Autistic Women – Why Are We Invisible?

Chameleon woman – I’ve been doing it since puberty. Logically the next evolution for a “Parrot Child” is a chameleon – right?

When many of us were younger it was thought that Autism was only found in boys. A gender stereotype that is still hurting us today. Some of us are missed completely or misdiagnosed with other conditions. Some go to the grave without knowing they are Autistic.

A few of us are lucky and eventually figure it out. When we discover the truth it is as if a light bulb has gone off. Growing up we felt alien but did not know why. Most days I thought everyone around me was crazy – having no idea how different our perspectives were.

They teach you to be a lady, have manners and be polite. Flailing about and acting crazy is very unbecoming of a young girl. We learn to hold things in. We read books and create art. We collect pretty things in our rooms, locking away our feelings.

Social pressure is huge on young women. Society expects you to be a certain way.

Over the years I’ve learned to fake it but learning to play “normal” has taken years of practice, constant trials and errors. It is still a character that tires me out and requires a lot of work.

Girls are pressured from a very young age and perhaps “boys will be boys” could be one reason Autism is more obvious in males than in females.

I was a tom-boy and my Autism was obvious until I hit puberty and became more aware of the ways I differed from my peers. At that point I made a conscious decision to study my peers and fit in. It was a bit like a science experiment.

The more I worked on this project the less I felt like myself. For the first time in my life nobody was bullying me. I was happy to feel safe and kept up the act through high school.

After years of being fake it was hard to even know who I was any more. I felt ugly and dirty. It’s hard to explain but just thinking about how fake I was (years ago) makes my face pucker. I don’t like that person and I pity her.

I’ve recovered from that but diagnosis was a major part of my recovery. It explained so much and everything. There were always little things that I’d never listed but if I did they would all say – Autism.

All the pieces of me that I hid from the world, the strange things – Autism.

Chameleon woman.  Invisible Autism. Anonymously Autistic. Nobody sees me struggling.

 

#SheCantBeAutistic #InvisibleAutism #ActuallyAutistic #AnonymouslyAutistic

 

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38 thoughts on “Autistic Women – Why Are We Invisible?”

  1. It isn’t plain sailing for me as a bloke with Asperger’s. The normal ‘Man Jobs’ such as manoeuvring a car and driving confidently are forced exercises for me. This morning I had to drive to Coleraine – town in Northern Ireland which is over an hour’s drive from me – and I nearly f**ked it up when I had to swerve to avoid crashing onto a kerb en route.

    My reasoning is that women seek the approval of others, while men don’t give a s**t! Stereotypes are still prevalent in our society. The jobs I apply for are Admin roles. (still seen as a female domain here in Northern Ireland) Also, I am looking to train in graphic design; anoher female domain. Go, figure!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. wee norn iron! ❤ the first time someone told me they thought i was autistic, i was near derry. i knew so little about the subject, i didnt think they could be serious– thought they were just talking sh***. and yeah, she was an admin, too!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. really hard to notice autistic women– wish it wasnt. my ex and i used to have a game where we tried to guess which famous people might be aspies– john mayer and miley cyrus? love the former, the latter is growing on me (minus her politics which i find really uninspired.) we go by behaviors we recognize, not “looks” (like some dreadful talk show host might,) and its only guesses.

