Sometimes, I wonder about certain traits and quirks of mine, thinking, “How much of this is just me, and how much of this is caused by autism?” I’ve had other people ask me questions in a similar vein: “So, is that an autism thing, or a Leah thing?”

It’s hard to say. I also have two other cognitive disabilities, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder. It took a visit with a professional psychologist to detect the obsessive compulsive, as I thought that my thought process, “I need to brush my teeth because I’ll drown in my sleep if I don’t”, or “I need to maintain this thing in this order otherwise something bad will happen” were traits associated with autism. Before my autism diagnosis, I thought simply, “Doesn’t everybody do this?” I was aware, on a certain intellectual level that other people didn’t have thought processes identical to my own, but I had a more difficult time accepting that as a constant reality, if that makes sense. I acquired post-traumatic stress disorder when I was 15, so it was more obvious to me that something was different, but I assumed my nightmares, cringing whenever someone shouted at me, and difficulty controlling my bladder in stressful situations were all caused by the same thing which was giving me pimples and a sex drive.

But with autism, which I have had since birth (If you try challenging this and say I acquired it from a vaccine, you will be very sorry indeed) I can’t easily say what parts of my personality are purely byproducts of autism, and what parts of me come from other parts of my life, such as upbringing, parental influence, environment. That’s especially complicated by the fact that my father also had autism, so traits he and I shared (our self-deprecating sense of humour, love of reading, loud laughs, explosive tempers) could very well have both come from autism. So many parts of my personality fit into this grey area, owing to the heterogeneous nature of autism.

But now and then, I remind myself, “Hey, wait a minute, isn’t autism a part of who I am anyways? Why does it matter what it’s responsible for and which is Leah-based? Either way, I’m still 100% Leah.”

So, in conclusion, some things are better left tangled into the bizarre, interesting, and sometimes infuriating force which is the human personality. That’s not the best thing to put on your social security form, but it’s the most honest answer I can think of.

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