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Version Twelve

04 May 2022

I wish I could have this conversation with you in person, because you yourself have observed that we don't seem to have the problems and conflicts in communication in person that we do in other media, and there never seemed to be any logic to that, or any explanation why. I know that's not feasible right now. I've gathered that you are going through some upheaval in your personal life, and you might not even want to talk to me if it were feasible; I don't know, and it's not important. This isn't about that.

When I think of people who felt I was being intentionally obtuse, you're the first person who comes to mind. This is the most famous example of that, but as you said in that discussion, you observed that I had a history of doing that. "Considering your intelligence," you said, "I find it hard to believe that you truthfully couldn't make that connection."

About seven months ago, I decided that I wanted to explore the possibility that I have an autism spectrum disorder. (To my knowledge, that's not anything you had ever considered or suggested about me, but some others had.) It was far more difficult than it should have been just to get an evaluation, and the evaluative process was challenging for everyone involved.

I've had an autism diagnosis for about 13 days now, though as my clinician is quick to point out, I always have been autistic; I just didn't know it (nor did anyone else). As I mentioned, I've had about seven months to prepare for this as a possibility, and some of the thinking that I had in that time was to decide that, in the event this was the result, there were two people I wanted to talk to, who I specifically wanted to tell, and who I wanted to basically ask, "If you had known that I am autistic, would you think any differently about particular conflicts we have had?" You are one of those two people.

I know I've tried to explain to you that I was never intentionally being obtuse, and that I was never intentionally not understanding, because why on earth would I want to do that? I could never successfully argue that to you, though, because logically (to you) I shouldn't have this problem, and I couldn't argue to the contrary. I could never say that I should, only that I did; there was never anything that I could point to that could explain why my brain wasn't working the way you expected it to. I can't adequately explain how frustrating that has always been for me. That's not just you, of course; I've been this way for 45 years, and I've had lots of conflicts that sound very similar, and I could never do anything about them, because I could never understand why they were happening, no matter what I did.

As I have become fond of saying, "Autism is not an excuse; it's a reason." It's a reason why I don't understand things that others find intuitively obvious. It's a reason why I ask for explanations. It's a reason why I don't see conflicts coming, because I don't understand how a neurotypical brain works, and because I didn't know that. If you asked me seven months ago if I was neurotypical, I would have said "yes"; I know that because someone did. I was wrong about that, but I had no way of knowing that.

So … I don't know what you want to do with this information. Maybe it doesn't matter to you. It doesn't fix anything; it doesn't make the conflicts go away; it doesn't make me any less obtuse. What it does do, in my mind, is say that there's a reason why I appeared to be intentionally obtuse, or incompetent, or obstinate, or apathetic, or whatever it looked like to a neurotypical observer, and why I couldn't see that.


Jason Elliot Benda

Thank you for reading that. If you would like to read more about what I've been writing about my journey here, you should probably start here.