“I Have Autism”
You play it over and over in your mind. “I have autism.” “How did this happen?” you wonder. Kids have autism. Boys have autism. Full grown, adult women do NOT have autism, so how could you possibly have autism???
Yeah, your kids have it, maybe your hubby has it, possibly some relative of yours has it, but that is the thing right, it is supposed to be OTHER people who have it. Not YOU. So again, how did this happen!?!?
I have lived that exact moment, my friend. To this day, I struggle to understand how I made it to the age of 44 before seeking and obtaining a diagnosis. I wonder how my life would have been different if I had only known.
Back when we were little, no one knew of autism, certainly not in girls. Which is of course, the answer to the question, “How did this happen?” Whether because you were born prior to 1980 or simply for the fact that you are female, no one was thinking “autism” when they looked at you. Or when they were looking at any of your female peers. No one. While that is changing, it is not much better now than it was then. Your diagnosis now is not an accident, it is timed perfectly with the emergence of the issue of autism in women.
You may feel like this diagnosis is just one more thing for you to have to deal with in a world that is already hard and that is totally valid, but keep in mind that you have already been dealing with it all of your life. The only difference now is that you know what you are dealing with!
And that is not only okay, it is great. Yeah, it may not feel so great, but now you know and knowledge, clarity, is a great first step toward the rest of your life. Which (great news!) can still be completely amazing!
You are still exactly the same person you were plus one piece of information. It not the application of that information to you that really matters, it is what you do with it. So…
…choose to do something really great with it!
So now you KNOW. Where do you go from here?
Nowhere? You are more than welcome to take a moment or even two (really as many as you need!) to just stop and breathe. You have just been given a little tidbit of information that packs a wallop. No question about it. A wallop. (You maybe felt that wallop as a sucker punch to the gut. I know I did!) Six little letters in the right combination that may now feel like they are tattooed on your forehead can make you feel like you don’t even know yourself, much less anything else. So take some time and just well, let it sink in. Digest it. Process it. Consider it. But again, remember, you are enough. Just you. You are the same person you were before your diagnosis.
On an Emotional Journey
Expect to feel, well, a little bit of everything. You may feel relief, validation (you knew something was up!), anger, grief, fear, sadness, etc., all of which are normal. You may even cycle through some of these feelings more than once. It’s all good. Whatever you need to feel, have at it.
Keep breathing while you feel all of these things.
Might I also suggest that you take a few moments to feel super proud of yourself for having the courage to face this issue and for taking steps to deal with whatever drove you to get tested? So much courage. I know I feel proud of you!
Exactly the Same Places You Were Headed When You Were Diagnosed!
This information does not have to change your life at all – unless you want it to. How cool is that? Though you probably sought out a diagnosis because you need something to change, maybe just having the information is enough for you in which case, carry on!
On a Journey of Self-discovery
Technically, I guess you could say you already started down this path, so choosing this option would be more like continuing the journey you began when you made your appointment. If you are like many women with autism, you may have lived your life in such a way as to make others happy – trying to fit in. If that is the case, take some time to get to know yourself. I have a post coming soon called, “Chameleon No More! Finding You!” that I will come back and link to for you.
Take time to get to know REALLY what your strengths and weaknesses are. This diagnosis may help you really flush that out. The resources in the post I just mentioned will help you as well. Learn to use those strengths to move you forward faster, and in regard to your weaknesses, learn to compensate, overcome or ask for help. Yep, ask for help. (That is totally my least favorite thing, but, well, if it gets me where I want to go asking for help it is!)
Okay, not really school, but learn, learn, learn. Learn about autism for sure, but don’t stop there. (And if reading about autism becomes overwhelming stop or take breaks. The information will all still be there when you are ready to come back!)
Once you get to really know yourself and identify those strengths and weaknesses, seek out resources specific to them. Those resources may not be autism-related at all and may be SUPER helpful. After all, we don’t know a lot about autism, but we know a WHOLE LOT about lots of other things. I personally use tons of resources and very few of them say “autism.” The hardest and best thing I learned (other than to be myself!), for example, was how to identify safe people. You can read about my issues with safe people in my post, “My Greatest Struggle As An Autist: How To Identify Safe People.” The point is that the resources I needed were available all along. And they didn’t say “autism.” Anywhere.
