I was the weird one in my family.
Well, correction, I was probably the second weird one in my family. My eldest sister was likely the first, but she died when I was four. So --- as best as I can know, can remember, I was.
I was "gifted." This term seems to have strange connotations in the US, as a socioeconomic or class-dividing concern, but here at least it is not the case. Our family was poor, and I was the youngest in a family of seven (then six) people. The teachers at my primary school had simply never had to deal with a case like me, but at my mother's insistence they did their best.
I skipped grade one --- actually the second year of primary school here --- and so from then on was forever out of social step with my peers. They treated me as a kind of cute oddity, if an occasionally annoying one, and that suited me fine. Making friends was quite impossible, but does anybun make friends in primary school?
Home life was some mix of drama, neglect, and survival. I just barely regulated myself at school, driven by a mixture of chastisement and desire to fulfil my apparent potential. What else was there to do?
High school came. I was sent to one much further away than my siblings', to attend one with an accelerated learning program. I made some friends. My father died. Gender feels became hard to ignore. Depression began. Skipped another grade. Sank deeper into depression. Could not motivate myself to do even the slightest bit of work, but "giftedness" paid off and I finished in the top 4%, giving me my choice of university.
That did not get me much. I entered university depressed, aimless, aged 16, and entirely socially incapable. The age difference continued to serve as the reason I was so out of step with my peers. After all, they were legally adults, driving and drinking and all that. I had to be home before dark. No friendships to be made there, unless somebun thought they could convince me to do their homework. (Yes, really.) (They could not.)
I did not suddenly gain the ability to focus at university. But unlike before, there was no legal mandate for me to show up --- no chance of my mother getting a call from a lecturer, wondering where I was. I sidled my way into a part-time job at a software company, and soon thereafter stopped bothering with uni.
I was driven towards relationship, towards connection, even as I could not understand how to maintain the simplest of friendships.
I would search and search, fall hard and fast, make somebun my world and my focus, commit every energy, but fundamental communication difficulties would amount until it was too much. Until I was too much; until I was asked to change more than I could bear, or denied change when I had no choice but.
I had a particularly hard time with one partner, who --- in the terminal stages of our relationship --- would level accusations of various disorders at me, in an attempt to have me shoulder blame for the issues in our relationship.
The first time they did this, I was still gullible enough that I took it all on board, directly. It destroyed my self-image, and led to a breakdown that more than half a decade to get completely clear of.
The second time they did this, I had already been seeing my therapist --- the one that would finally click --- for half a year or so, slowly unpicking the damage wrought by the first time.
This time, I didn't just take it on board.
... Well, I mean, I did try, but my therapist was resolute, repeatedly rebuffing my efforts to convince him that actually, partner had to be correct about this. In reality, I simply knew how angry they would be when I contradicted them, and desperately wanted him to agree so I could avoid that.
This time, the accusation was that I was autistic. I didn't know how to interpret this, but the stated consequence was that I had been unfeeling, unempathetic, a bad partner, and the explanation for all this was that I was autistic --- I lacked theory of mind, could not understand how my actions harmed others, was self-centred and selfish, tactless, etc. I could either accept the explanation (and the blame), or deny the explanation (and still take the blame, but now unmitigated).
This was not exactly a fair choice. My therapist railed against it --- not only can random people not diagnose autism, there didn't need to be an "explanation" for how I had acted in the first place, because I wasn't fault for the things I was being blamed for!
I was encouraged to completely disregard the label, as it was essentially being used as a vehicle for abuse, but it was hard for many reasons.
One reason in particular stuck with me. We had some mutual friends, a couple, whose help in "convincing" me my partner had enlisted. One of them was easier to disregard after the fact, because --- as indeed turned out to be the case --- I suspected they just really wanted to get in bed with my partner.
(I'm not saying that is the reason why they were saying what they did, nor that they were somehow in the wrong for wanting to do so. They were both very attractive and lovely people, aside from what was going on with me, and why shouldn't they sleep with each other? Just, it makes motivations harder to discern.)
The other, best as I could tell, had no such desire, no confounding variables at all, were considerably less involved in my and my partner's situation, had a no-nonsense attitude, and crucially, much experience with a sibling on the spectrum. When their partner raised with them that they thought I was autistic, their response was essentially, "wait, wasn't that obvious? I just thought nobun was mentioning it because everybun already knew."
That stuck with me.
I got out of that relationship, not without some lasting mental health scars.