I will preface this post to say I don’t have a formal Autism diagnosis, and I’m trying to be brave enough to raise it with my DBT therapist (maybe this is the week) but I do believe in this world of mis-diagnosis and gatekeeping of diagnoses by “specialists” with big books, self-diagnosis is valid. I’m still pondering if I’m #actuallyautistic, either instead of or alongside my Borderline Personality Disorder Diagnosis, and learning about the experiences of other women and girls growing up without or with an autism diagnosis hits me in so many feels – ie I could be that little girl being misunderstood, trying to fit in, trying perfection to please others. Anxious and confused but somehow masking and muddling through, despite the emotional pain.
Having a Speech Pathology qualification and experience has NOT helped me in my understanding of my possibly autistic self. Too much medical model, experience being a diagnosis gatekeeper or at least working amongst them, working within the DSM, and the deficit models that diagnose because of trauma induced behaviours. It also moulded me into not believing Autistic adults were as capable as many of them clearly are, again working with people because things are going wrong in their lives, often to the inconvenience of caregivers or authorities, and not because, actually let’s work towards their own goals.
The Yellow Ladybugs conference last year focussed on the mental health of autistic girls, with plenty of sage advice from autistic women who were once confused little girls like me, trying to understand and fit in with the world around there. That conference showed me that autistic women could be psychologists and teachers and speech pathologists, but it took a lot of self-awareness and self-advocacy in a professional sphere that very much has an us and them feel at times.
I worked at a specialist autism school at one stage in my life. I think if I had the understanding of myself that I do now, I would have been able to cope better (bloody hell schools are over stimulating nightmares at times, let alone the social demands!) and would have been a better speechie, better at my job is all aspects. Unfortunately at that time in my life I was not doing very well at all mentally, it’s around the time I got my BPD diagnosis and had my first hospitalisations around self-harm. So yeah, If I could have my time again? I don’t actually know how I’d handle it…
But I’m working through my journey. DBT is going well, I AM feeling more skillfull, I can handle more of the things the world throws at me, even though I’m really only just emerging into a living with covid world where I have to interact with people in person and somehow backup and do it all again. My spoon levels fluctuate wildly, and I have to attend to my downtime, so I can be present when I’m wanting to. We’re doing the interpersonal effective model, and god doesn’t it feel like a social skills training for autism, eye contact recommendations and all. I’m a bit skeptical of parts, but I give everything a go, and apply what works for me. I hope the others in my group can too.
So this Autism Acceptance month, I’m learning more about myself through all of your experiences, so please, share your stories, I’m thankful. I wish they were so painful at times, I’m here with big hugs and virtual stuffies and weighted blankets for time out when you need x