    heres a theory i just pulled out of nowhere: men are less likely to be diagnosed with anxiety disorders, so they get diagnosed more easily as “asd” or even “ocd.” while autistic women are more likely to get diagnosed with “anxiety” (and medicated for it, which possibly wont do anything) and miss the asd diagnosis altogether. absolutely ZERO science behind this (except the diagnosis as ocd instead part) and the hypothesis needs to be explored. for now its a guess.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I believe like you it is harder to be a female with Asperger’s or Autism than males. I was diagnosed in my teens and I like you have tried to study others in order to try and fit in and now I am a sort of ‘normal’ citizen despite hiding my inner self. I feel your pain as I know what it is like to be different and be judged because of it. But just keep yourself smiling as life will get better and there are some people in the world who can accept you for who you are. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I am still discovering myself and how much I had learnt to hide and suppress. The result for me was anger, depression and self loathing. I have started to wonder if the different presentations of autistic males and females is not just about sociatlal norms. Could it also be linked to genetically programmed responses in nervous system governing the fight, flight freeze response? Are men more predisposed to physical response and therefor more noticeable?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This line resonated the most ‘Growing up we felt alien but did not know why.’
    I used to tell people at school I think differently from you. I don’t know what it is but I do. They all just thought I was mad!
    I can’t wait until they take autism seriously in girls just as they do boys!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I had to study people in high school to figure out how to fit in, too. Back then (almost 30 years ago), autism itself wasn’t even being diagnosed much, let alone in women. I agree with your assessment of why it is easier to see in boys than girls. I also understand losing who I really was. One day when I was particularly good at faking it – being like everyone else, the friend I was with said that was the most fun she had ever had with me and she hoped I would always be like that. It had been one of the hardest, most frustrating days for me, as it wasn’t at all who I really am. So I then realized that I will never be good friends with that person, too much work for me. Thankfully, I have friends that are able to accept a lot of me for who I am, while I learn to temper myself enough to not be totally selfish!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Heather, about 34 years ago I was helping a co-worker with “hacking”, and it occurred to me that this should be a fun activity, so I said, “This is a lot of fun.”. My co-worker (not exactly colleagues; we worked in different departments) thought I was his type of people, and we remained friends at work, until we both became victims of a 50% lay off. My work friend thought I was a “bum” (his words) for not trying to maintain the friendship after our employer axed us, but I thought we had a good friendship; i.e., friendships that have their start in “faking it” behavior can be rewarding. I didn’t have to fabricate a 100% new person, so I guess my comment is just an affirmation of your, “…friends that are able to accept a lot of me for who I am”.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I’ve always preferred to be invisible, as an individual, but it wasn’t until late in life that I realized I’d always stood out as being somehow different — and why. I grew up long before autism or asperger’s were known to the public, so I had no basis to understand it. It was wonderful to be able, at almost 70, to give up blaming myself for my “faults.”

    Liked by 3 people

  8. Hey, Catana — I hear you — I just turned 69, and while I’m not sure I’d qualify for a diagnosis (I’ve tried so hard for so long to be who I’m “supposed” to be, I hardly know who I actually am — I’m an actor who’s morphed into the role he’s playing), this blog is making a world of difference for me. Literally, a world of difference. I think I’m slowly starting to be able to separate from the role and be OK with it.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Nice to meet another silver surfer, Spyder. I was making notes tiday for a future post on my new blog — about why I tested, and still test, right on the borderline of Aspie on those online diagnostic tests. I think we answer the questions based on who we are now, with all our learning and accomodations, instead of what we used to be, confused as heck and not able to figure out why.

      Liked by 3 people

  9. I’m just a month into knowing I am autistic. I’ve had various reactions to my announcement. Many have been supportive. Special education teachers, in particular, telling me, “Doesn’t it explain a lot?” Of course, it does! Then, a few other well-meaning folks responded with, “I think there’s a little bit of aspie in all of us.” Well, if I had told them I had epilepsy would they have said, “I think there’s a little bit of epilepsy…”. I rather doubt it.

    The autism spectrum isn’t the common cold. Maybe they were trying to make me feel not so bad about my disorder. They didn’t need to since I’m much better off with a diagnosis than still being in the dark and thinking still I was a being from another planet.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. HI Anne,

    These are great insights. Keep on sharing your thoughts. That is how change happens. My wife and I are both teachers so we know how Autism works and what to watch for. Thanks for the reminders.

    Gary

    Liked by 2 people

  11. I’m a female assigned trans guy (identifying as both male and genderqueer). I can relate somewhat to what you’re saying. I transitioned at 21. I still don’t have a diagnosis at 28 but am hoping to get one in the next few years. I feel like in one way it’s more acceptable for those perceived as girls to be ‘quirky’. Things are seen as oddities or as being a tomboy rather than as being autism. It’s very frustrating.

