Friday, August 10, 2012

Aspie / Autistic Girls & Ladies, You are Not Alone

Aspierations Friends,

This blog entry is for the ladies... those of us gals who are on the autism spectrum, whether we're diagnosed or not.  Parents, spouses, family and friends who love these amazing women, you can peek too! 




Whether we call ourselves Aspies or Aspergirls or Asperkids or autistic or Autie or girl, lady, woman or something else...

This is for you...

You. Are. Not. Alone.

Even when you feel isolated, even when you think no-one around you gets it, even when you have gone through the most exhausting day trying to navigate the increasingly confusing world of neurotypical speak... you are not alone.  When you wonder if this planet is really the one you were meant to be on and that your presence here is some weird cosmic injustice, you are not alone.

As it turns out, we Aspie gals often feel growing up that we are from another planet.  Another plane of existence. Anywhere but here...  because somehow HERE just does not fit.  It can't possibly.

We think and speak a foreign language (Aspie / Autie) from the day we are born and our second language we spend our lives trying to pick up is neurotypical speak.  Oh YES, many of us women are pretty darn good at faking neurotypical speak, pretending to be "normal" and so forth.  So many of us women and girls are not diagnosed on the spectrum nor even considered for it.  We're unknowingly good at carrying off the facade that we're okay and often have the world fooled... even though inside we feel like we're crumbling. Of course that stress may lead to other things... eating disorders (trying to get some control), workaholism, alcoholism... obsessive-compulsive challenges... which of course will often lead to or coincide with anxiety, depression, PTSD... and a vulnerability that makes us prone to victimization and abuse.

Many of our sisters have never heard of Asperger's or autism in girls and so they have no idea what that might look like.  Some see it as a stigma or are in denial.  Some of us grew up having never known such a thing existed and thought it was just us... something wrong with us...

We go through our days and evenings trying our best to get by following social unspoken rules that don't have much logic and don't match our concrete, tendency toward black and white thinking. By the time we're ready to go to bed, we're EXHAUSTED.

Imagine going to a foreign country and not knowing the language but you have to be able to speak the language in order to be able to get anything accomplished.  Eventually you're going to have to pick up on bits and pieces and eventually you may even become fluent

.... but it's still not your native tongue and while you're learning that language and being immersed in a culture that is not your own, you are constantly being bombarded with foreign lingo and dialect coming at you from many different angles.  Who wouldn't be tired?

Being an Autism Spectrum Gal in a world of neurotypical speak is Overwhelming with a capital O.

Many of us are great actresses both on stage and in our daily lives. (It can be often be so much more fun playing a part that is not ourselves!!! ESCAPE!)

We are very good at convincing the outside world that we are part of their culture and especially if we know nothing or little about autism or Asperger's, we do a pretty darn good acting job convincing others we fit in. As it is very common for autism and Asperger's to run in families, it's very possible the ones closest to us don't even notice our struggles as big deals. In fact... when we're with people like ourselves, we might even feel more like we fit.  Yet once we get out of that comfortable safety zone we realize that without a net, flying solo can be quite scary indeed.

As Dr. Stephen Shore says in many of his speeches, "if you've met one person with autism, you've met one person with autism."  That goes for Aspies too.

For those of us on the spectrum, we'll always be a foreign language student when we're among native speakers. A number of years ago, a website popped up called WrongPlanet.net.  Why do you think that is?  So many of us feel the same way!

To give a visual, if we were part of a 500 piece Springbok puzzle (my favorite brand growing up) trying to find where our piece fit in with the others in the picture, we would often feel like someone was playing a trick on us and that our piece was part of another puzzle altogether.

And it is...

It is part of a much bigger picture puzzle.  A glorious one. One we ARE part of.  Where we are NOT alone.

We should never ever need to feel ashamed of who we are because we feel different.  In my heart of hearts, I truly believe (and I don't know if you're spiritual or not but I'll just put it out there) that God meant for us to be in this world and He gave us each beautiful gifts and talents for us to utilize and grow. He meant for our lights to shine and even though we may not yet understand how that is all supposed to take place or why we go through some of the experiences we do, He does have a place for us and we are part of his Kingdom.

In my opinion, this world here is just temporary until someday we are with God in heaven. We have a mission or calling to fulfill while we're here and then someday we'll be back to our real home.

I don't normally talk about religion on my blog as I know it's a subject of great controversy and quite frankly, it's personal.  I believe in a personal relationship with God and do my best to love my neighbor and not judge others. I do attend a local church but I believe that the most meaningful conversations and soul-changing revelations I have had in my life are in the privacy of my own home, in my own bedroom with God.  Just opening up my Bible, doing some Bible study and conversing with God...



