Director of Special Projects, Autism Research Institute
I am an adult diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome. I am 47 years old but didn’t always know or understand that I was on the autism spectrum. I only found this out seven years ago, when I participated in a study at a major university research hospital in New York City. The first years after receiving the diagnosis were especially hard years. I lost jobs, I had to move several times, and attempts at relationships seemed to inevitably fail. Though I had had lots of experience in the working world and had been married in the past, it seemed as if the diagnosis coincided with a sequence of personal and professional disasters, and all due to that big red sign flashing above my head that said: “Woman with Asperger’s Syndrome.” Today, I’m confident that having the diagnosis was the very best of news I could have received. As much as it confused me for some years, it did push me to “roll up my sleeves” and get to work on some things that I just didn’t know how to address prior to knowing I had ASD. I began seeing a therapist, for example, who knew Asperger’s and adult issues well. That was a first. Gone were the days of treatment for and discussion of depression, which I had been treated for since college. Now I could focus on how to navigate relationships better, how to understand what made me vulnerable in a relationship, and what made me happy and safe. These were giant discoveries. I also began taking my sensory challenges seriously. After years of attempting to hide them or ignore them because others around me at work, in my family or elsewhere just didn’t have the same sensitivities and proneness to fatigue, I had to assert myself and actively arrange for time in my day to integrate enough deep pressure, intensive cardio exercise, and yoga to keep myself self-regulated. I had always known how to do this, but the diagnosis helped validate the fact that I had to do it a lot more often than most other people, just to get through a day well. Finally, I started taking supplements and began a gluten free diet, having read so much about how these supports can be helpful to many on the spectrum. My GI problems, which had been life long, as well as my chronic insomnia, which I recall beginning when I was a child, evaporated, as if they had never been a part of me before. And where have all these baby steps led me? This year, I got married to a most wonderful human being. I will be forever grateful that I got up the gumption to be evaluated and diagnosed. Without having taken that first leap, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to know what it’s like to be able to do more in a day, remain regulated and happy, and fall in love.
The Autism Women’s Network is featuring posts by females on the autism spectrum as well as parents and caregivers. We hope to give the public a better idea of what female autism is in the words of people who actually live it every day.
If you are interested in telling your story or know someone who might be, please see our Submission Guidelines here.