I've often wondered if I might be on the spectrum. I've had more than one person suggest it to me. I find it really hard to decide yes or no, because today I don't seem to have much difficulty socially and feel mostly "in step" with my peers.
But what I do know is that women are often missed as they don't present like boys and they learn to "mask" their symptoms.
I don't know if I did/do this.
I do know that after school, I developed a big interest in psychology, making an effort to become a self aware person, perceptive of others inner states and responses to me. After a long time of evoking consistently negative responses from people with no idea why, I wanted to be a person who was liked and considered emotionally intelligent and a "drama free" zone.
I don't know if that was a form of masking but if it was it worked, because in adulthood I have lots of friends and most people I meet seem to like me and describe me as "easy to get on with".
But the facts of my childhood were the meme that illustrates this blog to a T.
In the playground I was most certainly "other". I was never in time with the social dance. I could never join in group games as I never understood the rules. I was always at the sidelines of conversations because I could never think of anything to contribute.
Because I struggled to function in group dynamics I never had a groups of friends until year 8, it was always one "bestie" at a time, who I would latch onto like a limpet...and they were usually a bit of a fellow oddball lol. It they played with other groups I was usually sidelined and would just wander around on my own like a lost puppy.
Even today, if I find if the group I'm in is too big I shut down, stop communicating and listen to the conversations going on around me instead or go off into my head or phone.
Primary school was a social struggle that was mostly annoying rather than painful. There were quite a few bouts of being made fun of but most of the time I was so socially oblivious I didn't notice. Indeed an old friend recently recalled a bunch of kids chasing me whilst screaming abuse at me. I was laughing while running because I thought it was a game :P
It's amazing that no-one noticed I was a bit weird.
But it was the 90's; recognition of neurodiversity was in its infancy.
And for parents and teachers, it may have been hard to see. Although I struggled to relate to my peers, my social skills with adults were beyond my years. Adults loved me because I was an absolute delight :D I was the kid who was alllowed to stay up late when we had babysitters. I got treats... trips.... all the good things because I was entertaining, polite and well behaved. Also, being genuinely interested in "grown up talk" I could engage adults in proper conversation.
At secondary school "social difficulties" became a different ball game entirely. At 11, the social expectations of your peers suddenly become incredibly rigid and unforgiving and that was the point where annoying struggle turned to a Really Fucking Bad Time. I was identified as The Weirdo on the first day of high school and was bullied relentlessly from then on.
People always say you should tell but I never did, because I hadn't a clue how to verbalise the enormity of it. I was embarrassed and I saw no way of resolving the experience of "everyone hates me" without grassing up literally everyone and making them hate me even more. When parents hear about bullying they freak out and march into schools demanding "something is done" and I was not going to take that risk when I believed nothing could be done.
This lasted for the rest of school right through 6th form. Its echoes carried on through my first job in a bar where I had some very weird experiences with customers, some probably counting as sexual assault (although oblivious me never recognised it as such at the time). Weirdly though, my learned ability to take abuse without reacting served me well here. I could take all the customers shit without losing my own shit and got promoted to supervisor lol.
It followed me to Hampshire... to my first year of college, which was particularly brutal as now I was a 21 year old being picked on by 16 year olds.
This forced me to change courses....all thanks to one lad called Jonny, who told a lecturer what was going on... I was planning on continuing the "keep it secret" theme and quietly disappearing down my little black hole of doom till the end of college. I was mortified that Jonny divulged The Big Secret but was ultimately grateful for his intervention. For the first time it changed this constantly repeating trauma story's ending to a positive one.
That was my first experience of an accepting peer group who liked me and thought I was weird "in a good way". I fancy that they thought of me a bit like a rescue dog who they needed to rehabilitate lol. And they did a good job.
Today at the age of 35, my social life is very different. I've had my battles with mental health and I have my residual neuroticisms but I'm remarkably well adjusted for someone who has been through so much shit without meds or therapy and for that I'm proud of myself
Still, I do often wonder if there is some underlying neurodiversity thing that has created the person I am and the struggles I faced growing up.