Okay to answer your first question: Yes I'm only claiming to be autistic so mentally ill Gen Z teenagers in oversized hoodies named Morizon and Trayge think I'm cool. Literally that's the only reason; what they think of me means SO much to me oh my god I hope they're reading this. Renee Rapp! Bussin'! Olivia Rodrigo is a serve!
To answer your second, third, and fourth questions, no. No, we're not all "a little bit autistic" and no, it's not just that I'm a little socially anxious and, no, your opinion on whether I am or not doesn't matter unless you are a trained professional or Daryl Hannah. You do not know me, or have even the slightest understanding the 800 million gyrating duck feet I have to manage just to appear like a normal water fowl gliding across the pond.
Gonna be real for a moment: Realizing you're autistic at the age of 40 is a pretty fucked up, lonely experience. On one hand, it feels like literally *everything* odd or "off" about your life up until that point finally has a crystal clear explanation. On the other, it's like seeing the penis on the cover of the old Little Mermaid VHS cover. Once you see it, it's literally all you can see. And you fear, deeply, that once your friends and family are made aware that will be all *they* can see.
This past year has been hell, and joy, and fury, and hell. In December 2022 I was officially diagnosed with ADHD. Due to the wonders of the American health care system, I wasn't able to obtain Ritalin until July. But in the lead-up to getting medicated, I started to realize there was more brewing behind my gargantuan forehead than just ADHD.
So I researched, and did a little more research, and took about 90 different adult ASD tests and holy shit they all said, in giant glaring neon letters, fuck dude, you gots the 'tism real bad!
Then, when I finally got on Ritalin, my ADHD was at bay for the first time ever and my autism had a chance to center stage (because ADHD's need for novelty and autism's need for routine often cancel each other out!)
Pretty much overnight, I went from 40 years of my undiagnosed autism being in the quirky Joan Cusack role to my autism being in the leading Julia Roberts role. Like, being autistic kind of hit me all at once. And fuck, was it destabilizing. Without my ADHD sending my brain in 50 directions, I was understanding my emotions and needs in a way I hadn't before, sticking up for myself in a way I hadn't before, struggling with socializing in a way I hadn't before, developing hyperfixations in a way I hadn't before (my desk is currently covered in about 15 Lego sets, only one I had before the Ritalin kicked in!)
It was sort of like getting your legs amputated and then getting tentacles attached and learning how to walk again on your donor tentacles.
So, okay, how do I know I'm not being manipulated by Big Autism like a big dumb bitch?
First of all, you're right, I am being manipulated by Big Autism and I am a big dumb bitch. Again, this is all for Morizon and Trayge.
Second of all, I don't care. One of the hardest parts of this realization has been the way people don't believe you, as a default. So whatever, don't believe, or think something else that conforms to your worldview, it doesn't matter. I still have to figure out how to exist and work and be a good husband and friend and son and brother and dog dad every single day with this overactive, overstimulated brain I've been given, so I have bigger things to worry about.
I also have been in a months-long sort of grief about living 4 decades not knowing these things about myself and thus not having had the ability/luxury to build systems and accommodations for myself to make things easier for me to exist/navigate the world/accomplish my goals. For 4 decades I've been walking backwards on my hands because my feet felt weird, and that's 4 decades I'll never get back or get to redo.
For example, I used to think my failure in the Chicago comedy world was because people just didn't GET me. My narrative, as my previous 700 blogs can attest, was that I had tried SO SO hard and people just didn't see me or care, that I was a victim of insular, apathetic gatekeepers. And it's true, I did try very hard. But I now understand that the majority of this effort was me trying to appear normal while my flavor of AuDHD (autism + ADHD) was undermining me at virtually every level. It kept me from playing the social game, kept me from investing in relationships I needed to invest in, kept me seeking any situation where even the slightest expectation was put on me, kept me from truly wanting to be perceived in a way that was necessary to succeed, and kept me very inward focused instead of outward focused.
It's me. Hi. I'm the problem, it's me. The autty-hero.
THAT has been a bitter pill to swallow. That you've almost been programmed to fail at your specific aspirations, just by how your brain works and how you're organized as a human being (NOTE: this is not in any way meant to imply all autism is like this, I just mean my specific flavor was definitely at odds with my specific comedy goals, especially since it was undiagnosed and not understood in any way).
Again, how much could've been different had I just known? How much closer to my goals could I have gotten? How many of my lost friendships could've been different, or still exist? How much closer could I be to friends and family had we both had this information and understanding?
I'm reaching the tail end of this grief period, I think. So that's good. I wanted to fart out this blog partly to help force an end cap, though I know the grief will stay with me forever in some way. But I do feel like I am in the Acceptance phase now.
I'm writing again, editing my novel, starting new projects. All is not lost. I still have a closet full of wigs and a laptop full of half-started script ideas. Something will shake out at some point, and whatever it is will have the benefit of its author being in much more clear understanding of himself.