I think in general, people like to say that they hate labels, right? Labels are too limiting, they put you into a box. What if you don't fit ALL of the criteria of that label? What if you want to change? Aren't we more than just our labels?
I think I maybe would have understood being anti-label if figuring out a label for myself didn't feel like a necessary part of understanding myself and my place in the world. My brain WANTS me to be labeled. Labels help me to process and categorize things that I may otherwise never fully understand. So, throughout my entire life, I've tried to find a label that suits me, that helped to describe me in a way that actually feels like the real me. Growing up, I was a 'nerd', a 'goth', a 'weirdo', a 'loner' - a misunderstood teen that felt more connected to her teachers than any other students. A young person who idealized and obsessed over the infrequent relationships and friendships in my life that were never as fully fleshed out as they were inside my head. I was a person who couldn't maintain the few friendships I had, but who so desperately wanted to fit inside of the mold of 'what a person is' and to feel normal. But I never felt normal, it was like I was just always on the periphery of everyone else. Like the human shape I was in was created out of wanting to feel like I was the same as everyone else around me, but people know, kids especially, when someone is different. And so for a long time, that was my label. Different.
As an adult, I've found other ways to try to label myself. There was a time when I was super into astrology and found that the traits of Scorpios (I have a Scorpio stellium in my chart) felt kind of good, so I was a hard-edged outside, soft inside scorpion for a very long time. This helped me to make sense of the fact that I was never one to seek out connections with other people and that I couldn't share complicated feelings without immediately crying and being unable to verbalize my thoughts.
At one point, I tried to really embody my Human Design 'Projector' persona and label, to acknowledge that my energy ebbs and flows at a different pace than other people. I consciously tried to sloooow my life down and felt justified in needing to lay in bed for two hours after taking simple trips to the store or needing to socially interact with someone I didn't know earlier that day. All without knowing that being sensitive to grocery store fluorescent lighting and being burnt out from social interactions is not actually normal for most people. But it was all ok, because 'I'm a p r o j e c t o r'. (If the Human Design model of labeling works for you in your life, I'm not judging. It just wasn't my thing.)
I've also been a 'gym rat' and was super into fitness and health for the better part of a year. I've been a 'student' MANY times over - my special interests led me down some very specific and most often costly rabbit holes of study. RIP my credit score and wallet. I've been a 'witch' and a 'knower of many things, but master of very few things'.
All of these labels felt good! They made me feel like I belonged in the self-proclaimed categories, like any of the weirdness I was still feeling inside could be overlooked because I was in my spot and that's all there was to it. Obviously, that's not all there was to it. The labels would eventually fall away, my interests would shift, and I would be left with a fragmented, incomplete picture of myself. Without a label, where do I fit?
So, if you've made it this far, are you ready for my actual, real label? The label that makes sense of needing to be labeled in the first place? The label that encompasses the feeling of being alien, of seeming robotic and disjointed in social situations, or not, because, ✨masking✨(more on that subject at a later date!), of having a vast and rich inner mind without the ability to verbalize it clearly when speaking, the need for being in 'goblin-mode' (low light, noise-cancelling headphones, surrounded by Squishmallows in my bed for hours), of feeling overstimulation and irritation when things don't physically feel right on my skin or to my eyes or ears or nose, the actual thought process and effort of communicating (how long do I make eye contact, should I smile or laugh, what is my face actually doing, should I stand the same way as the person I'm talking to, will they notice if I cross my legs the opposite way because body language experts says that actually means I'm not interested in what they're saying, etc. etc.), and the plethora of other attributes that I've complied into an extensive laundry-list of notes on my phone after obsessively researching this very disorder for days on end?
Hi, I'm autistic.
I started writing this post while I was still self-diagnosed. Self-diagnosed/identified autism is 100% valid! No one will ever know your brain as intimately as you do. If a means to get evaluated online didn't exist, I probably would not have pursued this further in a clinical sense, knowing my inner workings well enough to self-identify. As of May 22nd, 2023, I have received my autism screening report that suggests that formal assessment is warranted and I may pursue formal diagnosis if I wish. For me, as of right now, the validation of having had a specialist (who is also autistic!) pull out pieces of my assessment answers that clinically fit the DSM-5 criteria for diagnosis is more than enough. It shows me that there is a reason for me feeling and being different. I've always known, I've always been me, but something shifted when I read the report. It was a piece that I felt I needed to move forward with being more open about myself and to myself, with others, in my business, and everything in between and beyond. It is not just a part of me, it is me. I am autistic.💗