Time for something a little different. I'm editing this now in June as in all honesty I had forgotten that I had written it:
Prior to 2017 I just believed myself to have a very strained case of generalised anxiety disorder with a light sprinkling of OCD and PTSD. Since 2017 it has become obvious that all along I may have just always had different wiring:
Before I became pregnant with my daughter I saw a psychiatrist for a mental health review. She in no uncertain terms told me that I suffered from anxiety, possible ADHD, OCD and borderline Autistic Spectrum Disorder. The latter certainly came as no surprise to me. After spending the entirety of my child and teenage years like the porridge in goldilocks and the three bears, I was finally relieved to find a space that I fit into. The only problem was that for me was that my psychiatrist would not diagnose me as Autistic as I did not hold certain characteristics that were prominent in my male counterparts.
Male and female autistics can differ greatly in their presentation and more importantly in that female autistics have an amazing ability to 'mask' their traits from the World. For me masking is most easily defined in laymens terms as a mask you present to those around you, aka what you do around others to make yourself seem more 'normal'. As women this is how we are raised by default. Its a World of competition and for me specifically during middle school it meant very stringently following the same norms against your classmates whether they be through fashion, language or culture. I, of course could only ever half keep up and was forever the weird kid on the sidelines. My understanding of coloquial language was poor so I was always seen as interrupting a conversation and my general presentation certainly didnt help me at all.
I went through my twenties trying to act normal in a number of failed relationships, the entire time trying to justify my natural personality. It wasnt until my current partner and I started properly dating that I realised that I as a person, wasnt actually the problem. This was at the ripe old age of 28.
I have been graced with a very wonderful man as my other half: We met in biology class when we were both 15 years old. I was actually asking on behalf of a friend if he would be prepared to date her. He has told me many times since that this was the moment that he fell in love with me. He is similar to me that he sees life at face value and in a lot of aspects mirrors the autistic in me (for better and worse).
As an adult woman trying to obtain an Autism diagnosis I have encountered the following problems:
-Being told that it is self manifested
-Having the DSM-V incorrectly explained to me
-Being told that you surely arent Autistic as your special interests arent special enough. (This ignores the fact that you can name the ethics of your chosen self help guru from that year and the name of the dog of your favourite actor from when you were 14; (it was Bear)).
-The fact that every day life can be painful, whether this be certain sounds, cocophonies of sound, or a sensitivity to bright lights (this is common in myself, my partner and my sister to a huge degree).
For me self diagnosis is very important, especially in a time where referal to specialists in different parts of the country are difficult. It prevents us as Autistic women becoming subject to judgement and discrimination from those than ignore science, or those who wish to take advantage of us as an objectively more vulnerable group of women.
I know that especially in light of coronavirus my search for a diagnosis of Autism is going to be an ardous one, but at the end of the day I also find solace in the knowledge that my self diagnosis is valid. I understand the parameters for diagnosis and that until the NHS is prepared to make an available and appropriate resource for me to obtain my diagnosis I will keep looking to further resources on the internet.
Although during the current pandemic we are all at somewhat of a personal standstill, I am prepared to look forward, certain of my own certified mental health (albeit without that prized gold tick). Similar to many of you, all that we really care about is that our kids are happy and that they arent distressed by what is happening in the World right now.
All I ask now as a self diagnosed Autistic woman is that funding is correctly directed towards those parts of the country that need it ; we also need to remember our compassion towards each other on a local level. Abusive relationships are much more prominent with the Autistic community and the shaking up of routine will have affected us disproportiantly. Below is a lovely picture that an ex took of me in 2010 but I think it fits the masking narrative quite perfectly.
As I am editing this post two months into the future I also feel the need to address current World events and the Black Lives Matter movement. It has never been more important for us to be kind to one another and to listen to what those around us have to say, especially POC. Listen, learn and write to your local politicians, hopefully then we can all move into a better future as heck knows this year has been a write off!
Peace and love,