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Version Twelve

14:12 28-Apr-22

Who Knew?

So it's Thursday now, and I've had my unofficial diagnosis for a week. If you're reading this, I've presumably gotten past the stage I am in now, but I want to talk here about where I am now regarding some specific information.

Did you want to learn this?

If you read my pre-diagnostic journey, you know that this was kind of a long process. It took roughly seven months to get from "this is something I want to explore" to today. It was a difficult time for me in ways that are completely my fault, but I had to do it this way.

First of all, as I've mentioned elsewhere, I was very much afraid of biasing myself and my evaluations. I've gone into situations before where I could say, "Here are the diagnostic criteria, here's what I believe I meet or do not meet among them." I didn't want this to be like that. I didn't want, as it were, to know the answer before I got asked the questions. It's actually really easy, if you know what you're looking for, to figure out what a question is trying to get at, and what answers would say what about you.

Second, and this is again all on me, yes, I wanted something to come of this. As much as I tried to be neutral and objective, and as much as I had to say, "If something comes of this," I really did want it. Even not knowing what it all means, I wanted to have something to hang my hat on that might explain something about, well, about things that have been most frustrating in my life.

Holding back on that was hard. It was hard not to get my hopes up. Very few people knew what I was going through, by design: I didn't want anyone else to get her hopes up. My spouse had to know. My therapist knew, but she doesn't count. One of my friends knew in January, because she asked a question in just the right way that I had to tell her to answer it. Others of my friends, especially including ones who had made the comments that sent me down this path in the first place, didn't know until it was almost done.

Observing Someone Else

An aside here: you may already know that my spouse has ADHD Inattentive Type. She got that diagnosis about ten years ago, when she was 31. I had her in class the semester before her diagnosis, and that experience helped me to talk to my students about accessibility accommodations in ways I couldn't before. (I wish I had the video of my Accessibility Soapbox lecture from Summer 2020; a colleague in Humanities who was running some Professional Development I was participating in gave it high praise.) It also helped me be informed about that particular condition.

One summer it hit me. It took the entire eight-week session for me to notice, but I had a student who said something, either wrote it on her final or sent me e-mail the day of the final, and it all fell into place at once. Things I didn't see as signs of ADHD the week before, or the day before, suddenly lit up like a neon sign. I never found out, of course, if my student had ADHD, or if she sought any diagnostics or treatment after she had my class, but it was important to me that I say something, that I give her a "hey, this might be a thing, and you might want to look into it".

Disseminating Information

So if I wasn't telling anybody as this process was going along, where is that now?

It's funny, actually: I find myself hesitant about it, and simultaneously I want everybody to know about it. As I wrote to a friend (who does know) yesterday: "There's a huge list of people I (eventually) want to know this, including a lot of teachers and supervisors, not so much because I want them to have treated me differently, but it kind of feels like an apology of sorts." I want them to know – and especially when I think about people in past parts of my life, like my three Department Chairs at Parkland, my old AP at West Aurora, and an old high school softball coach – that I was the way I was for reasons I neither knew about nor could explain, and things that weren't as they expected about me weren't their fault, either.

That's part of what I'm doing here, and I have seriously planned this for months. Yes, I tried not to get my hopes up, but I have thought about it a lot. Of course I have; does anyone really expect me to ignore that? My thought is that when I go public, which will be soon (but is not now), I want to try to send a link to this to a number of people, and I know they may not care to read it, or may read it and then not care, but I want to give them the opportunity. I also want them to learn, and maybe someday later they'll see someone like me, and they'll think differently, or they'll say something.

A point of emphasis here: I do not want to hide behind this. There are at least three people that I know of that I haven't told yet that I want to tell before I more or less publicly announce this. (Two of them are my parents, and yes, I am dreading those conversations.) I do feel, though, that I want to be out about this, because being in the dark, or keeping others in the dark, has not well served me these last 45 years.

"I thought that might be …"

So my spouse saw her therapist yesterday, and she mentioned this, and her therapist (who had seen us both a few times last year) said that she thought that might have been the case when she had seen us previously.

I figure I'll have about thirty of those. I won't be surprised by them (well, depending on who they are, I guess). I've done a lot of thinking (and talking with my spouse) about how I think people will react. I even talked about what it would be like to tell my grandparents (who are all deceased). For my maternal grandmother, it would be hard, and I think had she known when I was 10, she would have been even more protective of me than she was, and that probably wouldn't have gone well for me. For my paternal grandmother, I would want to walk right up to her and tell her point-blank. That would be the absolute easiest person to tell I can imagine. When I think about my three Chairs at Parkland, I feel like two of them would react with, "Oh," and one would react with "Oh!". I can't convey this in text, but there's a difference between kind of a pragmatic sorrow and an excitement.

The truth of course is that I don't know. I could have a lot of people who say, "I've thought that for a long time," and that could get frustrating, as I want to say, "Well, I didn't know a thing!" (I will say that I've had that from one person, and her rationale (which is fair) is that while she thought that, it didn't matter to her as to how she perceived/interacted with me. She does concede that it now matters to me.) There's one I've thought about today, and I keep thinking, "She's about to get a bomb dropped on her." I could be completely wrong about that.

When I first heard the term "autism acceptance" as opposed to "autism awareness", it bothered me, because I feel like you can't be accepting of autism if you aren't aware of it. I still think that's true if you're the autistic one, which is not the target audience of those platitudes. It makes sense when you are talking to neurotypicals to say that. That's just not me.

I think that's all for this page. I keep mentioning that the journey continues. More to come.