Jackie Schuld Art Therapy Blog

Late-Identified Autism Interview: It Feels Like I Am Starting My Life After a Rebirth

This is the15th interview in my series Interviewing Late-Identified Autistics. Jean Grey is a late-identified autistic. My questions are in bold and Jean's responses follow in regular typeface.

 

How old were you when you learned you were autistic?


I figured out that I am Autistic in late February of this year (2022) at 31 years old.


How did you learn you are autistic?


Two big situations in my life led to me realizing earlier this year that I am Autistic with ADHD, several learning disabilities, and have CPTSD. I have slowly pieced all of these things together in the last four years of my life.


REALIZING MY OWN DIAGNOSIS FROM PEER INTERACTIONS

I joined Tiktok in January 2022 after just moving to Texas with my husband and three children. I began making content about having Complex PTSD and ADHD (diagnosed), which led me to connecting with other content creators and finding content about CPTSD & ADHD. I found friendships and knowledge from those hundreds of creators. I then discovered the ADHD to being Autistic content (pipeline, as they call it). Everyone’s stories could have been my own. I felt very validated by their descriptions of communication issues, sensory issues, and having meltdowns. It made me question if I was also Autistic, so I began researching all I could and took several assessments online. I joined other social media apps to look for ADHD and Autistic communities, finding thousands of people I resonated with in life experiences as well.


MY MOTHERHOOD JOURNEY WITH AUTISM AND ADHD

My first born child had been diagnosed Autistic when she was about 8 officially, but the pediatricians had suspected it since she was a toddler. I had my daughter when I was just 16 years old and raised her all alone until I was 25 and she was 7. I had fled my abusive childhood home and went no contact with my biological parents + stepfather that same year, when I was just 3 months pregnant. I moved in with relatives to finish Senior year while pregnant and had my daughter Thanksgiving weekend break. She had some physical milestone delays as a baby and then speech delays, slow response to her name when she was a baby through toddler years.


I went on to College and lived with her in a campus apartment for those next few years independently. She received state provided services through medicaid (early intervention) and was “suspected Autistic” but we did not truly get a diagnosis on paper until she was older. I was not taught or explained much other than she would be delayed and possibly need physical therapy as well as speech for many years to come. It was honestly scary for me, as a single young mom who came from a lot of trauma and was on her own to figure things out. I decided to intuitively raise my child and she was my little best friend. She had some “delays” as Dr.s put it - but as a mom I was so close with her and did not see her autism in the same light as they did. I just saw my child, who was super creative, empathic around people, amazing with animals and babies, a rock collector and had MANY special interests she would proudly tell me about. I felt a lot of pride in being her mom and felt like Dr.s were ignorant at the time. I did not know very much about Autism but I knew my kid was awesome.


I was terrified of dating and bringing in a stranger who may not understand her. I met my now husband when I was 25 and graduating after 6 years of combined Community College and University (Stony Brook NY). My boyfriend I had met through a dating app, and he was ready to settle down and have a family. We felt like best friends and really connected. Dating him felt easy and natural, like we had known each other forever. My daughter and him bonded right away and have been close ever since (8 years later). He became her chosen daddy, which she decided on her own. Since then we have gotten married and had two boys together.


"2020 with my husband and three kids at the park"

As of today I have a 14 year old girl, 6 year old boy, and 5 year old boy. ALL THREE of my kids are neurodivergent. My boys are not medically diagnosed yet, but now that I know my own diagnosis, I am 99% sure of all three kids having ADHD and my oldest + youngest having Autism. I am very sure I am Autistic with ADHD and CPTSD. I see myself in all of them. And though my husband is only biologically the boys father, I am their mom. And it is quite obvious from seeing them be just like I was as a kid. I can tell they have some learning disabilities as well. This fueled me to also connect with the Neurodivergent communities on social media, as I wanted to learn more about parenting neurodivergent kids. What I did not realize was that a lot of the challenges I face as a parent come from ME being neurodivergent and not so much what my kids are like.


