A reader asked:
I briefly self diagnosed as autistic, but I met with my psychiatrist yesterday and she told me since I noticed social deficits and tried to compensate, and managed just like a neurotypical person, it was just social anxiety bc if I were autistic, I wouldn’t have noticed or been able to learn so well. she didn’t mention the cognitive things I brought up, so I’m guessing they were normal /insignificant. How do apologize on my tumblr for fucking this up and appropriating?
You don’t owe anyone an apology. Anyone in our community who has suggested that sincere but mistaken self-diagnosis is appropriation owes *you* an apology.
Thinking you’re autistic and being wrong is not appropriation. We all make guesses about ourselves; some turn out to be right and some turn out to be wrong. Thinking you’re autistic and being wrong is not appropriative and it is not fucking up.
That said, from what you described, it’s not even clear to me that you are wrong about being autistic. I’m not a diagnostician and I don’t know you, so I can’t say one way or another. But it sounds to me that your psychiatrist is basing their response to you on stereotypes rather than professional knowledge of autism.
Not all psychiatrists are competent to evaluate autism, particularly in adults. Psychiatrists are primarily trained in mental health; autism is a developmental disability. Mental health training does not imply expertise in developmental disability. It’s entirely possible that your psychiatrist is disregarding your cognitive issues not because they are normal, but because your cognitive issues are outside their area of professional competence.
Most autistic people notice social deficits and try to compensate. Most autistic people generate effecting coping strategies for a lot of things, including social situations. All autistic people can do some things that neurotypical people can do. Being able to notice and compensate for problems does not mean you’re neurotypical.
It’s fairly common for people who think they’re autistic to be told by mental health professionals that if they’re self-aware enough to ask, they can’t possibly be autistic. Or that if they can do anything at all, it must mean they’re not autistic. Those are perceptions based on stereotypes, not accurate understandings of autism. People with advanced mental health training are just as prone to a stereotypical view of developmental disability as anyone else.
If your doctor is responding to your concerns in a way that might be based on stereotypes and misinformation, it’s probably a good idea to find someone else (perhaps a neuropsychologist) who has a better understanding of autism and is familiar with adult diagnosis.
You may or may not be autistic, but it sounds like you could benefit from investigating further. And ultimately, the opinion that matters most is your own. You know your own mind better than anyone else does.
And whatever conclusion you or any professional ends up reaching, you have done nothing wrong or appropriative. It’s ok, and important, to try to understand yourself and figure out what you need to make your life work.