Soliciting advice from fem,NB who've been diagnosed autistic as adults
June 29, 2021 10:16 PM   Subscribe

I'm a 40yo cis woman who has been exploring adult autistic diagnoses for a while and that feeling of "this makes so many things clearer" is becoming harder to ignore. I'd love to hear your Fem and NB experiences in and learn from you!

I'm curious if you pursued a diagnosis or didn't - why or why not? If you did, what has changed for you?

Do you think you could have developed those strategies/knowledge without the formal diagnosis and if so, how? What has helped you?

I'm particularly interested in career / professional impacts or changes you've made and how those were received at work. What wasn't helpful? Did you work with a coach , and if they were helpful, I'd love their info (us-based, remote is ok) if you can share it here?

If you've been in therapy, was it helpful? (I am, though not directly for this and I'm finding it not as helpful as I'd like for what my goals were when I started).

I also experience anxiety and some depression, treated with ndris, ssris and exercise. I'm dyslexic, and I've wondered if I'm slightly ADD. Otherwise mostly healthy.

Was there anything you've read/watched that sticks out for you?

Any stories, encouragement, additional reading or other resource pointers are much appreciated! I'm leaning away from a formal diagnosis but I would like help - therapy, professional coaching, even basic role-playing, but I'm not sure how much can be done outside of a diagnosis or where to start if I'm bypassing formal diagnosis.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (6 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
I have been treated for depression with SSRIs for about 40 years. Late in life, Autism became known about and suggested an explanation for my peculiar logic and weird socialization. I did not want to have the diagnosis on my chart, so in my fifties, a physiologist friend did several diagnostics on me and said I would indeed be considered on the spectrum. This gave me a framework to explore how to work with my differences and modify my behaviour. Things about me that were always odd, such as preferring to bow to other people rather than shake hands or hug became understandable. There was an AskMe awhile ago about learning empathy that I answered that may be helpful.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 6:13 AM on June 30, 2021 [3 favorites]

I'm confident that I am autistic. I never pursued a formal diagnosis because I didn't see much point in it for me. The services available in my area are not useful to me, and from what I've read about therapeutic possibilities, I think it's unlikely they would help me. I've always gotten more out of doing my own research and using my time and money on stress reduction (massages, etc.) than therapy (which I did not find useful at all, even though I did ask them to provide autism-informed assistance when appropriate). This presumably varies depending on the therapist and one's needs.

Career-wise, whenever possible I work part-time (3-4 days a week) to give me more time to deal with my life outside of work. I've been lucky enough to have a job that is reasonably accepting of people who are not neurotypical and that uses my skills effectively; I know that's not always easy to find. My career has been somewhat limited because I won't play politics, do a bunch of self-promotion, or put myself out there as a presenter etc. However, if I did those things I would be putting myself in a position less suited for me, so that's fine.
posted by metasarah at 7:45 AM on June 30, 2021 [2 favorites]

I may or may not get back to this because I’m on my phone, but please send me a MeFi Mail if you want to talk more. There’s a lot of us on Twitter - start with @NortherlyRose. Also check out
posted by matildaben at 8:56 AM on June 30, 2021 [1 favorite]

I have not been tested, and I have not had therapy that was specific to autism.

One of my problems is autism-related irritability, and risperidone helps with that.

My co-workers know that I am sensitive to noise, and are usually accommodating about that. I got noise-cancelling headphones for Christmas, and they are really good.
posted by NotLost at 10:13 AM on June 30, 2021

I was doing some reading just yesterday about Autistic Burnout, as I have been very burned out recently, and while not formally diagnosed, am very likely on the spectrum. May be interesting for you, especially if you know you are masking (trying to act neurotypical).

I've had a selection of bosses who have been fine to let me be me, and have for the last decade-plus been working at least part-time remote. When I am in the office or travelling I have my Bose earbuds in my ears ALL THE TIME.

I have worked in consulting for much of my career, which is all about asking questions and communicating clearly about what is needed -- it is how you build trust with clients and coworkers. It also happens to reassure me that I am doing my work in a way people can understand and gives me a good pathway to feedback, which I need since I am horrible at guessing what people are thinking if they don't tell me. It makes me surprisingly good in such a setting.

I also found I have a knack for presenting. I can't read faces or body language, so I don't tend to get nervous, as long as I know my material or am confident about the topic. It doesn't matter much to me if I am presenting to 1 or 1000 people once I get going. I have listened to a ton of people talking who are good at talking to groups and have used what I hear there to improve my own abilities. I include these two examples as your autistic tendencies may actually make you very good at some things that wouldn't intuitively be a "good" place for autistic people.

