The very fact that you are ‘considering’ you may be autistic means you’ve worked a lot of it out already. That is a big step, huge in fact! So maybe my words will only solidify what you already know.
Tips can be tricky, why? Because all Autistics are individually very different, but nevertheless we share a lot of common traits. Firstly, for a diagnosis of Autism, we all must meet criteria relating to the Triad of Impairment: a clinically diagnosable degree of difficulty in social communication, social interaction, and social imagination, or as the eminent Dr Lorna Wing once said “It is all social, social, social” to which I concur. Everything about our struggles is to do with ‘social’.
Have you ever had the sense that you do not belong in this world, that you are an observer rather than participant? That is the story for so many undiagnosed Autistics, and furthermore, many of us are left feeling we are wrong, bad, and unworthy because we do not ‘fit in’.
I should firstly share that one of my own Autistic talents is I can pattern spot 78% faster than my neurotypical counterparts on test, so I have an eye for patterns across my fellow diagnosed and undiagnosed Autistics, and I have a ‘Neuroscope’ for spotting my people. Many of the traits don’t in fact require that level of sophistication, but here are a few things I’ve identified from the literature, my work in mental health, and my exposure and pattern spotting of those who are undiagnosed Autistic:
We get diagnosed (sometimes incorrectly, sometimes correctly) with anxiety disorders of the social kind e.g., Social Anxiety aka Social Phobia, and often Agoraphobia.
We normalise high achievement, strive for perfection, and nothing less… in a desperate and often futile attempt to prove we are worthy and to trick even ourselves into believing we are neurotypical when we are not.
We have a diffuse sense of self, never quite feeling in our bodies, or totally grounded.
We suffer with a whole range of co-existing health conditions e.g., mental illness, gastric problems and often receive an IBS diagnosis, hypermobility, amongst others.
We never ever feel we ‘fit in’ no matter how hard we try.
We live life totally exhausted all the time, and this is multiplied for those of us who socially mask (mimicking neurotypicals to fit in), and the exhaustion will not come from work or tasks, it is instead people that exhaust us (regardless of whether the interaction is positive, negative, or in between).
We are a total contradiction in most things, this will confuse others, and makes us second question ourselves.
We often struggle to maintain long-term relationships and have difficulties with conflict resolution.
We have been victim to at least one bully or narcissist in our lifetime, and in some cases will have been abused due to our vulnerability.
We have sensory issues and challenges with food, and for some of us will be diagnosed with an Eating Disorder (sometimes incorrectly, sometimes correctly).
We have special interests, we hyper-focus, and we can really shine in these areas. My work is one of my special interests, though I prefer the use of the term ‘obsession’ as this is more the reality.
We have a quirky sense of humour, that some will ‘get’, and others won’t, other neurodivergents will ‘get us’ most. For example, my daughter (who is also Autistic) recently shared a story with me of an online post where one Autistic person shared that all Autistics have ‘T-Rex’ arms. I pondered this for a moment, then proceeded to give my daughter several examples of all the times I had noticed this in myself. After each example she affirmed “Yes, T-Rex arms!” For us this was probably the most amusing Autistic sign yet, and one which might only be spotted by another Autistic with an eye of the detail that everyone else misses. We have T-Rex arms *and it still makes me laugh out loud now*
So, tips, signs, self-identifying…My personal view is how much you will search for your identity comes down to the following three things:
Your IQ + your level of suffering and/or mental illness + how much you want to ‘fit it’ and feel you don’t, and how much you socially mask to compensate for this. I score highly on all three, which explains my endless search… I searched for five years in crime and criminology and have a first-class honours degree to show for that search. I searched in mental illness; I have a successful mental health training business to show for that search. One day I’d like to test my theory empirically, and women are my interest group. The above factors relate to the female phenotype (presentation) of Autism, and perhaps less so the more well-known male phenotype. I do not love train timetables and trains, but I do have a pristine and varied collection of luxury handbags, shoes, and jewellery. We are the same, yet we are different.
Jane McNeice’s new book, The Umbrella Picker, illustrates the struggles of living for 45 years as undiagnosed Autistic and being misdiagnosed with mental illness.
Fact: Not knowing you’re neurodivergent and receiving late diagnosis of autism statistically increases the likelihood of mental illness in adults.
Solution: Identification and early diagnosis gives earlier support and happier people (and can save the NHS £s)
The Umbrella Picker tells the story of how Jane finally found her neurological truth after being a ‘lost girl’ for four and a half decades. After a long and relentless journey of searching for answers, the hand of fate finally revealed to her what she had waited a lifetime for.
Jane explores what it was like growing up as an undiagnosed neurodivergent in a neurotypical world. She shares her honest account of some of her differences including: feeling ugly, lost, lonely, and unlovable as a child, socially masking to fit in and being unable to express how she felt without knowing why.
Finally, having found the truth to her suffering, Jane is no longer lost, and having found her own, unique way, Jane has written the book she wished was available to her 30 years earlier.
If you are feeling lost to yourself, this heartfelt and compelling book may answer your unanswered questions and help you to finally find yourself as you connect with the traits illustrated.
Praise for The Umbrella Picker
“The fact that you have been so open and honest about your life journey is so inspirational to Autistic women.” – Helen Pass, another ‘Lost Girl’ found
“Jane does not shy away from addressing her own mental health experiences, her fears and feelings of isolation. The reader is left feeling Jane has truly peeled away masking layers to portray her true self through her writing.” – Manar Matusiak from Living Autism
“This book has been written with so much sensitivity, insight and wisdom. It comes from a place of truth, generosity and compassion which will most certainly help other lost girls to know themselves.” – Alyson McGregor from Altogether Better
About Jane McNeice
Jane McNeice is a wife, mother, grandmother, and business owner from South Yorkshire. Jane’s debut book is ‘The Umbrella Picker’ which documents her life living undiagnosed Autistic and the related struggles and challenges therein. Jane was diagnosed Autistic at the age of forty-five, two months later her 26-year-old daughter was also diagnosed, followed three months later by her 8-year-old son in December 2022.
Three diagnoses in seven months, and none would have been discovered were it not for their own self-identification. Jane has written the book she wishes someone had written for her 30 years earlier, a book that shares the lived experience of being undiagnosed Autistic, a ‘Lost Girl’.
She authored her book ‘The Umbrella Picker’ with the intention of helping other ‘Lost Girls’ to self-identify, because ‘Lost Girl’ experiences are often a mirror to one another. Forty-five years is too long a wait to learn who you are – your identity.
The post Could You Be Autistic? by Jane McNeice appeared first on Mind Matters Training.