I realize some don't believe in God and as a woman whose faith has been tested many times, my journey to where I am today has been a rocky road.  Yet I believe that the adversity I have gone through has been for a reason and that reason is so I can share with others and fulfill the calling God has for my life. I am on the path I am today because I am the sum of my past and I am living in today and I'm open to what the future holds. I am following my calling that God has given me. I am remembering that He is always there with me and for me... and if I feel alone, He will always be there and He created me and loves me for just who I am.

We are all imperfect, all fallible, all sinners. If your religious beliefs are different than mine, that's okay... I just hope we can respect one another.

Because sister... you are not alone.

I want to tell you that if you feel like no-one gets you, if you've been living your life exhausted and struggling to find girls, teens, ladies, women that get you for who you are...

Please know, girlfriend...

that there are many of us out there who want to get to know you.  We're searching for similar things.  We have shared experiences.  We have many of the same heart-wrenching challenges and co-morbidities that you do.

You'd be surprised at how much spectrum gals can have in common...

Although this isn't true for all (autism is never one size fits all), here are some commonalities I've personally experienced with gals and women I've met along the spectrum in my life.  Admittedly these are mostly women I've met who would identify as Aspie so if you don't see yourself identifying with all this, that's okay too.  Remember, each of us in this world is unique and wonderful.




Artistic (visually or creatively), prolific writers, perfectionist, passionate, compassionate so much that it hurts, animal lovers, lovers of law, puzzle solvers, mystery enthusiasts.

Many of us are drawn to words and teaching and performing arts. We mimic and love drama. We have what many would call a bizarre sense of humor and often laugh socially inappropriately. We want to counsel others and make this world a better place. We root for the underdog perhaps because we sense a vulnerability in her that we see in ourselves as well.

Hygiene is sometimes an afterthought. Comfort comes before style. Fashion is not our forte' but we may become very good at it by studying magazines... almost as if we're rehearsing for a part. Unfortunately, we sometimes buy into needing to look like what we see and can end up with distorted body issues and self-esteem problems, especially when we're growing up.

Some of us are extremely good at sports, some not so much. Many of us love to read anything related to special interests and often end up teaching what we know...

We may find ourselves with male friends, older friends or younger friends but during our adolescent and teenage years, it is very difficult for us to have female peer friends.  Interestingly enough, a lot of the women I've talked with on the spectrum happen to have also grown up with friends who later came out as gay.  I'm not sure why that is but it seems to happen often enough that it's noticeable.  Perhaps we are drawn to one another because we both feel we're in a closet of sorts hiding?

We also have challenges... sensory issues (smell, taste, textures, sound, etc), tummy issues, naivety, feeling super smart yet oh so dumb at the same time, eating disorders, compulsions, obsessions, battles with workaholism, tendencies to isolate ourselves, depression, social anxiety, greater risks of sexual abuse...

We prefer email to phone, one-on-one to group, don't particularly enjoy strangers popping up at our door and many of us think visually and have great long term memories (but not so good at the short-term...).

If people were to describe us they might use words like kind, compassionate, loyal, honest, bright, intense and driven.

The challenges can really bring us down, make us feeling vulnerable, unsafe and unworthy. Yet sisters... it is time we rise up and are here for each other.  I never was very good at the sorority stuff in college (that's a very long story) but in the sisterhood of gals and women on the autism spectrum, perhaps it is time we have our own club... our own Autistic Sisterhood, a place where we can go and be ourselves and let our lights shine.



I co-founded a non-profit last year and if you've spent any time at my blog, you know it's my special interest. We are a 501(c)(3) public charity named Autism Empowerment and you can find us at www.autismempowerment.org.

We also invite you to check out our radio station at:
http://www.blogtalkradio.com/autismempowerment
or search for us in iTunes.

All our shows are FREE and we have some great interviews in archive. Just search for "Autism Empowerment" and you can hear interview with Dr. Liane Holliday Willey, Jennifer Cook O'Toole and other powerful advocates.

Autism Empowerment wants to a positive Accept, Enriching, Inspiring, Empowering source of sisterhood and we will be developing programs and resources for our non-profit to do just that.

If you like the idea, let us know and if you can afford to chip in, that would be great! We can use the help, the financial resources, the fund-raising, the promotion, the creativity and the brainpower. Please support our mission! We need to be here for our sisters.  If not us, then who?

In my next blog, I'm going to include a list of resources for our sisterhood to reach out to but ladies, always know you can reach out to me.  You are welcome to post on this blog as well.  I'll be writing again very soon!

Love you!
Karen

1 comment:

  1. thank you so much for writing this. its so nice to know that i am not alone.

    ReplyDelete