Recently I have had to come to terms with the fact that 1) I am somewhere on the autistic spectrum and 2) I am working in a field that is not ever going to be very accommodating for me. Advice and pointers needed; secret spices, more info and toy inside.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (14 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
...okay, sorry, let's just pull that band-aid off right now: there is no toy. Sorry. I was just being silly. Ahem, that out of the way, the story so far: I am female, late 20s, and have long struggled with being slightly "different," particularly in social interaction (those cues? the ones you want me to catch? that you're mad at me for not catching? that you're sending now because you're mad at me for not catching? yeah, I don't see those, you have to actually talk to me) and sensory processing (I have no filters: every sound, every color, every smell, it's all cranked to 11 all the time). Now, my family have long suspected some variant of autism, and I have long brushed that off as yet another shot in the dark attempt at explaining what is "wrong" with me. But--various circumstances over the past year have exposed me to more detailed information on autism and Asperger syndrome, particularly expressions that don't conform to the stereotype of "hyper-obsessive male engineer math wiz." And I'm finding that I relate to those expressions a great deal. Long story short: my understanding and education are still ongoing (and I'd appreciate recommendations for books!), but it's something I've looked into more and more over the course of the year and, yes, as it turns out, I am autistic.
I'm also unemployed. I lost my job about two months ago. Now: this is not the first time this has happened to me. Working is extremely difficult for me because:
1) I need routine. New environments and not knowing what to expect throw me off really badly.
2) I am easily overwhelmed. Again, no filters, and sensory overload happens quite easily if I'm not fully familiar with an environment and/or in a place with few stimuli. When sensory overload happens, I can fall into a panic attack and am essentially nonfunctional for a bit.
3) I have middling to bad social anxiety, and lots and lots of trouble communicating.
4) I'm intelligent, but I'm really stupid. This one's hard to explain. It's not even a "book smart"/"street smart" dichotomy. It's more like I can't do autopilot, when most of what everyone does each day is in autopilot. I have to consciously do all my cognition and motor skillsing by hand. It's...difficult.
5) I have weird ways of doing things. I'm really bad at following steps and methods laid out by others. This is a biggie because...
...I work in healthcare, as a nurse. The majority of nursing environments trigger bad sensory overload for me, I rarely have any idea what I'll be doing when I go in each day and following prescribed steps is super important. As far as relating to patients, conveying empathy and comfort, I am wonderful. Probably because it's such a highly structured situation, and tends to happen in low-stimulus private rooms; I don't know. It doesn't really matter, because there is just no way on earth I can keep doing nursing. It hurts my brain, and making mistakes and losing my job are inevitable.
The good news is: I'm still going to school for my RN license and my bachelor's degree, and have a few years left. So, it's not absolutely devastating if I turn around now. The bad news is: I'm almost thirty and haven't settled into any kind of career I can support myself on. I'm really bad at being an adult; I depend on my family for almost everything. Over the past two or three years, I've made a lot of progress as far as becoming more independent, but I still can't really survive on my own.
More bad news: I live in an isolated region of the US. Resources are...limited. There's a local MHMR branch, possibly a few doctors with experience, occasional college courses on autism, but that's about it as far as autism-specific assistance goes. I'm about an hour and a half's drive (three hours both ways; expensive and exhausting; but not too bad) from three different colleges, and attend a local satellite campus of one that's just down the street. I'm looking into alternate courses to take, but... I'm stumped.
I just don't know. What occupations are there that are fairly accommodating to people with autism/Asperger? Library science has been suggested to me, and seems like something that would fit me well (except, could I realistically expect to find work ever?). I have a fairly strong interest in biology (except, no idea how to follow that into a career) and literature/art (college professor seems the only avenue there). I'm a decent to good writer and have had some work published before (but I've written off writing because how does anyone make real money doing it?). I am super bad at math and do not understand the engineering mindset at all; programming or IT stuff is impossible. I do have a background now in nursing/health sciences, but I don't think there are many careers available there that would fit my abilities while also paying the bills.
Any suggestions would be great; or resources for career hunting for autistic adults; or resources for improving literacy of "basic life stuff" (not so much "how to budget!" as "here are a bunch of important little things normal people don't think of at all that you, as an autistic weirdo, will have never noticed before"); or anecdotes, book recs, whatever. I'm casting a wide net here, because I really have no idea.
tl;dr: Recently lost a job due to mistake almost certainly related to autism and funky sensory processing, tired of doing it, looking for a job that plays nice with autism and funky sensory processing.
Throwaway email for those who'd rather reply that way: aspiegirlthrowawaything at gmail dot com