late-diagnosed autism

  • Autism and the body-mind disconnect

    This is something that’s been on my mind for a while, and I’ve really wanted to sit down and get my thoughts together on it. When I first heard about the body-mind disconnect that is experienced by some autistic people, it all sounded a bit strange - but gradually I started to realise that it explained a lot of things that I’d been unable to fully articulate about my relationship with my body. 

    Ever since I was a child I’ve struggled to get my body to do what I want it to do, to feel how I think it should feel, and to look how society deems an attractive body should look like. I’ve always blamed it on being overweight, and that definitely contributes to many of my issues, but it doesn’t quite tell the whole story.

  • Autism diagnosis: one year on

    I set out writing this post with the intention to reflect on the last 14 months or so since my autism diagnosis; however I’ve found a lot more to reflect about than I had expected(!) so this is going to end up as a series of posts, each with a particular theme. (Or more likely, it will be one post and then get forgotten.) This particular post is about how my diagnosis has helped me to manage the social interactions in my life, and reframe some of the negative beliefs I held about myself as a person.

    Since being diagnosed with autism just over a year ago, I’ve been fairly open about it, both in my online life and my ‘real’ one. I feel the need to talk about it in a way that I never have with sexuality, mental health, or other aspects of my personality. Autism has become part of my identity.  

  • Autism, functioning labels, and ‘we’re all on the spectrum’.

    Many people are under the impression that autism exists on a linear spectrum, going from not-at-all-autistic to extremely-autistic (“Oh we’re all a bit on the spectrum, aren’t we?!!”). 

    Autistic people are given labels that put us on a scale from ‘low’ to ‘high’ functioning. Most autistics I know aren’t that interested in the idea of lining ourselves up in order of who is the ‘most’ autistic (much as we may enjoy a nice orderly line) so effectively these labels are just a shorthand for professionals. This idea of graduated difficulties can be useful in some situations, and is essential under a medical model - for example an A&E nurse responsible for triaging patients needs to know that a broken leg is more severe than a sprained ankle. However, is it really appropriate to apply the same kind of scale to something that is simply a difference in how we are wired? Is there a risk that the use of functioning labels could mean people who are seen as ‘high functioning’ have their struggles dismissed or ignored, and people who are ‘low functioning’ are presumed incompetent and unable to communicate, when that may not actually be the case?

  • Navigating the world of work

    I have had a very mixed experience with the world of employment. I often feel like I haven't really achieved the things I'm capable of, haven't got where I want to be in my career. Where I'm capable of. I don't quite mean that I haven't reached the pinnacle of my career yet, I mean that I, as I am today, right now, ought to be doing better than I am.

    I'm pretty sure this is not a uniquely autistic thing, but there are a few things I need to unpack about why I've struggled in work, so that I can move on and do better. I also really want to do this in a balanced way, so I can work out what I do well, as well as what I struggle with.

    To the outside world, I think I look quite successful. People are often saying nice things about 'amazing' things I've done, but I have come to the conclusion that they are using completely different measures of success to me. It's quite difficult for me to marry up these positive comments with how I feel inside - again, not exclusively an autistic thing, I know, but I think there's an additional element in that I find it really difficult to understand how other people see me. (I have an awful lot to say on theory of mind, but that will have to wait for another day!)

  • Taking the mask off

    My autism diagnosis is still a really new thing for me, but I’ve been feeling more and more over the last couple of weeks that I wanted to tell people about it. One reason is because there are quite probably tens of thousands of people like me, who have no clue that they’re autistic, and the only way that is going to change is by amplifying autistic voices and providing an alternative to the ‘awkward geeky guy’ stereotype that most people associate with the word ‘autism’.

    The other reason though, I think, is because I feel this real need to live my new life as authentically as possible. My life since diagnosis has been a series of lightbulb moment - sudden realisations that explain so many different aspects of my past. I do feel like a different person. I feel calmer, lighter, more aware of myself. I’m enjoying getting to know the person under the many layers of masking that have built up over the last 38 years.

    My life since diagnosis has been a series of lightbulb moment - sudden realisations that explain so many different aspects of my past. Click to Tweet

© 2019 Cat McGill