I feel like nothing.

I left my water bottle at my parents’ house. They live about an hour away and I think about driving out to get it every single day but I can’t justify the money on gas in my current financial situation when I know there will be another family dinner in a couple of weeks or so when I can get my water bottle. I feel dehydrated. I possibly am dehydrated since I haven’t really been drinking water since I lost track of my water bottle last weekend. I have been drinking soda. I have drunk water mixed with Liquid IV. I’ve had a lot more iced coffee than I normally drink. And while I technically have an abundance of drinking glasses, cups, tumblers, and mugs that would technically hold water, I do not have my water bottle and therefore I cannot drink water.

I was thinking about this a few minutes ago when I noticed my seltzer cup. It’s a giant tumbler that I use for seltzer. I actually haven’t used it in a while because I haven’t been drinking seltzer. When I was working with a psychiatrist last summer to find the right ADHD medication, anything with bubbles was really bothering my stomach. But I lost my insurance when I lost my job so I lost my psychiatrist and—despite weeks of phone calls, voicemails, and emails—I have been unable to see someone new. I was finally able to, today, get an appointment for Tuesday with the NP that I intentionally stopped seeing last year. I don’t think she listens to or believes me based on the limited information in my chart that I have access to and how she has made me feel in prior sessions.

So, anyway, the seltzer cup caught my eye and, since I don’t have my water bottle, I decided to have a big cup of seltzer with lots of ice. I have six straws that I use with this cup. I did not buy them as a set and they’re not related at all but, for me, they go together. The straws match my mood and when I was scanning the straws just now I found the one that matched today and I thought to myself “You look like nothing and I feel like nothing.”

It’s completely bizarre behavior to have rules for which straw I can drink from depending on what my mood is and only when I’m using a particular cup but those are the rules. I don’t actually use the pale pink straw very often. There’s a one with light blue stripes on it that wrap around like a barber’s pole that I use when I’m feeling kind of low and a dark but translucent blue one that I use when I’m feeling really depressed. When I’m super happy, there’s one with bright magenta stripes and then the solid magenta one that I use when I’m feeling wild. The one with light pink stripes is for when I’m feeling content physically ill and trying to perk myself back up but the light pink one where the pink is so pale it could almost not be there, it looks like nothing.

The first time I fully truly thought that I could be on the autism spectrum was in therapy when my therapist told me he thought I might actually meet the criteria for Asperger’s (which I think we don’t really say anymore due to its association with like WW2 Nazis and whatnot, but I digress.) He didn’t say it in the context of suggesting I be tested or seek accommodations or anything. It was a throwaway observation that wounded me, at the time. Autism was something that had been in the back of my head since I was made to watch the film Rain Man. Even through Dustin Hoffman’s painfully stereotypical and stigmatized portrayal of an autistic character, I saw myself. I didn’t want to. I especially didn’t want to in the years that followed when my father would continuously repeat “yeah, definitely yeah” and “I’m an excellent driver” in his own poor impression of Hoffman’s character in the movie as not unlike possible echolalia associated his own undiagnosed autism. But it seemed derisive and I learned that autism was bad and certainly not me who was put in honor’s classes in school. I struggled with projects and homework but tested well so even though I wasn’t getting great greats, they labeled me “smart but lazy” and kept pushing me right along. But having my therapist say this to my face brought it front and center.

As I told various people in my life what had been said to me, the responses varied from “What? You?? Never!” to “Yeah, I could see that.” And I put it away and didn’t think about it except to pull it out again from time to time to explain away awkward situations. “How could you not know what he was trying to say to you?” Oops! I must be autistic. Ha. Ha. It’s probably this flippant attitude that has some of my friends pushing back or not believing me when I talk about my self-diagnosis.

Reflecting back on that therapist, I remember him catching me not picking up on social cues almost like he was playing a game. In particular, I remember a conflict I was having with a roommate at the time. I’d read him some text messaged I’d exchanged with her and I remember him kind of smiling like he thought it was funny. He said, “you don’t understand why she’s mad, do you?” and I really didn’t. He made me guess before finally telling me that how I had phrased something was probably what upset her. He would do this all the time. I remember his stupid smirk that I came to understand meant that he saw something I missed. I felt stupid. Now here I am, ruining every relationship I get in (romantic and otherwise) because I am constantly trying to interpret cues that aren’t there and sometimes they are there and sometimes I’m right but even when I’m right, the other person only admits it about half the time so how am I ever supposed to know? Maybe the trick is to not care. But I hate feeling stupid.

I honestly don’t know if the straw thing could be related to possible autism. I really only know what I’ve read in the DSM and what I’ve seen on TikTok, which doesn’t quite seem credible. So, today, I spent the afternoon going through free autism assessments on embrace-autism.com. I downloaded pages and pages of information about what each assessment means, what the scores mean, how they’re assessed, and even possible flaws in the assessments themselves or certain questions. But I figured I’d share them here because that’s honestly why I started writing here in the first place. Ultimately I want community and belonging. I want to find relationships with people who understand me. I want to stop feeling so misunderstood. A lot of the work is within me, and I guess that means understanding really who I am. I am not sure if these scores are even part of that but I love me some hard data that I can then present to a professional… say a nurse practitioner that has, in the past, made me offer proof of my suspected diagnoses rather than just assessing me herself, for example. Here we go:

So… Maybe I’m feeling like nothing… really lonely, kind of lost and misunderstood, not sure where to go next… but at least the Internet is affirming my self-diagnosis. There could always be some confirmation bias happening when I took the tests but, also, some of these are really blowing my mind. There were a lot of things I didn’t associate with autism and I’m kind of stunned by the scoring. Sort of like an Does everyone not do this? kind of feeling…

I almost forgot! I also took The Aspie Quiz which generated this cute lil thing (I actually hate these colors a lot):

Your broader autism cluster (Aspie) score: 160 of 200
Your neurotypical (non-autistic) score: 43 of 200
You are very likely on the broader autism cluster (Aspie)