I’ve never written about this before, but I am on the Spectrum – the autism spectrum. Autism often presents itself differently in females than in males, because women learn to mask it and copy social cues from other people better than most men do.
As a kid I would do what is called finger posturing, which is similar to hand flapping. Sometimes I would contort my hands in weird shapes for hours. As I got older I learned not to do it in front of other people, but the drive to stimulate or “stim” as autistic people call it, with my hands was still there.
I have other stims too. It is common for people on the spectrum to listen to the same song over and over again, or even the same 20 second section of a song, because it stimulates them. I’ve been doing this for years. I can play one song hundreds of times. My music library is small but well played.
Although I love feminine things like makeup, I have a hard time relating to other females and I always have. Autism is said to be an extreme male brain, and as a child I used to say I had a guy’s brain.
Special interests are important to most people on the spectrum, especially those on the high functioning end that until recently was called Asperger’s. I have always had special interests. In elementary and middle school I used to spend summer breaks researching history online all day long. As an adult, I still research certain parts of history meticulously, like art history and marriage. I’ve also always had collections. As an adult I collect Swarovski crystal figurines. As a child I collected toothpicks from Friendly’s. The staff actually knew me and would ask what color toothpicks I wanted when my family would come in.
I have a lot of anxiety and I get overstimulated, which is common in people on the spectrum. If I don’t get enough sensory input I get anxiety, but if I get too much I get overwhelmed and have an anxiety attack. The quiet dark is my friend.
Making friends has always been a struggle. I don’t relate to other people, particularly other females, that naturally. I’ve also been so obsessed by my special interests that it has sometimes been hard to connect with other people that aren’t interested in the same things. I’ve often preferred books to people.
I’m a poet, and that is actually commonly noted among high functioning females with autism. They like to write and they especially like poetry.
When I was a child, my mother suspected I was autistic and took me to the doctor. Many doctors were called in to look at me and it was obvious something was wrong given what I was doing with my hands, but in those days doctors were even worse at detecting autism in females than they are today, and no one knew what was wrong. So they sent my parents home with no help and no guidance, and throughout my childhood it damaged my relationship to my parents because they had normal child expectations of me but I was not normal. I used to get in trouble for being in the shower too long, but the problem was I’d get in the shower and start stiming and I’d forget where I was and what I was supposed to be doing. I was a hard child.
Now more information is coming out about autism in females and how overlooked it is and the info is right out there on the internet and it is pretty much certain that I’m autistic. This is a long, but only partial, list why. I’m approaching my doctor about it and she seems like she thinks I might be as well. In doesn’t change the past, but it does change the future. Maybe I can look at myself with more love. I’ve been wired differently since birth (I was stiming in my crib as a baby) and I’m just a little different. Finding out I’m autistic answers so many questions I’ve always had, helps me understand myself better, and can maybe help me be more okay being just myself.