You may learn from books (I do – nothing better than a good book (except a library full of them!)), videos, blogs, vlogs, other people, actual school, whatever works for you!
To Find Support
If you want it or need it. It could be family or friends, other people with autism, or professionals. A word of caution is in order here, however. You get to choose. You get to choose who you tell you a have autism. Choose wisely. What is the saying? “You can’t unring the bell.”
Once you tell people, they know, and some people really don’t need to know. It is none of their business and your best interest may not be in theirs. Remember, we are looking for support here! Also, know that true support is encouraging, but stops short of encouraging wallowing. Which is totally different!
Back to the Doctor
“Oh heck no,” you may be thinking. But, yes. As I explain in my post, “Comorbidity: Life with Autism and It’s Closest ‘Friends,’” autism often comes with other issues. Not always. Frequently, however, people get tested for only autism and so may think that is their only issue. If they also have issues with depression or anxiety, for example, they may be trying to work on wrong issues or their improvement may be delayed by a missing diagnosis.
I recommend this because as long as you are working on issues around autism, you should absolutely have the full picture of that with which you are dealing. I did lots of testing and only received a diagnosis of autism, but I am so glad I ruled out anything else. It is, in my humble opinion, worth the time and expense. Knowing how and where to focus your efforts is just smart.
In addition, as I share in my post, “My Strategy for the ‘Treatment’ of Autism,” we know more about other disorders and medical issues than we know about autism. You can use resources like the one I suggest in “The Best Free Resource for Autism Diagnosis and Management” to gather data and move you forward as well. By treating everything else, your autism may well, shrivel to a point where it is much more manageable!
To the Park!
Yes, you heard right, the park! So the best thing I know of that relaxes me is time spent on a swing. Yeah, a swing. It could be a porch swing. It doesn’t have to be a park swing. (Don’t worry that anyone will see you there as all of the kids will be home on their electronics!) So a swing is not the thing for everyone, but give it a try.
This may be an anxious time for you, and it may relax you. It is free to try, and if it works, it will work BIG!! If a swing is not your thing, no worries, take some time and go do something else that relaxes you and that you find to be fun. Take some breaks from all of this processing and just be you again for a while! Because, well, you are still you!
To the Her Autism FREE Resource Library!
Find tools and resources to help you in moving forward. If you don’t see what you want, you can email me at email@example.com and request what you want! How great is that???
To the Her Autism Facebook page. The best, most fabulous thing about starting Her Autism was seeing the crazy beautiful women who walk this same path I do. I know they would love to have you there as much as I would!
Where should you NOT go?
Down the Path of Blame
You are not to blame for having autism. You did nothing to become autistic. It is just a part of you, or who you are depending on how you want to phrase it. Whatever works for you! More than that, don’t let others who learn of your autism blame you for their issues or all of the issues in your relationships. Those relationships remain the responsibility of everyone involved and you are NOT to blame for anything and everything for which others may want to point a finger. If you were not to blame before, a diagnosis does not change that!
Down a Rabbit Hole
Be cautious about what you read. Be wary of resources that discourage you, make you feel like less or change your perception of you in any way that is negative. You are enough. Just you. And don’t let anyone tell you different. (Or call you “different” for that matter, unless that is okay with you.)
As I mentioned, take breaks. Only input information at a rate that you can handle it. I know of lots of people who get a diagnosis and just go crazy reading everything they can get their hands on. The result is that they get totally overwhelmed and confused. Take your time! You have plenty of it.
So I hope this is just super helpful for you!
Having autism has never stopped me from going wherever I wanted to go, and it should not stop you! Your path may look a little different, you may use a different strategy or different resources, but there is no reason you can’t dream and dream big.
I would love for you to take some time to check out all of the resources of Her Autism, visit the FREE Resource Library and, if you feel so inclined you are welcome to share your story in the comments or to email me your story at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Know this: You are soooo not alone. There are lots of beautiful, amazing women just like you. And they can’t wait to meet you.
Welcome to Her Autism!!
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