Discover more from Katie Pryal: Life of the Mind Interrupted
Taking a big leap...
Plus: Why I sought an autism diagnosis as an adult
I recently read a self-help book called The Big Leap, which is essentially about doing something I find very stressful: putting all of your professional eggs in one basket.
The author is right, of course. If you spread yourself too thin, then you can’t get anything done, or done well. You lose focus on your ideal work—or you work yourself too hard and burn out.
The author gives four reasons for why people use too many baskets (this basket thing is my metaphor, do not blame him), and these reasons are really brutal. For example, a person might believe that they’re not good enough to deserve to have a successful career or basically to have any good, steady, happy things come their way because they’re inherently flawed in some way.
Anyways, it was a good book, and now I’m trying the eggs-in-one-basket thing. And also I have a lot to talk about with my therapist about why I don’t think I’m good enough to deserve to have nice things happen to me. I’m what is called “job security.”
Seriously, though: When something great comes your way, do you ever wonder, even just a little bit, “Do I deserve this?” or “People are going to figure out that I’m a fraud?”
Maybe a little?
If you do, you’re not alone, and you do not have to feel that way. You are not a fraud. You DO deserve the good thing. You got the good thing BECAUSE you deserve it. The proof, as they say, is in the pudding—or the basket, in this scenario.
I’m working hard to believe it myself. We can work hard together.
Check out my latest essay on my website, “Why Did I Seek an Autism Diagnosis?”
Here’s an excerpt:
I sought a diagnosis for Autism Spectrum Disorder in the spring of 2020. My testing started before the Covid pandemic began, and it finished after we were all in isolation—which, in itself, was kind of weird—but also so, so apt. What better way for a doctor to assess my social awkwardness than over a medium (video conference) that made us all so much more socially awkward?
Over the years, I’ve been asked by other adults, both friends and strangers, why I sought an “official” diagnosis of autism as an adult.
Over the years, I’ve been asked by other adults, both friends and strangers, why I sought an “official” diagnosis of autism as an adult. Recently, an insightful person reached out to me and sent me a list of questions that framed the issue coherently. So, I am using her coherent questions to write this essay with hopes that it helps other adults who are also considering diagnosis.
A couple of weeks ago, an autistic adult friend approached me about diagnosis shortly after I published an essay about adult diagnosis in Catapult Magazine. She told me that she isn’t “really” autistic because she is “only” self-diagnosed. So, before I get started, let me mention that I’m adding one, very important question of my own at the end of this essay. This question is so important that I’m going to address here, now, at the beginning: Self-diagnosis is valid. If you are self-diagnosed, you are autistic and a member of our community. I support you.
What prompted you to seek a diagnosis as an adult?
There are many reasons for this, but they are tightly braided together. When my children were younger, I saw myself in them so much, like we were three pearls spat out by the same oyster. Each of us had our own imperfections and unique bits of beauty, but in the end, we shared the same glassy nacre. We were nerdy and strange and had so much fun being our own little club, but we also struggled against the limits that the world thrust upon us. When my kids suffered, I felt that suffering too because it was so familiar.
When they were diagnosed with autism at the behest of our public schools (one of the few useful things the public schools my kids attended have ever done for us), I looked at myself, and everything clicked into place. Suddenly, my autism was so obvious. And so, in retrospect, was theirs. Obviously we were autistic. Obviously. The only thing I didn’t have was a formal diagnosis. Therefore, I looked into getting one.
Have you spent your life believing something was wrong with you?
I always knew I was weird. Always. Middle school crushed me; the bullying I suffered was galactic in scale, even though I was gaslighted at home, told, “Everyone gets bullied” and “You’re not special.” These words only made me more vulnerable to being bullied, not less.
In high school and college, I struggled with personal boundaries, especially with boys. I ended up suffering sexual assault and many sexual encounters with “empty consent” as Melissa Febos puts it in her book Body Work.
In my 20s, I dated men who were on the border of abusive. Okay, maybe they were actually abusive, with multiple partners criticizing my body (“maybe I’d find you attractive if you’d lose weight”), getting drunk every night (and sometimes peeing in the house), “allowing” me to handle all logistics of our lives and never doing the same for me, constantly insulting my intelligence (in retrospect, out of insecurity), and occasionally punching the wall by my head. I’m not speaking of one partner in particular, but of all of my serious partners in my 20s.
Once relationships ended, I always blamed myself for letting these things happen to me and swore they never would again. But I couldn’t make them stop, and so I blamed myself again. Autistic women—who are far more likely to go undiagnosed—struggle with boundaries, including relationships and sexual boundaries. We struggle in part because as autistic people we struggle with social norms.
Please forward this letter on to others who who might be helped by what you’ve read here.
All the best to you. Always.
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