Since April is Autism Awareness Month, I’d like to tell you a few stories from the perspective of a thirty-two-year-old autistic woman, an adult Aspergirl. Starting tomorrow, I’ll update this blog daily with personal anecdotes, hoping to paint my world with words.
I’m eager for you to close your eyes and test: can you visualize, smell, hear, taste, touch the reality I’m stringing together? I have issues with writing in a straight line, thinking in a straight line. But I want you to feel the struggles, the joys, the trial-and-reward of the autism spectrum.
Because make no mistake—autism is all about trial-and-reward, struggle-and-joy. None of us have an easy time getting to the finish line. The sensory stimulation, the shock and awe: over-stimulation is a constant. And it’s nerve-wracking, of course, as much as its wondrous. Anxiety and autism like to walk hand-in-hand, and I’ll share an article from The Mighty later this month to drive that point home.
In May, I’ll switch to updating 3 times a month—on the 13th, 20th, & 27th—so if you enjoy reading, and you decide to subscribe, know April is the only month I’ll flood you with all these back-to-back stories
at least until I get another spring break from teaching to write more. 🌊
Before we head into Candyland though, let’s clear up two things.
💙Can Have Autism💙
I’ve always had to deal with people misunderstanding me. Misunderstandings can range anywhere from cold shoulders, to unpleasant verbal confrontations, to getting the shit kicked out of you in front of the girls restroom during third-grade recess.
But one of the most difficult misconceptions to deal with is this idea that adults can’t have autism,—or women can’t have autism,—especially when these fallacies mix together. Cross-my-heart, I already have enough issues as a woman without my developmental disorder being placed in question, too.
My first experience with this form of ignorance wasn’t at a cocktail party, in a casual conversation during school (although, when I taught K-12, I did have a coworker in the special ed department deny I had autism!), nor was I defending myself from a distant relative who’d long ago abandoned social progress as a practice.
Rather I was visiting a psychiatrist at Clinica Sierra Vista, after my passive suicidal thoughts returned in my second year of graduate school. Because the MediCal-supported hospital didn’t have a psychiatrist on site, I spoke with a long-distance psychiatrist through a CRT television; the outdated technology suffered from staggered feedback, so her mouth never synced to her words.
Well, you can’t have autism anymore, even if you had it. You would’ve grown right out of it. And it’s more common in men than women, so the chances are extremely low.
Fortunately, I was diagnosed at Kaiser Permanente, but that was only after four years of maddening self-diagnosis, book after book to validate and soothe me. I’ll write about that more in the middle of the month, when I explore my under-the-radar childhood.
Too often we think of autism as a childhood disorder, a boy’s disorder—not an adult woman’s life; a life that continues to throw curve balls long past eighteen years old—but when Temple Grandin released Thinking in Pictures, not only did laymen learn how she changed our livestock industry, she gave Aspergirls someone to look up to outside of Rain Man:
I’d like to add to the female side of autism more too, because as much as I idolize Temple Grandin, we need more female voices—more people to lift the veil draped over hard-to-diagnose, high-function female autism. And if we bring this narrative to light, we can alleviate suffering from a large portion of society, as well as tap into a lot of potential.
Of course, if you haven’t read Temple Grandin yet, you should; and if you’d don’t recognize the name, you’re missing out. You can either read the above book—and if you buy it from the link in my blog, I get a few quarters tip for leading you to the waterhole of autistic awesomeness, yay!—or you could try her movie instead:
And if you’re more of the forum-going, Internet reading type (you’re on an autism awareness blog, after all!), here Ask Me Anything Reddit is a super-interesting read.
Also, since you’re on an autism awareness website, I hope you’re already watching The Good Doctor for the male perspective of autism. It’s very good. Sean Murphy has a toy scalpel that reminds him of his journey to become a doctor. His journey allows him to cope with the loss of his brother; on this blog, I’ll talk about how I cope with loss, too… and I’ll even introduce you to my version of the toy scalpel. 😏
But my story will only happen in bursts, frames—a memory here, a memory there—because I’d like to do this challenge again next year; so I’d rather leave great pockets of dark matter vs. filling the universe all at once.
I’ll do my best to navigate through the dark halls of my twisting memories with a lantern though, so can maybe, just maybe, I can inspire you with the silver light I keep buried, confined in places that may otherwise feel too dark.
🧓Can Have Flawed Parents👵
This is the other misconception that gets me, and the campfire I’ll be dancing around for the first 10 days or so of the month: Society’s view of parents with autistic children.
I’m starting this story with my mother, since that’s how most of my creative journeys start; but by the end of this month, I’ll touch on many facets of an autistic adult’s family life, as well as their other support networks, like doctors and therapists—while simultaneously illustrating how I get by in a society not yet designed for neurodiversity.
I think it’s important to address the nicks and chinks in my family, not because I want to incriminate my DNA—and not because I’m trying to spread ill stories for sympathy, either—it’s less bloody, much drier than that:
I need people to understand that our parents are not the heroes many autism support networks uphold them to be, so we can move on from that awkward discomfort, and transcend to an honest, open conversation about what dysfunctional neurotypical parent/autistic child patterns might look like; like the parents of neurotypical children, the parents of autistic children are fallible, and if there is a better way, why not explore this road?—so why not identify what a “functional” might look like, sound like, feel like?
Nothing good comes of a parent who cannot stand their child’s autistic behavior, the destruction of self-esteem as a consequence, the horror of being an over-stimulated dependent who’s scared, day-by-day, of not being the human being they were born to be.
So I’ve got ugly baggage to unpack as part of my journey through this month’s daily awareness posts, and I’ve front-loaded you with the two misconceptions we’ll be juggling; the last thing to express then is my love for my family,—the kind of love that transcends language, no matter how deep into language studies you go—so as I’m kicking through my muddled, childhood-tall walls, walls that have kept me trapped for too long, know these stories are about my memories, and my walls, and are decidedly one-sided yet necessary if I’m going to find more answers within myself.
It’s the past.
I’m only here to lift the stones, to micro-analyze the autistic anthropological findings beneath, to say, “Hey, see that? That’s what that feels like, under this rock, where I’m always hiding.”
Okay, all of that was uber-serious—now can anyone help me identify the owner of this random text I saved on my Amazon Prime Photos from 2012?
Have you ever been told your experiences or memories were wrong? This is a common experience for autistic people, especially those of us who were not diagnosed until adulthood. In a neurotypical world, our experiences can seem surreal.
But you live in autistic world, so it’s your just to care for that first. Remember self-care is essential to care for others, so even if you think conforming to the gaslighting of others will help the neurotypicals you love, you ultimately will not be whole until you live within yourself, in your authentic perception of the stimuli of reality.
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