How Has Autism Impacted Me?

How Has Autism Impacted Me?

Today I’m talking with Autism expert Tara Phillips for her podcast.

Tara is a speech/language pathologist with more than twenty years working with kids with Autism. I’m excited and a little nervous to share my experience in her podcast. I’m nervous because it’s personal, you know – there’s a risk to putting myself out there. But I’m excited because hopefully my experience can help more people.

I was 53 when I was told I had Autism. If you follow my blog, you got to experience it right along with me. How did I get here?

A little over two years ago, I had a traumatic experience happen. My cousin Josh was killed in a motorcycle accident – and I drove up to the scene on my motorcycle. This sent me spiraling down into anxiety, and I began to seek help for lifelong chronic anxiety. A caring physician with experience treating anxiety was able to help me with medication. That was a turning point, because I started to seek more avenues toward mental health.

My whole life I thought I had Attention Deficit Disorder (A.D.D.). Last fall I was tested for neurological divergence at Stone Arch Psychology in Minneapolis. It was a rigorous full day of testing. Turns out I don’t have A.D.D. But I do have Autism.

Anxiety has been a constant companion throughout my life. I knew about that. But learning I have Autism has shed a new light on a lot of factors in my life.

I experience hyper-fixation, often becoming deeply engrossed in specific topics or activities. Poor decisions have been a challenge, exacerbated by attempts to self-medicate with alcohol to alleviate anxiety. Nostalgia frequently consumes me as I reflect on both positive and negative aspects of the past. Stimming is a coping mechanism; my brain craves constant stimulation, making it difficult to focus solely on one task, even when watching a movie.

While I initially believed I had A.D.D., I've come to understand that my Autism can manifest similarly, affecting my ability to maintain attention and focus.

Maintaining eye contact during conversations is a struggle for me. Understanding humor can be elusive, often requiring explanations from my wife to grasp the punchline. Literal interpretation is common; idioms and sarcasm can be confusing, and phrases like "break a leg" may puzzle me.

Social situations provoke significant anxiety for me. Despite good intentions, I may come across as blunt, rude, or disinterested due to difficulties in social interaction. Expressing my emotions verbally is challenging.

Routine is essential for me, and deviations from it can cause considerable distress. Sleep disturbances are a frequent occurrence.

But there’s a lot of positives, too. I possess a keen awareness of small details, patterns, smells, or sounds that often go unnoticed by others. I have a love of systems and puzzles and how they operate, which makes me especially good at mechanics and business.

I still have a lot to learn about what it means to have Autism. I’m grateful for the chance to share more about it on Tara’s podcast. I’m eager to connect with more people who have learned as adults that they are on the Spectrum. Send me an email and let’s connect!

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