I live in the South East of the UK.
I am technically middle-aged, I have two kids and a dog, a house, a car… pretty standard stuff. And I am one of the ‘lost’ women who slipped through the cracks, this is completely understandable given my age.
I do not regret not having received a diagnosis when I was a child, to wish away the past and replace it with a new version effectively wishing away my life and who I am. I was signposted towards being autistic by a tutor at my college, that was a slightly existential crisis inducing fun research project that is for sure. I ended up analysing my entire life through a new lens and it made so much make sense. However, unlike many autistic children I was a reasonably content child, I had some friends, some books, my cats.
Diagnosis has been the only tool I have acquired that allows me to make sense of my world, past and present. Its not everyone else is weird and confusing, its actually me! (although everyone else still seems weird and confusing, it’s all relative). And now I am currently doing a degree, I was also a ‘late’ diagnosed dyslexic, which I think has impacted my studies much more so than my autism as I am quite intelligent, but my work has never been up to standard I would expect to be able to produce. I am actually trying to write two essays at the moment; it’s not going so well to be honest.
What in your opinion is your biggest accomplishment thus far? That is a very broad question, how does one define ‘accomplishment’ and how can you measure it? This question feels too big, too open. Perhaps my biggest accomplishment is retaining my ability to be kind and tolerant despite not seeing much of either outside of my immediate social circles. Although perhaps my biggest accomplishment will be the social science degree I am studying. I have read it is not an uncommon subject of choice in autistic females as we tend to make studying humans a special interest; so, subjects like psychology and medicine can be quite common too. I remember some of my mother’s friends commenting on my tendency to sit quietly in the lounge whilst they chatted and drank tea, one asked me once whether I was bored, I said ‘no, I like watching people’. I was not the creepy kid I have made myself sound like. I was actually a tad boring; one of my most pleasurable childhood activities was reorganising my rather extensive book collection.
One interesting thing, to me, is that by the time I was in junior school I had rationalised that my discomfort and aversion to eye contact was due to having a lazy eye. I think that I came up with a great rationale about a social rule that was never really spelt out but was nonetheless omnipresent at school… ‘look at me when I am speaking to you!’ darned ableist norms.
One thing I wish people knew… can I pick two? We don’t have a look, autism is very much an internal experience. Just because I can talk to you now doesn’t mean that by the time I get home I won’t have, quite literally, lost the ability to process words, to formulate speech. You don’t get to see the internal confusion that is social interaction, you don’t get to see the shutdown at home, you don’t hear the internal scripting of every planned interaction. And you don’t get to say ‘everyone is a little bit autistic’ because I will not let you erase my identity and the cost of getting through the day. Especially as I have spent nearly 20 years trying to not go out in to the world and now I am out there please try not to be a dick.
Actually, there is also a third thing, some autistic people do have a full range of emotions and that includes fully working empathy, when you hear an autistic person tell you this believe them. However, some of us don’t, of which I am one; up to 50% of the autistic population (and 10% of non-autists) have some degree of alexithymia which means no words for emotions. You can not group as together as a homogenous mass.
Being autistic is cool, I like being me and I like my neurology. Live long and prosper (and be kind)