I suspect this may be too esoteric or scattered or specific, but I’m putting it here in the hopes that it will strike a chord with some readers. My writing style is shifting as I find it harder to hold the thread of long passages of text and I’ve decided to give in to that and see where it takes me. If you’re in the mood to read something more conventional, JKP has posted an excerpt from my book in which I explain why it’s called Nerdy, Shy and Socially Inappropriate.
I’m in an in-between place, much like the one I found myself in after learning more about Asperger’s and before getting diagnosed. If you’ve been there, you’re probably familiar with the swirl of feelings in-between places evoke–certainty and hope shot through with doubt, fear, and confusion. Determination, undercut or perhaps fueled by intermittent anger and frustration.
The in-between places are hard. We no longer quite feel like the person we were; we’re not yet the person who will emerge on the other side of this no man’s land.
of or relating to a transitional or initial stage of a process.
occupying a position at, or on both sides of, a boundary or threshold.
The spaces between, the grey areas, have always fascinated me. When I wrote fiction, I was endlessly picking at the in-between places. Perhaps because I find them so hard to stomach in real life.
I’m not good with uncertainty. Literally, my number one reason for seeking out an autism diagnosis was peace of mind. I needed to know if I was making it all up in my head / imagining myself into a neurology / selling myself a bill of goods because I’d grown weary of looking for answers.
To put my mind at ease, someone who ‘knew about these things’ would have to validate my suspicions in a way that I couldn’t do for myself. That piece of paper, I figured, would get me over the hump and out of the in-between place of “this feels right but what if . . . ?”
It did, though not quite in the way I expected. It was more anti-climax than epiphany. But it was a path to closure and closure was what I needed to get on with life.
I understand that having access to a paper diagnosis is a privilege. At least, I thought I did. Maybe I’d overestimated the depth of my understanding.
Once again I find myself stuck in an in-between place, this time with no immediate possibility of a diagnosis. Months of making the rounds of doctors and tests have told me only what is not the cause of my language difficulties.
I’m left with three possibilities:
- this is temporary and will resolve itself when it’s good and ready
- this is something serious and the evidence that would allow a diagnosis is years away
- this is my new normal and I should learn to live with it
Which is a bit like being told, “there’s probably nothing serious causing that limp but if there is, we’ll know for sure when your leg falls off.”
If I’m being honest, I need to admit that number 3 on that list is true regardless of whether I’ve won the prize behind door number 1 or door number 2. Months going on years is too long a period to simply keep hoping tomorrow will magically be different.
It dawned on my last weekend that one way out of the in-between place is acknowledging that where I am now is my new normal. That is a hard conclusion to arrive at when the new normal appears so much shabbier and rundown than the old normal.
But there is no practical reward for living in an imaginary future. It only fuels that awful feeling of suspended reality and in-between-ness.
Things I am learning to hold close and be with:
In the in-between place, it helps to keep reminding myself that it’s okay.
It’s okay to feel certain and uncertain, often at the same time. Feeling one doesn’t make the other untrue.
It’s okay to doubt myself, to feel insecure and crazy at times. Like the anger, fear, sadness and frustration, I can feel those things, move on when I’m ready, come back to them when I have to.
It’s okay to not have an answer. There are more unknowns in the universe than there are knowns. See also: the unknown unknown.
It’s okay to change. 2500 years ago Heraclitus said, “You could not step twice into the same river” and there’s a reason people still quote him. We are constantly changing, like it or not, accept it or not, realize it or not.
It’s okay to ask for validation and it’s also okay if not everyone I share my experience with offers validation. Ultimately, I have to punch my own ticket.
It’s okay to feel like I’m the only one who knows my experience and, at the same time, it’s okay to identify with the experiences of others, even if I don’t share their diagnosis yet or never will. Adapt what is useful applies to more than just kung fu.
Liminal late 19th century: from Latin limen, limin- ‘threshold’ + -al.
I’ve spent the last six months looking for the threshold of this in-between space. Surprisingly, I found it in the confirmation that there would be no answer, not now.
Maybe that’s a kind of resignation. Not a giving up, but a giving in, a practical acknowledgement of reality. I’m done struggling with this thing for now. There is a kind of tired relief–a quiet sense of peace–in acceptance and I’m ready to embrace that.
For now, and for as long as I can keep hold of it.