    It’s interesting to wonder whether things had of been different if I’d have have been assigned male at birth. I imagine my exact behaviour would have flagged up possible autism though I can’t be sure..i also feel I learned to hide and many of my teachers were oblivious.

    Do you think autism presents itself differently in women/girls or do you think that it’s the lens that others are viewing it through that makes it seem that way?

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I wonder if women are able to blend in and mimic more successfully than men? Women have likely had more practice as, after all, the pressures on women to fit in, comply, be a certain shape and size, even think a certain way sometimes are pressures that come at them from all angles in modern society. In many ways women are still not treated equally and are even oppressed and perhaps this leads them to blend in more effectively for self preservation.
    Maybe it’s just that women are more mature at an earlier age so are able to, if perhaps not deal with, at least identify their differences earlier.
    Whatever the reasons people who are ‘different’ always seem to suffer in this poorly named civilisation of ours. Unless someone is rich or famous it seems. If not then most people will ignore them. Even as a ‘civilised’ advanced species were still (most people) able to walk passed someone homeless, begging, starving on the street that swept for us that very morning (so as not to upset our delicate natures).
    Okay my ramble chip is overheating so I’ll cut it short. Doh!
    All that being said, not all of us are blind, some of us see people with autism and then, before we know it, were married to them. 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Here is a secret. Everything you said… just switch it to a masculine tone, and you’d still be accurate. It is a cycle. Adults try to force kids and others to behave and think a certain way. They want all of society to fit inside their bubble, and be, as they were forced into being. It is not a woman thing. It is a people thing. I know, for I have gone through all you speak up. “Be strong” “Act like a man” “You’re suppose to be a man” “Men don’t feel they act” “Stop talking. Women talk” All these things a male goes through and not only do the parents force these ideologies onto their kid, but the kid’s peers as well as TV, and movies. All you see and go through as a woman, males go through it. As I’ve said MANY times, you have strummed my life with your words. Just keep in mind, that you are not alone, and never have been. You’ve merely been separated from those like you, forced to think no one like you exist, and now that you are free, you must still overcome those subconscious beliefs that were never yours to begin with.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Men can be invisible too. I was told that I don’t look autistic before. It sounds like attempts to “pass” and suppress stimming are required for autism to be invisible. I think “passing” takes a lot of work because we’re using our conscious mind to do the work of our subconscious mind. Non-autistics may be able to update 20 or more social cues together many times in a conversation.

    Amythest Schaber has a video about “passing”. It talked about the advantages and disadvantages of it.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I know the feeling. I firmly believe I am autistic and no one believes me. certain members of my family worked with special needs children and say “I know what Autistic looks like and you aint it” I am having yo go privately and try and raise the funds to be tested its going to cost me a lot of money and I have to hide it from my family as well as they don’t believe me. hoping to make some friends and also possibly to do some fundraising for my tests but don’t know yet what to do… Kind of lost

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Your post made me uncomfortable because it describes what I went through.

    I hated so much who I have forced myself to become that I got suicidal. I either had to give up the facade, thus giving up my “family” and “friends” or I had to stop living.

    I chose to be myself and live. It was very hard and everyone I knew gave up on me. I still don’t have any friends but I am married to the only person I’ve met that loves who I really am.

    Sometimes I wish I didn’t waste all that time trying to make other people happy. But then I remind myself that all the “mistakes” I made led me to meet my husband.

    I have ADHD and ASD.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Took me too long to realize this too. My happiness is not tied to the happiness of my family, or anyone else. I wish them to be happy but if they wont love me as i am I don’t need them. Wish I would have known earlier.

      Like

      1. Exactly. I wish there was more information (and blogs like this) around when I was young and struggling with my identity. But I am glad to be part of this now. It means that more young people like us can find their way quicker than we did.

        Liked by 1 person

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