ALL of these above experiences pushed me to take online assessments from Embracing Autism and Exceptional Individuals (.com). I scored very high on the RAADS, Camouflaging traits, ADHD, and AQ tests. I then had my kids each go through the assessments with me. I reviewed all of the results with my husband, including my own, so he would understand us better. For the last few years I had really been in tune with my kids feelings and experiences, while he was new to parenting and had more struggles with it. This helped us a lot as a family to understand some lifestyle changes we needed to make to better accommodate and teach our kids. It also helped our marriage a lot, as we have struggled with communication problems and difficulty setting routines in our home for a while. It has helped us to now realize we have a neurodivergent household (though only my oldest as a formal diagnosis on paper).


How did you decide whether to self-identify or diagnose?


I continued to connect with Autistic and ADHD content creators on Tiktok, then branched out to using Instagram and twitter. I took those assessments and felt like so much clicked for me.


I had already known I had ADHD since 2020 when learning about it and speaking with my then Dr. I opted to not take medications at the time and learned (with the help of my husband) about vitamins + nootropics for mental focus, energy, and caffeine support which helped many people with ADHD. I decided for the last year of 2021 to experiment trying different vitamins and diet changes to see what worked for me. That improved my lifestyle dramatically.

Hearing content creators talk about their suspected Autism after treating their ADHD made me literally leap out of my seat one morning. I had been treating my ADHD for 10 months already but still struggled daily with a lot of things I felt meant “something was wrong with me” still. I was really deeply internalizing my struggles as flaws and felt like a shitty mom, partner, person etc. I have always felt like I am immature for my age, delayed, messy, an a horrible manager of time or routines. ALL OF MY CONCERNS WERE ADDRESSED IN THESE VIDEOS FROM PEOPLE WHO TOTALLY RELATED.


After getting the high score results on my assessments, realizing my biological kids were all like me and all neurodivergent, as well as pulling apart my personality “quirks” into categories based on what I thought I had – It really sunk in for me that I was Autistic. I began making content then (in March) about being self diagnosed Autistic. I felt comfortable saying it, sharing what I was figuring out and what tests I had taken, what I learned about my kids, and what I was changing in my lifestyle to support us all better.


It is now October and I have spent all these months learning ADHD and Autism as special interests. I LIVE and BREATHE my special interests. I need to know EVERYTHING I can about whatever my hyperfocus is. I dove headfirst into this journey and it has changed my life. It has been a brutal and beautiful last seven months or so learning about all of this and making content in real time. Learning I am Autistic fueled my now full time journey as a Content Creator.


How did you feel when you learned you were autistic?


"2008, Graduated H.S. in a new town while living with relatives after leaving my abusive childhood home. My daughter is about 5 months old."

I have been in mourning, shock, overwhelm, burnout, and then delight - in a loop since March. With each month that passes since figuring it all out, I have become more comfortable referring to myself as Autistic with ADHD (AuDHD). My feelings about my past are what have made me mourn. I was raised by neglectful (divorced) abusive parents that I have gone no contact with since I left at 16. They are probably undiagnosed neurodivergent people, due to me processing what they were each like and how their families were… which is hard for me to come to terms with because I both hate and love them. When I have anger and sadness, it comes from realizing I was actually a neglected and traumatized Autistic kid. I think that made what I went through even worse in hindsight. Because I was not just an only child raising myself around neglectful and erratic parents (between two homes)... I was a kid with sensory issues, struggles in building relationships, poor selfcare and virtually no routines in place. I raised myself and learned everything about the world from stumbling through it instead of learning from my parents. I had NO support for my disability which is wild thinking about because I was seen as a gifted, mature, old soul kind of kid. I don’t know how I even survived until 17 given the secret struggles I had with life, let alone being in an abusive family.


The joy parts I feel come from finally realizing at 31 who I am. I have been very obsessed with personality assessments, psychology, human design, astrology, and all other forms of categorizing humans since early College. After leaving my abusive home and becoming a first time mom, I dove into College because i loved school so much. I was a sponge for knowledge and had straight As while living on my own. I majored in Women’s Studies and did a lot of volunteer work / being a peer leader in social justice and feminism. NOW looking back I realize I wanted to understand people because I literally never felt like I comprehended why people did anything. I had and have a strong sense of justice, a passion for understanding people, and a love for helping guide people. I have finally been able to guide myself through the answers I have wondered about myself all my life.


