom Harper, it’s a long story and I’m more than happy to share it in exhaustive detail, but first… Did you know that Phillips-head screws are designed to cam-out?”