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.