Early twenties dating
The language of the body, that which makes up an estimated 60% of communication, was almost closed to me.
So instead I fell back on words — the safety of which I could understand, as their clarity left nothing to puzzle over or decipher.
She loves longform journalism, to read something amazing and true makes her heart beat quicker, and suddenly she becomes excited about all the possibilities of life as a writer and begins to yearn to go out and find stories.
She likes looking at community notice boards (actual ones, outside churches and village halls) and talking to random people.
There’s a feeling of coming out, of revealing something.
And then to have that person turn round and say you aren’t autistic — well, that’s difficult, too.
For a couple of months, I was sent to a special residential school for kids with behavioural problems, which was terrifying for all sorts of reasons I won’t go into here, and completely wrong for me.
This story perhaps illustrates how far I had come since the age of thirteen, and why it was easy to lie to myself at University — to say that I wasn’t really autistic anymore, or that by learning about social graces I had somehow “got over it” or “got past it.” I was a nineteen-year-old with long blonde hair, doing a degree in English Literature and living away from my parents in University flats.
Here the common misconceptions about autism were both my ally and my enemy: they allowed me to hide, and to embrace a status as “off-key yet normal,” but they also damaged me by giving fuel to the lie that I was just a bit odd, making it all the more difficult when it blew up in my face with someone yelling: “What the hell is wrong with you?Sometimes I feared the mask would slip, that I would be discovered, but I seldom was — although sometimes in conversation, someone would develop a puzzled look on their face.My boyfriend called me “adorably awkward,” but in earlier years at school, my awkwardness had never been adorable.“I have to tell you something about myself, something important,” I said to my boyfriend. I could have pursued it, could have explained how difficult school had been: how I’d gone to see lots of educational psychologists before finally being sent down to London to see Francesca Happe, a specialist in autism, who — after one hour of tests, which seemed like games at the time — diagnosed me with Non-Verbal Learning Disorder, a form of autism.We were lying on a bed in a University dorm, a girl and boy who at nineteen were taking our first tentative steps into the world of relationships. It meant that while I was bright, and loved reading and chatting, I struggled desperately to read social signals.