Probably Autistic

Filed under: life

My name is Luke and I’m Probably Autistic.

I’ve been wanting to write this for months but been afraid of what (neurotypical) people might say. It’s not that I’m ashamed of my neurodivergence (ND) but rather the fact that I’m self-diagnosing and people LOVE to say something.

But how did I get here? Well, seeing as a professional diagnosis would either involve a 2-year+ wait on the NHS or a 1–2 year wait if I went private and cost me about £2,000, I decided to do some online tests. Before you say anything, I know these aren’t any kind of “proof” but they’re good indicators and I did three of them to get a better overview.

The scores all came out high.

4 tests above the threshold has to count for something, right? I’ll speak to a doctor eventually but my circumstances will be changing soon so I’ll need to register with a new surgery to the one I’m at now. When things are settled, I’ll do that. In the meantime, I’m self-diagnosing.

In terms of why I’m saying “probably” autistic… it’s because I’d feel more comfortable with an official diagnosis. I know I definitely fall into the neurodivergent category; nothing typical about me on that front! I’m still navigating all of these thoughts and feelings, piecing together years of wondering what was “wrong” with me or why people said certain things about me and whether they were true. But the autistic traits I’ve been reading about have definitely answered some life long questions.

Besides declaring all this, I also wanted to write out something pointers for people who read this and ever interact with me. Because I’m ND, I don’t engage with people or things in the same way and as I would respect other people’s way of being, I want the same for me. So here’s a list of things (because I love lists, duh!) about me which I’ll update as an when I remember them.

1. I get overwhelmed easily

This is gotten really bad lately. Multi-tasking is not my thing, which means working in an agency across multiple accounts is difficult at times. I try my best to plan things out but I also just want to get things done. Here, I’d say if you ever need something from me, it’s best to ask if I’m available, be super clear on what you want, and when you want it and do it all within the first request. Vague openers usually give me anxiety and I might feel pressure to commit.

2. I don’t like small talk or “networking”

I’ll do small talk with my mum because it’s safe and easy. I can’t do it with strangers because I have no idea what people really think or feel when talking to me, and I’ve had comments based on my appearance from the get-go (gotta love casual racism). That’s not to say I want deep, meaningful conversations immediately—or ever—but the truth is I get nervous when I have to talk to people. I feel like I waffle and that I’m putting on an act, as if I’m pretending to be a “normal” human being. I used to be better in like 2019 but it’s gotten worse since the pandemic (understandable trust issues!!!) and my social anxiety is at an all-time high. I have nothing to recommend here. It’s a social “thing” to have icebreakers and group work and small talk and I don’t see that ever stopping, even if there are probably tests showing they don’t work as well. But if you have an opportunity to not do those things and accommodate for ND people, do it. Because that’s the inclusive part of “diversity and inclusion”.

3. My short term memory sucks

You know when you go into a room and forget why you’re there? Well, imagine that but it’s pretty much every time you go into a room. I have to sometimes say what I’m there for over and over in my head like a Buddhist chant. I get distracted more than ever before and, while I think I can return my focus to the thing I was meant to do, it doesn’t always happen. I hate it. And I’ve already forgotten what the next part should be while writing this!

4. I prefer to work alone

All the things you’ve ever see me create? 99.9% of it was done alone. I don’t like to rely on people too much as I appreciate we all have lives to live and can’t definitely commit. That means if I know I need something and I can do it myself, I will. And so I work alone and find a way where I can. Working with one other person works for me but whole groups with multiple voices? I’m not good at it and I don’t feel like I should assimilate because “that’s just how it’s done”. Reject tradition; embrace chaos!

5. I need detailed explanations

I’ve had to learn how to read between the lines when people ask me to do things or tell me stuff. But it’s very tiring and I don’t always get what people are trying to say. So I need detailed explanations if you want me to do something for you. Vagueness confuses me or will lead me to try a method that takes more time than I should spend on the task. That doesn’t necessarily mean hand-holding but I tend to get flustered if I go down a path and get told that I’m doing it wrong or “why are you doing it that way?!“

6. I hyperfocus a lot

I love learning, especially if I find something cool. But that can lead to hyperfocusing, which means I’ll hone in on something and spend hours getting into it. Building this website is an example of that. I spent hours over weeks in 2021 putting this site together and learning Astro. Same goes for Neo4j and graph science. And Python. Even Pokémon back when I was young (although that’s probably not indicative to autism as it’s Pokémon after all lol). Hyperfocusing has lead me to build knowledge in a lot of areas but the downside is creating time sinks where I could be doing literally anything else. Like resting. Less sleep is not good, no matter what people tell you.

7. Too much noise gives me sensory overload

I like my peace and quiet a lot of the time. So when I’m in a shopping centre or at work or even at home where my son watches TV at a loud volume and then plays on his Switch at near full volume, it gets too much. It’s why I often have headphones in as a way to regulate the sounds I hear. Sensory overload often turns into irritability so if you catch me in that funk, give me a second.

Sidenote: if you have any comments about this, for yourself, and we know each other, feel free to talk to me. If you have any criticisms, keep them to yourself. If you have any advice, ask me whether I’m open to this first. I don’t like unsolicited advice as it often comes from a different life experience to mine and the rapport is almost never established beforehand so it sounds like someone offering a smile, a biscuit, and a cup of tea for mental health issues. I’ve been accused of being standoffish and aloof many times before when I’ve actually been struggling and nobody thought to check in first. Don’t be that person.


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