On 3rd October 2021 I’m running the ‘virtual’ London Marathon for the National Autistic Society and today is my ‘Coming Out’ day…
On 22nd June 2021 I was diagnosed Autistic after 45 years of searching for answers to unfathomable questions and being mis-diagnosed with Anxiety disorders. I AM anxious, all of the time in fact, but that’s because I am Autistic not because I am mentally ill per se. Today I am owning My Autism, and the Awesome that it also provides . I don’t need you to believe in the Awesome, I just need to.
To those who I could never express how I felt to or who I walked away from because of that, who’s name I forgot, or who thought I was quiet or aloof, or to those I interrupted when I tried to guess when to speak in a room full of people, these are just a few of the many parts of my Autism. Please try to understand that I’ve been a square peg in a round hole all my life.
As a neurodiverse person in a neurotypical world I was discriminated against from day one because society expects everyone to be neurotypical, I am not. I socially mask pretty much all of the time in order to fit in, and with most people in my life, and I have various masks (…so if you’re thinking, she doesn’t look autistic, well yes that’s because I’ve spent the last 45 years crafting the art of masking – I’m a chameleon and I’m good at it, mostly). I have to work incredibly hard to do the job I do as a trainer and running my own company, but my own suffering is what drives me to help others through my work.
Today I’m removing the mask to reveal the real me, and publicly in writing, because writing is what I find easiest and where I can express myself, and because masking is totally exhausting! Sadly masking is also a strong predictor of suicide in Autistics, it is dangerous. I personally cannot run and mask at the same time so I am running solo on 3rd October and will do the Marathon virtually, all 26.2 miles of it!
I’m doing this for me as part of my acceptance of being Autistic, but also to raise awareness of Autism in girls and women in the hope that we stop missing girls who are autistic because they are well behaved and quiet at school and because they are high achievers or successful. They are often successful because of the awesome side of their Autism. If you know or support girls with relentless anxiety (or depression) please stop to question whether there is more to this person than you or they yet know, or whether the professionals have failed to find the fundamental issue. I found my own answer months earlier from a social media post describing girls with Autism, I knew immediately. It wasn’t a clinical professional who found the answer, it was me, though it still required a clinical professional to medically diagnose it. It should never have taken 45 difficult years.
My other hope in raising awareness is to discourage comments like “we’re all a bit autistic” or “well, we’re all on the spectrum somewhere.” Only if 99% are at zero autism and 1% full. Such statements, often well intended, take my own and other neurodiverse people’s experiences and re-group us as neurotypical, which we are clinically proven (to the required level) not to be, and many of us have fought tirelessly to prove that and to find the truth to our suffering. It’s like saying we’re all a bit pregnant when someone is feeling nauseous and a bit bloated. Such statements invalidate 45 years of painful searching, daily anxiety, chronic IBS, and invalidate each and every time I’ve felt that life is not worth living. If you believe such statements as your truth keep it for you, or maybe research it and see if it is in fact true rather than something you’ve heard along the way. For me it does more harm than good to my experience, but I cannot express that to you directly when you say it because of how my Autism effects me.
If you’d like to help me on 3rd October, and all the other #lostgirls of my generation, you might like to support my fundraising for the National Autistic Society, and we all thank you in advance for your generosity 💖 #nomorelostgirls #autism https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Jane-McNeice