the next chapter: my life with autism

I thought I had just started to figure out life. But sometimes the “figuring out” process goes a completely different direction. Which just so happens to be a life with autism.

Yes, through a slew of online research and testing, I have come to the conclusion that I have what used to be called Asperger’s. Now it’s simply autism spectrum disorder, or ASD. It’s probably easiest to say I’m autistic. But that in itself comes with misconceptions, stereotypes, and stigma, especially as a woman.

My life with autism has come at a time when I’m already trying to get my feet on solid ground. What do I really want, and what does that look like? (Please don’t make me answer that question right now.) While it’s frightening to embrace life with autism as this looming unknown, it honestly empowers me more than ever before. Hence why I’m sharing this today.

how it all began.

First off, yes, I’m self-diagnosed. If I wasn’t a woman living in one of the most expensive areas of the country, I might seek out the professional protocol. But I know in my gut that this designation for how I function is true. It’s hard to describe the feeling of researching autism in women and seeing yourself completely in the signs and mannerisms. Deja vu. 

This is me, and all the random “quirks” and personality traits I thought were just my weird things are actually valid. And I’m not alone in experiencing them to the point that it makes me feel inadequate to everyone else.

For so long, I’ve seen people manage daily life in a busy, capitalist society without a second thought, while I just sink deeper and deeper. Working full-time 9-5 is the death of me. Anything remotely social quickly becomes overwhelming, as well as major sensory overloads that are otherwise normal public settings. I need a strict routine to live. I either hyper-fixate on something or don’t really care at all. This list could fill up the room.

Fully realizing my life with autism immediately overwhelmed me. It turned into a hyperfixation itself as I noticed every eensy detail of my autistic nature. Now I’m starting to settle in and pick up the pieces of where I am in life. I already decided to move across the country on my own, so why not add autism to the mix?

Sure, life with autism began as this extra “identity” to juggle. However, let me tell you, I have never felt more self-aware and empowered before.

Like I said, I’ve always felt inadequate, as if I’m having to work double the amount as my peers with mediocre results. Everything I tried to do to keep up drained me until I could hardly take care of myself. For years, I pushed down the underlying feeling of hating myself for not “living up to my full potential.” For feeling tired every day just from living. When I redefined my life with autism, a whole new door opened. I finally understand all of me, and that who I am isn’t wrong or inadequate. 

The problem all along has been trying to fit myself into a mold that was never meant for me in the first place. And the fact that I’ve made it as far as I have all without realizing I was autistic and really just making things work? That’s pretty cool.

how do I do life with autism?

So, my life with autism. Where does that leave me? With this new knowledge at my disposal, how am I going to utilize that? 

Well, let’s start with my strengths. I’m dedicate myself to my pursuits. I can accomplish anything I put my mind to. I’m confident in my “special interests” and could do any work related to those fields, including activism and spirituality. Empathy is huge, and when I distinguish my feelings from someone else’s, there’s an opportunity for a very deep and meaningful connection. The tiny details and intricacies that others will likely overlook, I’ll notice. 

Since, up to this point, I’ve spent a majority of my time “masking” to get by, what does my life with autism need to make me truly feeling solid and secure? Give me very clear instructions. Don’t leave me stranded in a sea of people where everyone expects small talk. I’m extremely sensitive to, really, everything, so give me breaks to ground myself. Give me alternatives so I can choose how to complete any tasks the way that suits me best.

The list could go on because from the limited experience I’ve had in the “working world,” jobs are hard. I figured out the student role and have that in the bag, but being an employee is a whole other can of worms.

so, what’s next?

You may be wondering, how’s life with autism going for you now? As I’ve said with everything I do, it’s a work in progress. I’m figuring it out, slowly but surely.

My amazing family and intimate circle of friends bless me with their continual support. It’s also been a joy living where I do. Let me tell ya, West coast is, without a doubt, the best coast.

The challenge of not defining my worth in my productivity, financial status, and inevitable comparison to the neurotypical crowd still looms over everything I do. I’ve decided to not pursue any work that I dread doing (which, uh, leaves a limited pool of options), but I teach a weekly yoga class and am pursuing online tutoring and remote data entry to pay the bills. At some point. Again, I pressure myself enough about that, so nobody else needs to comment on that.

I adore my schooling thus far at the Chaplaincy Institute, and I’m in the process of what direction to take my ministry that suits my life with autism. Again, another puzzle to solve, but good thing I spend my spare time doing crosswords and Sudokus, right?

Overall, my life with autism defines major part of my journey. We’re only at the beginning. I’m very hopeful that I can pursue a life that is actually suited to me. No longer should I feel the need to constantly mask and pretend to be someone I’m not.

As the author of my life with autism, I’m figuring out the next chapter, but however it looks, I’m ready to thrive, comfortably and confidently.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

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