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Autism is me

I had never made bubbles before! said Catarina (not her real name). I spent half my childhood trying to understand why all those children were jumping around trying to blow up bubbles! On top of that, when it burst, they would splash detergent into their eyes and cry! But they quickly came back again and again to play with the bubbles. I tried it once. I didn't do it in front of the others. I didn't know what would happen. I waited for everyone to go and sing Happy Birthday. It was my brother Francisco's birthday (fictitious name). I didn't like clapping and the noise was always unpleasant for me. So I took the opportunity to try it out. I immediately started to feel a chill and a sense of disgust. As soon as I felt the viscous liquid on my hands I almost dropped things. I wiped my hands and grabbed it again, but now with a tissue. With difficulty I managed to blow with all the mastery I'd learned over all those years of observation. I felt very competent. Seeing some of the bubbles coming out gave me the feeling that I had managed to create the first thing in my life. For many years I never felt that same feeling of creating something again. Except when I found out that I was pregnant with my first child André (not his real name). But I remember that my reaction was nothing like the other children. I didn't jump, I didn't smile, nothing. I just stood there looking. And I wasn't even looking at the bubbles, but at the reflection the biggest one showed. My brother's friends were all with their hands up and singing. It was time to stop the experiment. I didn't want anyone to know I had done it. I usually didn't like to talk about my things, Catarina added. When after a while I asked Catarina what she thought about autism, she replied, Autism is me!

I cannot say that I know what autism is! I know what my autism is. And so I answer that autism is me. I see so many different autisms and some of them I can't even understand. Autism has made me what I am and who I am. I don't think it's anyone else's autism or any doctor, psychologist, scientist who has done it. So I repeat, autism is me!

The way I see myself, build and sometimes shape myself. The way I see others and get perplexed most of the times. The way I see the World and all of us in this interaction sometimes forced by gravity. All this, all these ways is my autism!

When people say we are all a bit autistic I don't get upset! Why is that? Mostly because I think people don't know what they are saying! Yes, people, we all say things that we have no idea what we are saying! Maybe these people don't really know who they are and they are also confused like I am confused, they just have a different way of expressing it. I for one am not going to go around saying I'm a bit human or schizophrenic. I don't really know what both of those things are! And if I think people feel sorry for me because I'm autistic, so be it! Most of the time I don't care, except when I do. And this caring of mine is not about the fact that people might feel sorry for me, but rather that they don't make themselves available to meet me in my true and genuine way of being. That does make me sad. Not always, but sometimes it does!

As for the fact that I feel different, it is true that this feeling has always accompanied me. But I don't mind it. I feel like a square in a world with many circumferences. But there's nothing wrong with that, it's geometry. And mathematics helps me understand the relationship between different geometric figures. Interestingly enough most of my classmates understood almost nothing about mathematics. Instead they seemed to understand very well the relationship with other people, at least with other circles, not squares. It has always been an equation that has caused me confusion, to understand how that is possible.

Sometimes they ask me if I wish I wasn't autistic! People's curiosity is normal. And understandable, as people are used to seeing a diagnosis as a negative thing. Having diabetes may not be a pleasant thing and lead to several changes in a person's life. But that doesn't mean that even diabetes has to be a negative thing. But I understand the question about not being autistic anymore. But my answer is always the same - No, I would not like to stop being autistic. For a very simple reason - I wouldn't want to stop being myself! But that's the way I think and feel. But I have heard other completely different and opposite answers. And there's nothing wrong with that, it's the way people think and feel, and they will have their reasons for that. And that's why I keep saying that autism is me!

It's curious how confused people get when they hear a certain word. For instance, the word autistic. They seem to go deaf and unable to think any more. They say it is very difficult because autistic people are rigid and inflexible. And what about the rigidity and inflexibility of so many other people who are not autistic? you ask. Or what about the fact that autistic people spend a lot of time on their own narrow interests?! But do non-autistic people have no interests? And when they have them, do they not dedicate to them as well? Of course they have different interests and dedication. But is it this difference that makes autistic and non-autistic people? you keep asking yourself. How strange! Would we all think differently if we were talking about these same behaviours and situations without first saying the word autistic? I think so, but I am suspicious!

Why do I think they only found out and diagnosed me later? Because there is a lot that people don't know about girls and women. Like what? I did things as a child that I heard over and over again from people around me saying it was normal because I was a girl. And that's nothing different from what I hear about toys for boys and different ones for girls! And because I fit into the stereotypical idea of what some people thought about being a girl, it took longer for them to discover my autism.

When people start saying they know what they're talking about I shut up! Why? Because I feel that people don't want to know any more! And this also applies to doctors, psychologists, teachers and people in general. When they say they know what autism is I shut up! Not least because I feel they are not prepared to listen or make an effort to try and understand what my autism is!

Have you seen that no one has ever made a soap bubble like that? they ask me. And curiously enough, people have never stopped doing it and wanting to keep doing it and feeling happy, even if they don't know or understand why! she concludes before saying goodbye!

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