What is your gender? How do you feel this impacted your journey as an autistic individual?


This may not be too relevant for this question - but I do identify as a woman and only this year adopted on the identity a queer. I am married to a man that is cis straight. But I have know I was bisexual since I was a litte girl. I liked girls in Elementary school before even having my first guy crush. I have only had 3 serious relationships, all with men. The third being my husband. But when it comes to how I feel about gender and sexuality - I took Women’s Studies up as a major in College to dive into learning about Gender, Gender Roles, Personality, behaviors, and social justice. I was fascinated by all of what my major explored, especially gender roles and women fighting for independence / freedom. I have always told my husband I do not agree with gender roles because i just do not understand why we have them. I am very in support of people knowing who they are and being authentic. I am in support of people choosing and using what pronouns feel right to them. I am finally this year identifying as Queer and learning all about what that means to me (ten years after studying it in College, which I think was a subconscious move). So though I am still processing what these things me to me personally, I think because I am Autistic it is why I gravitated towards Gender Studies and have been an ally to the LGBTQIA community for over a decade. I feel fully like I identify as female and queer. I truly cannot understand why people are against giving rights to Trans, non-het, and non-binary people. It feels MORALLY OBVIOUS and clear to me that that is the right thing to do. No one can bend or change my mind on that.


How did any other of your identities impact your late identification as autistic?


I have been on my own as a single mother and then as a mama of three with my husband - I had so much time to form my own opinions due to the circumstances of being neglected by my addict parents and then living alone many years. My husband came from hispanic old school culture but his parents are religiously neutral and somewhat open minded. The only challenges I have ever faced with these topics have been managing coparenting with a person who is different than me. He had loving, married parents that gave him a great life. He has an older sibling and they have only had a typical (general) upbringing of not talking too much about mental health. I think I have been extremely lucky in my experience that I have been able to form my own opinions and connect with different types of people, so I developed a very open and empathetic mind over the years.


The only struggle I think I ever faced that has to do with trauma and being Autistic, is that I never had guidance 1:1 with my parents or teachers about life. So I never had the chance to process my sexuality deeply and just dated men like I was taught we all had to.


I am also kind of unique to my peers because I grew up with no pushed religion, nationality / culture at all from my family. Everyone around me always had a sense of who they were based on their families teachings. I do not feel a tie to anything about myself prior to this year. Like religion, what countries my families stem from, etc.


How did your friends and family respond when you told them you are autistic?


"With my daughter and my second born baby, my son, in 2016. I am 26 - he is not even 1 - she is 8. I am living with my husband at his parents home."

I moved to Texas from NY this January after being born and raised in NY. I slowly lost friendships over the years and periodically felt isolated or introverted. I honestly have no friends this year and I have become no contact with ALL family over the years. SO, my kids and husband are my family. My inlaws are back in NY and I do not think my husband told them I am Autistic, but that probably would not matter much to us. I told my oldest child and my husband once I worked it out that I was Autistic through the content discoveries and assessment scores. Both were supportive and it has made us all closer. I feel really happy and safe within my little home (for the first time in my life). We lived with my inlaws while I was pregnant with both boys and first had them. So this is our first year living in our own home and across the country at that! This has meant having our own privacy and space. So I have had a pleasant experience being able to make changes in our day to day - like with routines, respecting feelings and the need for space from each of us, figuring out what foods we all like or hate, etc. We all use headphones, got stim toys, and have been trying out new ways to accommodate ourselves as a family. I am very lucky for these last few months of processing that I am Autistic while with my little family.


Did you seek out therapy, coaching, or other forms of structured support for autism?


After moving to Texas we lost the insurance we had for years. I have no way of seeking a formal diagnosis right now. I feel really good about the support I get from the Autistic and ADHD communities on social media since March. I have had so much guidance from assessments and research on Autism, ADHD, learning disabilities etc. The tests I took helped me figure out I have dyspraxia, Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, and Dyscalculia as well. I struggled since grade school with learning disabilities and social difficulties without knowing why! Though I hope to work with professionals in the future, I am making due by reading books, studies, and scouring content from people that are either licensed professionals or people that are diagnosed Autistic. It is the best I can have and do right now.


