On labeling myself and wondering why I feel silly
“So that happened. I felt scattered all over the floor by the end of session: ‘I just want someone to acknowledge that these things I’m experiencing are actually things!’ And of course they are.” <– text to a friend sent post-therapy
“In the space between weird and clinical label is a lot of self-acceptance and working through these hard moments (very real things).” <– note to self
Silly is dismissive. Silly says conciliatory things like “I’m sorry you feel that way.” And yet sometimes I feel silly when I label myself. I need to hear someone outside my own head say, “I think you’re right. The characteristics you’re describing are consistent with the experiences of an autistic person. You’re autistic.”
Last week, I finally talked with my therapist about realizing I’m an autistic woman and wondering what to do with that information.
“I hear your experiences. I know they’re real, even though I’m not here to label you. But I’m here, and we’ll talk. I want to honor your narrative and self-definitions”
“What if someone in this room could tell you who you are — because you can. I see how hard you’re working to understand yourself.”
As I described the ASD traits I’d seen in myself and how I felt like I had to prove I was autistic, my therapist noticed I was growing increasingly anxious. I looked down at my shaking hands, reminded that my body tends to know I’m anxious long before my brain does. I’ve been seeing the same therapist for long enough to know that she won’t invalidate my experiences and yet finding the words to have this conversation felt terrifying.
My sister was one of the few witnesses to my growing up since my parents were distracted by their own issues. She lovingly reminds me that I was a quirky kid who wore a lot of sweater vests and used unusually large words for my age. I wonder if my autistic girlhood went largely unnoticed.
Maybe I’m waiting for someone else to confirm these experiences — to hear my narrative and help me make sense of it. Part of me still worries that I’ve created an unnecessarily elaborate explanation for why I have trouble fitting in with others. But last session, I asked my therapist to piece together a list of clinicians who evaluate adults for ASD. I think I’m ready to see where this process goes, even though it’s scary.
I’m learning to trust my own thoughts and feelings as I find the words to describe myself. They are real and certainly not silly.