The five months since I was “officially” diagnosed with autism have been a whirlwind of discovery, namely finding other autistic women like me, and finding out so much more about myself– the small parts of my internal life that until I could identify them, went unnoticed or pushed aside.
A diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (especially as an adult) is a huge life adjustment– when you start to look back on your life after years of labelling yourself as one thing (oversensitive, shy, weird, quirky, clumsy, moody) and finally realising you are all of those things, but more importantly, you are AUTISTIC.
Women are typically diagnosed much later than men, which means that many, if not most of us have gone through life being “corrected” by those around us and blaming ourselves for our perceived shortcomings.
The last few months has been me finally trying to claw back my authentic self and focus deeply on what I need, not what I’ve been told (or have told myself) I should need.
Taking care of your own needs is difficult when society has gaslit you about a) what your needs are and b) the time/resources you “should” need to fulfill them. It is terrifying yet liberating to listen to the small voice inside, the one who has been silenced and muffled and tortured– yet she’s still there, in spite of everything.
Self-care in a post-diagnosis state requires some determination because people are looking at every turn to dismiss or belittle you. You don’t have autism, you have “mild” autism. Apparently, “everybody finds it hard…”
To unravel conversations with multiple participants
To deal with noise from children
To talk on the phone
To make small talk
To work in an office
To deal with uncertainty
To stop picking at their skin
No matter my particular autistic struggle, there’s someone who thinks it’s not that bad based on looking at me and making assumptions.
The irony that these people tend to focus on one detail rather than seeing the bigger picture of autism is not lost on me.
The “but everyone finds that hard” mentality is why I lived 33 years of life thinking there was something wrong with me, and blaming myself for my flaws which I didn’t truly understand were not flaws at all.
That time is now up.
Ultimately there have been ups and downs since diagnosis, but I feel more positive going forward than I have ever done in my life.
Through my diagnosis I have gained more insight into who I am and now it’s time to start prioritising myself, valuing my contributions to the world and honouring my differences from the neurotypical majority.
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