This journey of self diagnosis has taught me about what a privilege it is to get a formal diagnosis and seek out accommodations for life / work through a professional. I looked into what assessments cost across the states, as well as what kinds of support Autistic people need but have a hard time receiving. It has helped me see so much of the Ableism I was raised around but never noticed!


I would have never been comfortable before this year stating that I am disabled or have disabilities either. I would have never known to ask for support and help in school, work, and even from my Dr. for my struggles at home. I could have really used the support, knowledge, and therapy in the last 20 years of my life in order to be in a better place now. Financially, emotionally, physically etc. ADHD kicked my ass all of my twenties, especially when I had my boys at 26 and 28. I wish I could have been diagnosed in my teenage years or once I lived on my own as a single young mom. I wish when I found out my first born was Autistic when she was a toddler that I had also been diagnosed. No one educated me about what that meant for her, so I really would not have been educated about myself like I was able to be this year.


These experiences with being left in the dark about Autism, ADHD, CPTSD, and other learning disabilities have made me really frustrated. I know the knowledge I know now would have changed my life at 18. So this fuels me to make content, share my stories, and write about what I learn on social media as a content creator. I hope I can educate and empower others to help change their lives in the ways my own life has changed due to learning about neurodivergence. I HAD NO IDEA THERE WAS A WHOLE NEURODIVERSITY MOVEMENT UNTIL APRIL 2022. That shocked me most.


Your Current Life


How have you modified or adapted your life since learning you’re autistic?


I am learning daily to speak up for my needs, have validated my own need for visual aids and headphones, I changed my diet, upped my vitamin and shake routine, and I focus heavily now on self care. I am way more loving and patient towards myself. I am a more attentive mom and partner to my husband after focusing finally on my own needs. I finally know I have meltdowns and it has happened less because I realize what causes them often and can manage my surroundings or how I feel with more awareness. I spend time weekly alone to unwind, work, write, relax etc. My three kids are now in public school and I create content remotely - so my lifestyle can finally have the flexibility for me to accommodate myself. I feel really proud of myself now knowing I am Autistic with ADHD - because I no longer see myself as not trying hard enough. I thought for years I was just not trying, had a bad mindset, was lazy, was slow, and did not care enough to keep up with my peers. I now realize I have been working my ass off while struggling and not having the help I needed. It changed my whole perspective and inner narrative honestly to realize there is a name for how I am and who I am. I feel very tied emotionally to this identity as Autistic.


I have read some Autistic people saying they do not see their identity tied to being Autistic. Like it is just a medical fact and does not define them. I spent so many years literally charting on oaktag and in binders what my Astrology was,

personality assessment results were (INFP), etc. just to have “rules” on how to live best for each area of my life. I was searching for instructions on how to be…and hoping it would finally make me make sense. BEING AUTISTIC makes sense to me. So deeply, like none of those things ever did. So yeah, I feel relief and joy identifying as Autistic.


In what ways does being autistic enhance your life?


I have come out through my social media platforms as Autistic in the last few months (on twitter, Instagram, Tiktok, Linkedin, and Medium blog). Instead of doing what I have done with my special interests in the past and writing facts or study based blog articles, I am simply creating content about my life experiences. It has led me to deeply realizing and owning my identity. I have also connected with large communities of late/ self diagnosed people from all walks of life who all resonate with what I share. I never had that before. I never felt like I was understood. I always felt like an outcast, the weird girl, socially awkward, and like I was trying to do whatever I could to find my people. I feel so amazing being able to share my stories as a writer and creative person without following some sort of NICHE or social etiquette. I am just “being me” and it is giving me the ability to live my life authentically.


I am closer with my kids and husband than we ever have been and I feel loved + understood by my partner since being out about my Autism. It feels like I am starting my life after a rebirth. Unmasking is painful and traumatic in itself, so I have had a lot of heavy emotions these last few months - but i no longer feel alone.


What are some topics or activities you’re passionate about?


