Tuesday, February 5, 2013
A Change of Seasons
It seems my life began in winter. It was a long one. Much of my childhood and teen years feel cold and dark in my memories. Spring didn't arrive until somewhere in my 20's. With its beauty came the storms that Spring invariably brings, but life was warmer, brighter. I learned to enjoy life, particularly life as me. I think summer has arrived.
The interesting thing about changing seasons is that the world around us actually changes very little. The arguably small variances in the light we receive from the Sun make all the difference. It's still the same world. The light makes all the difference.
In my world, understanding is that light. Increased understanding of who I am neurologically has had similar effects on my world that increasing sunlight has on the physical realm we inhabit. Summer has begun.
It all started with a graphic.
Amanda found it and posted it to her Facebook page. As she read she marked off each entry mentally. That's Nathan. That's Nathan. That's Nathan. Wait. That's Brian. That's Brian. That's Brian. The whole list fit. My dear wife had arrived at an epiphany. She'd discovered what I'd been suspecting for a while, but for some reason had trouble admitting. I too am Autistic.
My original diagnosis of Tourette's was made in 1983, a full 10 years before Asperger's was added to the DSM-IV as an accepted diagnosis. We both agreed, it was time for an update. For the first time in my life, I was off the see the Psychiatrist. Why the Psychiatrist? Quite simply, she already knows our family. She treats our boys.
The interview with the doctor was fairly standard. When we concluded, she expressed her firm agreement with my suspicions. I'm "on the spectrum". "Probably somewhere in the Asperger's range" was her unofficial diagnosis. I'll be going in for a more detailed evaluation soon and we'll nail down my spot on the Autistic continuum. That's the beauty of having a spectrum. We all get our own spot.
At this point, it's reasonable to ask why this marks the beginning of Summer. It's simple. Virtually everything about my experience, struggles, and "failures" now snaps into focus. The areas of my world that neither Tourette's nor OCD adequately explain and quantify are very cleanly explained by an Asperger's or similar diagnosis. I look back on things in my past that once puzzled me, and my shame and disappointment in myself are no longer relevant. I'm as human as anyone else. The diagnosis doesn't absolve me of anything. It does, however, explain "who I was" at different times in my life. Nothing absolves me from any harm I've caused any other person. My new view of things provides an effective filter between my personal failings and my developmental challenges. While there is some causality between the two, the difference has been made much clearer.
She also diagnosed me with severe depression. I'd known that I'd battled depression for as long as I can remember, but never considered it "severe". On this point she was quite adamant. She also said that I hide all of this well enough to prevent most of humanity from ever seeing either the Autistic or depressive side of me. She's good.
It never ceases to amaze me just how much difference a little understanding makes. Welcome to Summer.