This is a cut and paste of a Twitter thread, which I want to save here because my tweets autodelete after 3 months.
Here are some thoughts regarding finding out that I’m #autistic, the way I approach my ‘obsession with work’, how that has changed, and why I’m happy about it. These will be… relatively random thoughts.
Some preliminaries: those of you playing along at home will know that I was originally (mis)diagnosed with BPD – misdiagnosis of this type is fairly common for late-diagnosed neurodivergent women. I also have bipolar type 1. This is not, I believe, a misdiagnosis.
Many autistic people have what is referred to as a ‘special interest’. These aren’t just ‘interests’, but they also aren’t ‘obsessions’ – they are things that bring deep joy and contentedness. I firmly believe that my ‘special interest’ is… ancient Greek history.
In some ways I think I am pretty lucky about that – for many reasons, which I could go into, but mainly because it is now my job (paid or unpaid…) to think and read and learn and teach others about ancient Greek history, and that I am encouraged to immerse myself in it.
BUT: because it’s work, I have also been encouraged to not immerse myself in it too much. To ‘rest’, to ‘take time off work’. Even when I didn’t want to. And, frankly, that caused me immense anxiety. Some of that anxiety is the normal junior-academic-not-doing-enough-ever type.
Some anxiety is related to feeling shame over the fact that I wanted to learn and read and be immersed all the time. I am now working though trying to figure out those two different anxieties and address the former with rest and the latter with rest – but different types of rest.
And so, I’ve taken a weird step for a professionally trained ancient Greek historian: I’ve started reading ancient Greek history trade books on topics that I know about but not loads, but which aren’t directly related to my research.
Academics are often discouraged from reading trade books (this is changing, there’s loads of great trade books that we could learn a lot from!) because they aren’t rigorous, they don’t cite exactly (many in ancient history do!). In short: they aren’t valuable for research.
I don’t care if they’re valuable for research. I have the skills to look stuff up if I want (after all many of the big-name trade-book writing ancient historians are also working academics who publish peer-reviewed academic work too!). I care that they’re interesting.
I care that they feed my seemingly unquenchable thirst for that knowledge. And that is, I think, why I have been less anxious – more broadly – since I have started to figure myself out.
I am autistic, and I’m the same person I was before I knew that – but I feel like now I have the right version of the manual for my brain, and I get to figure out all the things that felt and seemed wrong over the years.
And frankly – I think my acceptance and exploration of my autistic brain makes me a better academic anyway.