I stated a lot already but my passions - Neurodivergence, Psychology, Trauma, Mental Health, Autism / ADHD, Personality and Identity, art & design, SIMS3 / designing / home design and staging, website and graphic design, sketching,

writing. I love to write, create art, and read about human behaviors - since I was 5 until now. These interests have been with me all my life and were my hyperfocus while alone in my bedroom for many years while living with my abusive parents.

It is actually really awesome looking back and realizing all of these topics were my SPINS. It makes so much sense that I spent hours upon hours as a kid designing and writing. I was known for it in school, which pushed me towards joining school organizations and being published several times in College. I now finally feel proud that all those years helped build what I do now full time remotely as a blogger and designer. I am currently also learning real estate from my husband and brother in law who run their own investment business. I am going to be getting into house flipping and design in the future aside from being a content creator! I think Autistics are unique in that their special interests are a core part of who they are, especially artists and researchers!


What does a typical day look like for you?


Every day I get to be with my kids and husband because he and I are self employed. A typical day consists of getting my children off to school and then working for a few hours at the local starbucks or in our apartment focusing on content creation.


I write on Medium and Vocal +, which are both monetized based on reads and subscribers. I also create content on Tiktok, Linkedin, and Twitter - working on hitting 10k on both platforms so I can monetize those as well.


While in NY when I got married and had my two boys, I studied blogging, SEO, Google Analytics, social media marketing, graphic design, and website design. I also studied my special interests. All of these skills and experiences have trained me to now full time make content.


I initially joined Linkedin to look for work in these areas, but I now share my blog and content on the platform. I have made so many connections and continue to weekly share on Linkedin about my Self diagnosed Autism journey.


I feel so happy that this year at 31 I am finally living a lifestyle that gives me the space and freedom to do what works for me. After many years of burn out and overwhelm, my lifestyle now gets to be however I wish it to look like! I would have never believed any year before this one that my life would be like this!


Is there anyone else in your family who is autistic?

Two of my kids are, my oldest and youngest. I HIGHLY suspect my own mother was autistic and possibly other family members on both my mom and dads side. I am an only child. The weird thing about being estranged from my family and growing up isolated is that I will never be able to verify what relatives were neurodivergent, including my own parents. I can only suspect and put the dots together as I learn more and remember moments from the past about them all.


What are some of the challenges you face in being autistic?


Finding out I was Autistic and had a lot of comorbid conditions helped explain so much. I had only found out I had CPTSD through a formal diagnosis back in 2018, followed by learning about my ADHD in early 2021. Those diagnoses were not enough for me to explain what I experience daily.


I have physical and emotional challenges every single day. I get overwhelmed and feel dizzy or like I want to throw up when it is too loud or the lights are too bright. I am carsick after a few minutes in a car. I have anxiety about getting hurt and intrusive thoughts.


I am socially awkward, avoid looking at people, and feel extremely anxious or avoidant to address someone to their face. I do not like small talk even a little. I will pretend I am on my phone or busy to avoid conversations with strangers, even with family sometimes. I feel now like I actually have

These things are not preferences. When I have to experience any of these things, it may make me nauseated or have stomach issues. I might sweat, go silent, or get migraines. I used to think I was just a difficult or antisocial person or rude. I also have the hardest time talking with my husband, who is the one person i have been close with truly or known for so many years. I have spent every day with him pretty much since 2015. I struggle to communicate with him and it makes it hard to be on the same page with coparenting. I misunderstand him, have meltdowns, feel triggered, or like I cannot explain myself well. I feel like an alien, like I am rambling, and like I never know when to jump in so I end up interrupting him which makes him upset. I never understood why.

I am so clumsy and have very weak grip. So weekly I drop things while doing chores or tasks. I hate cooking and washing dishes. I have been working on asking for help from my kids and husband. For years, all of the life routines felt hard. I have a very poor sense of time passing and nearly no time management skills honestly. I hyperfocus on writing and art, but struggle with the cleaning schedule and cooking routines. So that made me feel like I prioritized work over my kids and home for years. I was not trying to do that on purpose. Typing feverishly (like I have while answering these questions) is one of the few tasks that I feel accomplished with when doing. I could write my heart out and design for big projects, but I have been trying to get a routine for chores and home care for YEARS. That makes me feel really insecure.