I am starting therapy now. I tried working with a coach in the past, but didn't end up being very helpful, as the strategies the coach focused on tended to be targeted toward lower functioning folks. We were working remotely (way pre-COVID), which I think made it difficult.

Overall, my strategy has always been about continuous improvement, trying stuff to see if I like it / have a knack for it, and hunting down techniques and people who can help me on my way to reaching a goal at one point or another or resolving a barrier that comes to my attention. I have read ALL (well, okay, most) of the popular self-help / productivity books out there and have synthesized tools from them that work best for me as part of this process. I have hit some things in the last few months that those strategies are no longer working for, and was recommended to therapy, so I am trying that (as noted above) for the first time now.

Oh, and meditation. Been doing it regularly for the last 7 years or so. Gamechanger.
posted by chiefthe at 1:50 PM on June 30, 2021 [1 favorite]

I realized I was autistic and ADHD last winter. Got a non-clinical assessment three months ago. I'm 32, non-binary, heavy masker, long history of burnout and general life messiness. Honestly? I wanted the certainty and validation of a formal diagnosis. I was tired of running my mind in loops trying to figure out what was wrong, why I was different, why everyone thought I was "so smart and happy" when I was living a private nightmare and couldn't keep a job. Having another neurodivergent person listen to my story and tell me that I was both correct in my judgment and part of a proud lineage was profoundly affirming.

What's changed? Well, I'm no longer filled with shame. I have hope that I can craft a good life for myself. I reached out to my family for help, moved home to get my bearings, and hired a therapist, executive function coach and physical therapist to help me relearn how to use my brain and body. I expect I have another year or two of hard work ahead. For me, these were obvious next steps, a direct result of my new understanding.

Career — I've finally accepted some truths about myself. I prefer working alone or in blitzes of short term creative collaboration. I will never have a 9 to 5. I love to learn but I doubt I will finish undergrad, too boring and rigid. I will probably run my own business and keep weird hours. Fuck the service industry, I'm never taking a social job again unless it's a 1-on-1 consultancy. My brain is interest-driven so passion is key, I only thrive in roles that harness my interests and ability to hyperfocus. I'm not going anywhere with fluorescent lights ever again. I don't care for money or social striving in the least.

Coaching — I'm learning to keep sensory blockers on me at all times. Organize tasks into projects, not lists. Manage energy, not time. Stim on a schedule. Use a habit tracker. Use visual cues instead of relying on poor short term memory. Decision matrices help me assign priority when my brain can't. Maintaining a clean and aesthetically pleasant work studio is not optional, it's vital for my ability to focus. Before when I was skating from crisis to crisis, I was afraid that saying "No" would shut doors I'd later need, now I see that it frees me to fully engage in the paths I've chosen. It's all about running experiments and making gradual tweaks to align your neurology with your goals. I swear I'd tried every productivity system under the sun before, but I really needed outside feedback to help me put it all together. There are a lot of moving parts in a day!

Therapy — I have complex trauma from being an autistic person in a neurotypical world. The amount of masking I was doing to survive was extremely harmful to my well-being as a healthy autistic adult. After decades of performing, I felt like I didn't know who I was! So now I do long-term psychotherapy with an eclectic, gestalt practitioner. Our actual work is a blend of Internal Family Systems narration, mindfulness and somatic exercises. We aim for things like regulating emotions, exploring boundaries, connecting with my core self and choosing grounded strategies to support me in life's daily challenges. Meditation, journals, daily rituals and exercise are all things I've done before to manage my mental health, but I've noticed I'm engaging with new vigor as a result of my time in therapy. The changes are subtle but cumulative. My relationships are improving as I step further into my real self. I also support my wellness with food choices and supplements, they really help to regulate my mood and energy levels.

The best thing I can say is: work with people you trust who are actually autistic. NT people just do not understand what we go through, many of their tips will not apply to you.

Assessments: Sarah Hendrickx or Natalie Engelbrecht
Coaching: Jess Hendrickx


Embrace Autism Quizzes & Blog
Samantha Craft's Autistic Traits Checklist
Tania Marshall's Moving Toward a Female Profile of Autism

"Autism is a spectrum doesn't mean what you think"
"Masking is a trauma response"
"Laziness Does Not Exist" (also a book)


Women and Girls with Autism Spectrum Disorder by Sarah Hendrickx
You Mean I'm Not Lazy, Stupid or Crazy?! by Kelly and Ramundo
ADHD 2.0 by Hallowell and Ratey

Academics with ADHD: Making the university workplace more accessible
This is how you treat ADHD based off science

Facebook, TikTok and Twitter all have strong communities!
posted by lloquat at 8:06 PM on June 30, 2021 [14 favorites]

« Older Move application to cloud? Don't know how to...   |   Miami -> Chicago Road Trip Food Recommendations? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.