Autism and Living in the Fog

I was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder Level One* on the 28th of September. 

The day before Gwyn’s Feast. “Happy Autism Day,” he said, “welcome to my people.”

Still, I didn’t feel much like celebrating. I’d hoped that a diagnosis would bring clarity. However, being told that I have a lifelong neuro-developmental disorder or disability cast me into a fog of wondering how much my autism had played a role in my difficulties with social relationships and to hold a stable career in the past and how it was going to affect my future. 

I’ve been a trainee with the Lancashire Wildlife Trust on the Manchester Mosslands since April. It’s been a great job, on great sites, with great people.  Yet my enjoyment of the practical work of growing, planting, translocating, clearing scrub, building dead hedges, of the remarkable opportunity to restore the last remnants of our mosslands to their boggy glory has been overshadowed, fogged, by my anxiety about what people think of me, whether I’m doing well enough, measuring up, whether I will be able to progress to the next position up in this competitive job industry.

I’ve felt like I’ve been on trial and in some ways I have and in some I have not. I know my colleagues would rather I enjoyed my traineeship than see it that way. Still, I’ve had to meet my short term objectives and training targets. When it comes to progress I will have to meet the next person specification.

Good news is that a meeting with my line manager and project manager recently revealed in just six months, in spite of being autistic, I am nearly there. 

Job-wise I’m good. Still, I’ve spent a lot of time dwelling on how my autism and the anxiety that stems from being an autistic person in a neurotypical world, finding it hard to read people and projecting negative opinions of myself, has skewed my perceptions of others and affected my relationships.

Few of us are psychic, but being autistic leaves me less able to judge what others think and feel unless I am directly told. Living with uncertainty is tough but, I’m learning, is better than living with the false certainty everyone hates me.

One of the upsides of living in the fog is the moments it parts like when a friend and I were lost on Cadair Idris and, after a man and his dog approached, the mists shifted and we found ourselves looking down on Llyn Cau. Being able to see and speak the uncomfortable truths that others avoid or ignore.

At least I know I’m living in the fog and, as a devotee of Gwyn ap Nudd, ‘White son of Mist,’ can know and embrace it as my patron god and as a friend.

“Welcome to my people,” he says and I see the faces of all the others down the centuries who have been able to swing an axe or a mattock or push a wheelbarrow, to write poetry under the trees, to walk light-footed as a will-o-wisp across a peat-bog but could not endure one day of electric light in the office.

“Welcome to my people,” he says, “to doubt, uncertainty, anxiety, and truth.”

In the fog, in the unknowing, I walk along the bunds that will bring the peat-bogs back then disappear into the moss as it swallows its surroundings.

It’s cold here and it’s November, but at least I know I’m living in the fog.

*This is the current term for what was formerly known as Asperger’s Syndrome.

9 thoughts on “Autism and Living in the Fog

  1. Eternal Anglo Seax says:

    Formerly? Asperger’s is gone? The new name lacks pinache. It has no “zazz.” But I suppose it saves a generation of children from the onslaught of incredibly stale “ass burger” jokes lobbed by mental midgets and stooges.

  2. siegeperilous says:

    One thing; you were MADE this way. You knew growing up you were different from others, and “thinking like others” is not necessarily the great trait people would have you believe. Yes, you have to look harder to pick up on facial clues from others and it DOES help if they just TELL you, but you also think UNIQUELY. Many autistics are geniuses. They can put things together in more informative ways than “normal thinkers”. Being Autistic is not an onerous thing; it is part of you and you are you without the labels of others. XOXOXO

  3. tandderwen123 says:

    So glad to hear that the job is going well. Your honesty about your diagnosis and about your feelings is again impressive. You are very open.The problem about diagnostic categories is that it can lead to a bit too much determinism. You are doing an interesting job for the environment, you are writing and you’re intelligent and interesting. We all have screwed up in personal life for God’s sake.I would not be too hard on yourself. Loads of people have mental health histories..the diagnosis may eventually help in some way
    Good luck..excellent work you guys do by the way..I am myself a member of LWT and was at Mere Sands Wood yesterday( I now am retired living in Southport these days). Best wishes Gwynn

  4. Kāmyā says:

    Welcome to the family – the family of fog, perhaps – from a fellow Gwyn-devotee and adult-diagnosed person with ASD level 1. The experience you describe is one not unlike mourning; it’s absolutely valid to wonder how your life would have been different (and still could be different), now that you have the knowledge and name for the neurotype you’ve always had. Many memories can seem to fall into place with diagnosis, but with greater context can also come negative speculation, fear, sadness, and anger over the past – as well as anxiety for the future, just as you describe.

    Besides validating what you wrote, I also wanted to point you to the free ebook Welcome to the Autistic Community, published by the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN). (I wanted to link the PDF here, but didn’t want the comment filtered out.) When I was first diagnosed, this book helped me to gain a better understanding of the community I had just “joined” and to get okay with my feelings and worries.

    If there’s any other resource I can point you towards, please don’t hesitate to ask. And again, welcome.

    • lornasmithers says:

      Thank you. It’s always nice to hear from other Gwyn devotees and thanks for letting me know about ASAN. I’ve taken a quick look and it looks like a great resource and movement for folk in the US. I will take a closer look and try to locate the PDF when I have the time.

  5. Tiege McCian says:

    It must be a difficult thing to live with, but it doesn’t hold you back in your writing! You’re words are clear and full of emotional depth!
    Also, it’s good to see you posting!

  6. chattingaboutgod says:

    Hi,
    I’m a father of an adult daughter who has autism,
    Regarding your colleagues and your career, tell them the truth, and one of your comments said, “ your made this way” is true, allow your coworkers to marvel that even your mind takes things longer to process, but you will process what needs to be accomplished!! Btw nobody is perfect except God, so all of us needs time to process,
    Thank you for writing,
    Dave

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