I am also 31 and terrified of driving so I never got my license. My husband is encouraging me and helping me right now to get my permit so we can practice driving together.


All of these things plus those late diagnosed learning disabilities have made me feel so under accomplished as an adult. It feels like I am in my early 20s, not early 30s. I feel sad because I am trying to teach my kids to be responsible and understand the world, but I am still learning it all first hand.

I used to think it was due to my childhood, but now learning I am Autistic and the comorbidities I have, it all makes more sense that I have disabilities that challenge my day to day. I am working on the acceptance and self love that NEEDS to come with understanding Autism is not just a label but an explanation for all these challenges.


What helps you prevent or cope with moments of overwhelm?


ART and writing. I am a creative machine. I get lost in sketching, designing, playing sims, or writing. If creation was a stim that would be mine. That and MUSIC. I experience frisson! I listen to music when I am overwhelmed, as well as when I create.


What skills or strategies have helped you to work with your autistic mind?


I now label things in my home and make visuals around the apartment to help with my ADHD challenges. I always craved organization and creative aesthetic around me but my ADHD made that so hard to maintain. I believe now my Autistic traits are a part of what I want and why. I love binder systems to organize what I learn and what my plans are. I love now having a capsule (downsized) wardrobe that is color organized on a rack. I packed away any clothing or items around the house that added clutter and were not used often. I also LOVE post its and whiteboards. I got some for around the apartment and we all use visual memos to help us remember + finish little tasks.


What is your experience with medical systems? Are there ways you feel they can be improved for autistic individuals?


I felt really betrayed, upset, and frustrated when realizing this year that I am Autistic through other people rather than through doctors. This is because I spent 13 years raising my daughter without understanding Autism or ADHD other than the tiny info they gave me. It was also all based on doom and a deficit model. I barely understood the tip of what it was like to be Autistic so of course i never realized i was too.

I had therapy here and there over the years after leaving my abusive childhood home + being pregnant at 16. I had only thought I had PTSD from the hardships

I went through. I had to be super resourceful, organized, ask questions, and demand any help for years as a single young mother. Especially when I was still a minor with a baby entering College. So my experience with social workers, therapists, doctors, medicaid, WIC, social services etc. were that I was screwed and on my own for years to figure out how to survive.

I am just starting to see and understand what it is like for people with disabilities in America, let alone other countries. I was never aware of what Autism and these other disabilities even were - let alone the knowledge that people could even get support from doctors. I only knew there was early intervention and “special education” in public school for kids. I have been kind of naive and blinded to the reality of adults suffering with little to no access for healthcare, medications, or other accommodations. WHICH IS HONESTLY EMBARRASSING AND UPSETTING ABOUT SOCIETY AND THE WAY WE HAVE ALL BEEN SHELTERED + IGNORANT TO THESE ISSUES.


Your Past


How did being an undiagnosed autistic child impact your childhood?


My childhood was traumatic. My parents were divorced since I was 3 so I lived with my mother and her new husband from age 4 on while only visiting my dad sometimes. My bio parents were drug addicts and my mother was also an alcoholic. My entire upbringing I think no one would have even recognized any Autistic traits or signs of neurodivergence because I was often neglected. I struggled in school and every teacher said i just had to try harder. I did not have A’s in school until College when I lived alone and studied my special interests.


I only now see that while being isolated to my room or witnessing abuse that I was Autistic with ADHD and often affected by those experiences differently than a non-Autistic kid could have. The noises, the chaos, and the lack of order made me rock and cry in my room often. I would cope by drawing and writing for hours, but barely ate or cared for myself. I was hyperfocusing a lot and very isolated. But I know in school I was the same way. VERY interested in only my SPINS, very “mature for my age,” and very into social justice + morality.


