A few weeks ago, I posted to my Instagram that I had been officially diagnosed with Autism. As a woman. At 22 years old. To say it’s been a rollercoaster of emotions is an understatement. When my family and I first began having this conversation I was pretty chill about it. For some reason it wasn’t surprising. That, however, didn’t stop the whirlwind of other anxieties and confusion to rise to the surface.
Me, being me, I started down the rabbit hole of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) research. My first appointment with a psychologist was months away, but I had to at least gain some understanding of what ASD really was. I started looking into how Autism presents in girls and looked back at my own childhood and realized I resonated with most of it, but not all. I learned that there’s not a whole lot of research on women and girls with autism, but boy are there a lot of female voices willing to speak up about their experiences anyway. I jumped into TedTalks, blogs, an ASD website created by autistic psychologists for other adults with autism (resources listed at the end of the post). These were some of the few articles I sent to my family to help them better understand my diagnosis.
When my appointment day finally arrived, I was excited, but extremely nervous. I wasn’t stupid, I’d heard the stories. Stories about women being shot down, not even considered for an appointment, psychologists refusing to diagnose girls altogether, or like one young girl – actually failing the typical test for Autism (because the test is designed for boys).
Despite all this, my two, three-hour-long, appointments went exceptionally well. My psychologist did a handful of tests to assess learning disabilities, cognitive functioning, and more, instead of just focusing on Autism. My testing was in the form of small “games,” wherein the psychologist would say a few numbers and I’d have to repeat them, then I’d had to do it backwards, then list the numbers in sequential order. There were matching games, games where you had to find patterns in shapes, memory games, and more. There were also a few online assessments and personality quizzes. Not to mention the booklet of forms my dad and I had to fill out. I had to bring (well first I had to find) my old report cards, elementary up to high school, and into college. My dad, with his awful memory, had to think back to when I was a baby and make sure I had hit developmental milestones, at what age, along with how I got along with my peers. I took a few days to get it all together, but eventually everything was filled out to the best of my ability.
The final report, after the assessments, gave an overview of everything we’d talked about and the tests I took. I scored average in almost everything except for spelling which was at a 92 percentile (I’m a writer so it goddamn better be above average), and I was diagnosed with Autism with the focus on the social aspects of the disorder. I have a hard time making friends, maintaining relationships, and have no idea what to do when someone’s upset – to put it simply: it feels like I’m missing out on some rulebook that everyone else seems to have access to.
If you’d made it this far through my post, I applaud you. I knew this post wasn’t going to be short, but I wasn’t expecting it to be quite this long. I guess I can move on to the Point™ now.
When I was finally diagnosed, the amount of relief I felt was beyond measure. I could finally accept it as truth and stop worrying that because I didn’t fit all the criteria, I didn’t have Autism. Since then, I’ve fully embraced it. It is a part of who I am now and I’m so grateful for that.
But more so, it’s life-changing events like these that made me start this blog. Embracing Us is about learning about who we are, finding the missing pieces, and putting them back together. For me, my diagnosis was one of these pieces. I’m learning to be as I am, instead of who I think I should be. I don’t have to wear a mask anymore because I understand that this is just the way I am, and there are some parts of ourselves that we can’t change, that can’t be altered to accommodate social norms, that shouldn’t have to be altered in the first place.
I encourage everyone who comes across this blog, and this post, to reflect, to act on the feelings that make you think something’s missing – because chances are it’s not all in your head, you know yourself better than anyone, trust your instincts. There are pieces of myself I’ve never understood until now because I didn’t have the language for it, the knowledge, or the diagnosis. There are still parts of myself I’m uncovering everyday and learning to accept and embrace. And I wish that you can do the same because no one deserves to feel left out, to feel lost, or broken, or wrong. Everyone should be able to be who they are without having to apologize for it. So, whether you’re a part of the LGBTQ+ community, or you don’t abide by binary gender roles, or you happen to be autistic like me, I want you to know it’s ok. There’s nothing wrong with you. Embrace yourself.
Some Helpful Resources:
Journaling as been such a beneficial part of my life and I wanted to find a way to share these benefits with others. Benefits such as learning to understand my emotions, reflecting on my experiences and in turn understanding myself better, and organizing my life in a way that works for me. This manifested as my very own dotted/bullet journal collection. The latest collection is inspired by the Autistic community and utilizes a pastel-like colour palette so it's soft on the eyes and a paper-over-board cover so you write on your lap any where, any time. Explore the collection here or you can buy it now.