This is a brief introduction to me, Jessica. After reading this post, please go check out my other blog posts!
Since I was little, I knew that something was off.
I have spent most of my life feeling like everyone else was listening to a different radio frequency that my radio couldn’t even tune into. I have always done my best to hide this (aka masking, common in autistic women), and although I usually did a good job, constantly performing as someone else led to both an anxiety disorder and depression.
My first suspicions that I might be autistic began when I was in my late teens. I took a couple autism self-evaluations and my results indicated possible autism. At the time I didn’t know much about autism and what I did know was riddled with stigma and shame. Not to mention how few autistic women I knew or had even heard of, so I didn’t know how different autism can present in girls. So, I pushed the thought down and tried to focus on fitting in. After all, some people don’t find their people until college, right?
Needless to say, college was not some magical time in which I bloomed into a confident young woman who finally figured out how to tune into the right radio station. Instead, college slowly made me realize how significant some of my deficits were, especially socially. Even though I may have been ahead of my peers in other areas, my social skills were far behind the curve and I struggled to make close friends.
Towards my final years at university, I began coming back to the idea of possibly being autistic and I began researching autism in girls and women. As I strayed further from the stereotyped caricature of autism found in Sheldon Cooper and Rain Man, I began seeing myself within the autism spectrum.
Still, I kept it fairly quiet. My immediate family and closest friends knew, but I continued hiding my autism from the rest of the world. I feared how an official diagnosis could impact my life, while, at the same time, wondered if I could ever really feel comfortable as an autistic without one.
Although self-diagnosis is widely respected within the actually autistic community, neurotypical people tend to reject it. There are a variety of reasons for this, but the biggest one, in my opinion, is a misunderstanding of how adults with autism are diagnosed. Beyond the fact that few psychologists will even evaluate adults for autism, professional diagnosis heavily relies on self reporting. This means that the testing I paid over $700 out of pocket for wasn’t much more in-depth than the research I had already done and the evaluations I had already taken. I am very fortunate to have been able to be professionally diagnosed as it ruled out other conditions and helped me to feel validated in a conclusion I had already come to.
BUT, not everyone is so fortunate and should still be accepted as autistic, something I hope to address in future posts.
I know some people will look at me and think that my autism is just an unnecessary label. The truth is that I am finally beginning to feel at peace with who I am. Knowing I’m autistic and being open about my autism has had an immensely positive impact on my life. Having a term to use has helped me better explain myself in relationships, but I’ve also found a community with other autistic people. For the first time in my life, my radio is on the right frequency.
Mine just happens to be a different one.