Sometimes I read the older posts here on the blog, and I don't remember writing them or particularly identify with the person who wrote them. Take the post that started it all, for instance - "I didn't understand"... "I regret"... "if only".... "if only"... "if only".
I'd not long been diagnosed, back when I wrote that. At that stage, I had a very clear picture of myself as wrong and malfunctional - growing up obviously different but no apparent reason why will do that to you - so I understood Aspergers in terms of something that was wrong with me.
Then, slowly, that thinking started to turn around. I met a group of awesome Aspies through an online forum. I no longer frequent the forum where we met, but we're still friends. I started getting my head around the writing of Autistic people like Amy Sequenzia, folks who have disabilities yet are active self-advocates secure in their self worth. This was a lightbulb moment, specifically one of those energy-saving bulbs that are dim when they first turn on and get brighter and brighter as they warm up. Slowly, it dawned on me that one could be autistic and not be damaged goods; you could be different and still deserve to exist.
No, life hasn't become any easier. Socialising and shopping centres and interpersonal shenanigans are just as hard as they used to be. But now I realise it's not my fault they're hard. It's not a personal failing. It's not a sign that there's something wrong with me or that I need to try harder.
I used to see Aspergers as the reason I was defective. Then as something I had to overcome. Now I realise I can have Aspergers and be a worthwhile human being who deserves to be here.
And have been, all along.
Image: Flower meadow in Llano, Texas by the US National Archives