Written in April 2022
Today marks 4 years since I was diagnosed. Anyone who knows me knows I'm not really a birthday person. I sort of get why people celebrate them but they don't hold a lot of meaning for me beyond it being some sort of obligation to do something no-one really wants to do, spend money no-one really needs to spend, and end up with someone crying and the whole ordeal being an excruciating waste of time. I remember when my brother broke his leg before my 14th birthday – I was so relieved that I had an excuse not to have to do some kind of token celebration.
With all that in mind it might seem a bit odd that I'd mark the anniversary of my autism diagnosis but to me this is much more special and deserving of celebration than something arbitrary like a birthday. An autiversary marks the date when I actually felt I was allowed to exist and that I could start to know who and how I am. It's the result of me actually doing something to be able to understand myself.
Pleasingly, it happens to fall in Autism Acceptance Month. I like this coincidence because of the irony of people thinking they can accept someone's autism diagnosis, then pathologise or demonise the person (and their actions) because of the way we (autistic people) are. This isn't acceptance, in fact it barely scrapes by as “awareness”. While I can accept my autism, it seems society still struggles with it.
Lots of people, when they disclose their (or their child's) diagnosis, are met with “Oh, I'm so sorry, that must be awful” and similar sentiments. They could not be more wrong. Getting an autism diagnosis is like getting the user manual to our brains, the roadmap to our entire way of being. I have seen it described in many different ways online, most commonly with a parallel between getting the instruction manual for an appliance you hadn't been able to get to work. If you told someone you'd finally found the user guide for the washing machine that kept getting stuck on the spin cycle, and that person responded with commiserations that would be a bit weird, wouldn't it?
Person A: Hey, you know my washing machine that I couldn't get to work properly?
Person B: Yeah, it's been driving you mad, not being able to work it, hasn't it?
Person A: Yes! Well, I finally dug out the instruction manual and I'm having much more success with it now I know how it works.
Person B: Wow, I'm so sorry, that's really awful for you. How are you going to cope?
Person A: *thinks* WTAF?
Even by NT standards this interaction makes no sense.
So, my autiversary means more to me than a birthday because it was the real, true start to my life and not just a chronological marker of time elapsed. I'm still not going to organise something no-one wants to do, that'll cost money no-one needs to spend, so that people can pretend to have a good time to mark it, but I will make a cake (not that I need an excuse) and I might even go as far as putting candles on it (but mainly because if will be four candles, so it would be rude not to...).