I Am Autistic
by Michelle Hoppe
Here is a secret: I have been telling people that I am autistic.
Here is another secret: I spent the money I was supposed to use to get tested for autism on writing classes.
Here’s another: I am not ashamed.
I spent the money quickly, knowing I’d have to live with the rouse of telling people I am autistic without proof—that I would lie. I planned to lie, but, being autistic, I was bad at it and wrote an essay about being autistic and a liar instead.
I exist as a disabled woman. I just do not exist on paper as a disabled woman. Not yet. On internet tests, I score as an “autism most likely.” In a psychologist’s office, I am “most likely to be autistic.” To a friend, I am just “quirky.” To my parents, I am “difficult.” To strangers, I am a “bitch.” There are many labels that I don’t want another. I don’t know if I can have another diagnosis and be okay with myself. I am, at heart, scared to know for sure.
On the OkCupid algorithm, I score at a 99% match with an autistic man I move in with after one date. He brings his autistic friends over, and we are all strangely spacey around each other. I hook up with two of them. They are software engineers at the top of the field. They make more money than me, and they pay half my rent. They buy me strawberries when I am afraid I will get scurvy from eating only Ramen. They put up with my incessant talking. They are patient. It’s almost like they know I'm like them. Did they know I’m autistic? I am totally autistic.
Like an autistic person, I spent my money not on my needs, like wearing a coat in winter or water after coffee, but on my special interest, my wants, which are words. “Words, words, words,” Hamlet said.
I remember my father yelling at me, “No. NO! I talk now!” No one could get an edge in with me.
I’m just an energizer bunny of sound and fury. I’ve done all the research. Yes, I identify with Hermoine. No, I don’t like dolls. Yes, I kicked a hole in the wall as a child and then told my mother it was an accident. Yes, I rocked back and forth as an adult so hard to calm myself after my father threatened to institutionalize me that I broke a wall. No, he doesn’t believe it was an accident.
I had no friends. I cried every day. I was abused. I was raped. Ninety percent of people on the spectrum are raped at some point in their lives. I was all the things someone on the spectrum was—and I was brilliant. “Smarter than 97% of kids her age.” The doctors told my mother that. So, all the weird was chalked up to high intelligence.
People can be smart without being strange, but those people tend to become doctors and lawyers, not authors of essays about how they lie about autism but are really autistic and so autistic they cannot get their shit together enough to get tested. Most autistic people are not high on the IQ spectrum, and I don’t take that lightly. I work with special needs students every day to make sure they get the support I do not get, because I refuse to pay for testing. Because I am autistic.
I did plan on law for a long time until I couldn’t function in college. I chalked it up to other diseases I did have—depression and celiac disease. Then I started to study the exiled students in my classes, the ones like me.
It’s not like I don’t have any proof. I have a lot of proof. I have a lifetime of proof even. I have my words!
And why the fuck should I get tested anyway? Why should I spend three thousand or even one thousand dollars to test what I know in my mind and heart and body to be true? When I first became aware, I stayed in bed for two days uploading the weirdness of my life into my consciousness. I finally made sense.
So, neurotypicals can make coos and excuses at my autism. I’m a grown thirty-five-year-old woman with sound judgement and a high IQ. So, what if I don’t like bright lights, loud noises, or social cues? A diagnosis just means something is wrong with me.
I don’t want something to be wrong with me. I want something to be wrong with them. The collective they of a society that leads to the lifespan on autistic person being thirty-six-years-old. That’s a year from my nowadays. Why should I have to pay all my money into a fund to make sure other people have a box for me to fit into? I choose exile, even if that means I get exiled for “lying,” because no doctor said I am autistic, not yet, and I just relied on the services I can reasonably afford.
I am autistic. I am alone in that experience. Why should I share it with a piece of paper? Like this one? “If you’ve met one autistic person, you’ve met one autistic person,” the collective they says. I’ve been telling people, strangers even, that I am autistic. And I don’t regret it, and, unless the collective they attacks me after reading this out of entitlement to my experience, I never will feel ashamed.
My mind is alone. Irregular. Disabled. Gifted. Unique. Fringe. The streets are lined with people like me. I’m not going to spend my money on an official autism test if I can help it. The state should pay for that. Healthcare should pay for that.
I have paid enough. I will keep my writing classes, my self-diagnosis, and my liberty to tell anyone who seems put off by my quirks, my difficulty, my brilliance, my different mind, my glorious social awkwardness, that I am on the spectrum—a way for them to understand I am not a threat. Please don’t hurt me, I’m saying. I’m different, and I cannot change. If I could, I would have when I was twelve and that boy broke my skull open with a rock for talking back to him. I would have stopped when my own father beat me for being too mouthy. I really cannot. I am autistic. If you need me to get tested your way to feel better about my life, I suggest you donate three thousand dollars to the email address email@example.com.
I promise to only spend the money on autistic things.
About the Author
Michelle Renee Hoppe holds a BA in English from Brigham Young University, where she edited two literary magazines. She is getting an MSED in special education from City College.
From the Editor
Want more of Michelle's work? You can check out her website here or follow her on Twitter @hoppewrites
Also make sure to check out her literary magazine, Capable. It is dedicated to stories of illness and disability.