My Life as a Woman on the Autism Spectrum
I am not a man. I do not have an interest in train schedules or fruit flies (like my high school biology teacher). I am not a savant. I have a sense of humor, and most of the time I will get your jokes.
I can make eye contact, but it feels completely unnatural and often times way too intense. I can be a social chameleon, taking on the persona I think might fit best — mimicking others who seem to effortlessly float in and out of conversation. I successfully talk to people all day long and it looks “normal” because I have mastered the art of looking “normal.” But it’s not. It’s exhausting.
Words sometimes come so fast, it feels like bullets whizzing by my head. I don’t have enough time to process them because there are more on the way. Or perhaps I understand the words, but can’t determine the intention, and therefore how to respond. Am I supposed to be annoyed for you, happy, curious, concerned?
I can’t filter out noises and other conversations close by, so everything gets jumbled into a big auditory mess in my head. I don’t even hear you talking anymore. Even conversations I enjoy take some work.
I study people who I really want to know and engage with. I catalog their facial expressions and their tone of voice over time so I know what they mean.
I have a difficult time seeing things from someone else’s point of view. I feel everything in my body — often as physical sensations first — and I can’t explain it in words. I have a limited emotional language.
I have strict routines and absolutely hate disruptions or changes.
My body requires almost constant motion of some kind. If I have to sit, I am moving my fingers or tapping my teeth. I am physically addicted to repetitive, continuous, aerobic exercise, where I can determine what will happen next and my breathing is rhythmic.
Sometimes at the end of the day I am mute, overwhelmed and exhausted. The anxiety and tension wears me down. I am always trying to reserve energy so I can be a wife and a mom.
I am a woman with Asperger’s. I always knew I was different and struggled to connect with people, but couldn’t explain it. I have been misdiagnosed, improperly medicated, and misunderstood (even by myself). I didn’t believe it at first because I didn’t fit the stereotype, but then I researched women on the spectrum. To my astonishment, I read story after story of women who sounded just like me. I do not want attention or encouragement. This is real, and I want to create more awareness.
I want people to see another picture of what Asperger’s can look like. I feel as if I spent my entire life trying to fit into a social system that doesn’t work well for me. Now, for the first time, things are starting to make sense.
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