The Identity Crisis of the High Functioning Autistic

I am a man of two worlds. 

On one hand, I walk without much trouble in the world of the neurotypical. I’m married to one. I work among them. My life is not only par with my NT peers but in many ways above it. I’m above water financially. I’m a careerist. I’m on good terms with my family. You’d qualify my life as a normal one without hesitation.

Then again I’m socially awkward. I don’t make eye contact with very many people. I speak in strange sentences. I have overriding fixations which annoy people. I’m easily distracted. My motor skills are awful. When things go wrong, I am prone to violent fits. I often act out in embarrassing ways.

I am of two worlds and neither as a result.

That’s the inevitable result of the declassification of Asperger Syndrome in the DSM-V. I wouldn’t say I think it was a bad decision. Quite the opposite. It made logical sense. I’ve always known I belonged at least on that spectrum, even at the crippling moment of diagnosis. 

But it had an impact I’m not sure the manual writers understood. It created a weird netherworld for those of us with the disorder in terms of self identification. I’m not severely autistic but I’m not neurotypical, What winds up happening is I find myself feeling awkward as I try to describe myself. If I call myself autistic, I’m being accurate but I also feel like I’m belittling the cause of those who are severely autistic. 

Part of this comes from the fact that I have friends who are further along the spectrum than I am. I can relate to them at times in ways I don’t relate to NTs but I can just as often get exasperated with them because I don’t understand what they’re saying. I want to but I can’t. I feel like I understand how my NT friends must feel about me.

Also, how I feel about where I fit swings wildly. Some days I feel very clear headed and like I fit in the “normal” world. Other days, I’m acutely aware of who I am and the issues I face. The term spectrum disorder is so very accurate. I’m constantly in flux depending on  the situation.

I think this is simply the nature of being “high functioning”. To be in both worlds and none. I don’r really have any conclusions to make about it save for this: I know who I am. If I struggle with the specific label, I don’t with others. Husband. Page designer. Movie lover. Comic reader. Geek. Podcast cohost. Karaoke performer, Blogger. Son. Brother. Austin Shinn. Those I know. They’re what really matter. The rest I’ll continue to try to figure out here.

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