"With my daughter while living alone in college. She is about 5 here and I am 23. We lived at Stony Brook University in family apartments alone together"

I think my Autistic traits helped me survive my childhood honestly because I lived in my own bubble and creativity. I was also super resourceful and figured out how to navigate life through studying everything around me. I also think I handled becoming a mother so young because of being Autistic. I took myself to the clinic to get a pregnancy test. I had been dating the same one boy all of H.S. and he was also abusive / neglectful towards me. I applied for medicaid myself, went to social services, applied for student aid, spoke up for myself through emails and letters, etc. to navigate it all. I filed for emancipation and took my parents to court, took my ex to court, and put myself through College. I was driven by my desire to be organized, know my facts, know the law, be an advocate for myself, and to protect my own baby.


I was driven also by my SPINS and desire to build a career of some sort from those interests. I was not a kid or teen that thought about what was cool, popular, niche etc. I was so in my own world and it was not just “survival mode” like therapists said. I feel like I have been the same way since I was little until now. I want to plan and organize information and then make things happen. There is a passion within me to create, express myself (mostly through art and written form), as well as a desire to make a difference in the world.


I am learning all of these things are common especially amongst Autistic females. A very strong drive to advocate, do the morally best and right thing, speak out about injustices, and prevail. I never related to my peers but I think that is what made people call me super mature or gifted then. Now at 31 I feel like what made those things look like assets now are ‘not enough’ towards my success as an adult.


What ways did you camouflage or mask?


Prefer not to answer because I am not sure how to articulate this. I think I spent a lot of time hiding in plain sight as Autistic. I have always had a deep desire to be my own person but searched for what that meant. I have spent most of my life isolating actually… so I am just learning what it means to be me this year... Like who am I if I am not trying to AVOID things. I spent years dying my hair and being a NONCONFORMIST in so many ways...But I being that “manic pixie dream girl” archetype... I think that was so much built on rebellion. Now that I am alone processing that I am autistic and currently have no friends or family besides my husband and kids, I am asking myself who I would be if it wasn't to rebel. I don't know if that makes sense, but an example is for the first time since H.S., I am not wearing makeup or dying my hair at all. I cut it shoulder length in march and have just stripped down aesthetically to basically a blank canvas. Whatever I was trying to be for years was based on the data I collected mentally about each niche, location i was in, or who I was around. Now that I can just be anything and have a fresh start.. I am drawing a blank?!


How has your identification as autistic changed how you view your childhood or earlier periods of adulthood?


I am still processing this and write about it in my content in real time! So to be honest with you, it comes to me through memories and little stories about what I am realizing about my past through this new lens of knowing I am Autistic with

ADHD. When I look back without the conditioned ideas that I was lazy, messy, not trying etc. - it is like I am seeing myself in a completely new way.


Talking to Others About Autism


How do you describe autism to people who are not familiar with it?


I now see Autism as a category of human. An identifier of a type of person. I think of humans categorically which is why I spent so many years studying personality types, human behaviors, psych etc. What was explained to me as a medical condition that hinders a person after their birth to be disabled – I am suddenly realizing is a neurotype and a form of design in humans! Currently it feels like the most true way to see this is “Allistic”, “Autistic” when learning about people. I explained to my husband that being born Autistic is a way of being. It is not a deficit. An Autistic person may have a spectrum of ways that they behave, but all who are Autistic are designed Autistic. And non Autistic people are not experiencing nor thinking in the ways Autistic people do.


Feeling (as an Autistic person) like you were designed from birth to be who and how you are is honestly very empowering. It does not mean that it is not a disability (in my own eyes or to society). But it does mean that the way we are taught about Autism needs to change. We are MORE than a medical list of struggles.


What do you wish others knew about autism?


I wished I had known when my girl was a toddler that she would be just fine. That she would learn, grow, and flourish on her own without having to think she was damaged or slow or broken. So what I wish others knew now is based on what I have realized both as a mother of Autistic kids and as an adult (woman) with Autism. I see the medical model for Autism as well as the DSM5 criteria as very problematic. We are real people with capabilities, strengths, desires, goals, dreams, etc. like anyone else. We have our own way of thinking, experiencing, and seeing the world. It is not broken and we are not in need of corrective services to make us “more normal”.


What is your advice for someone who thinks they might be autistic?


I strongly advise all who think they may be Autistic to take credible online assessments. BUT not just that alone. I think it is important to connect with the Autistic communities of Twitter, Tiktok, and Linkedin. Those three locations are the most informative and trustworthy sources for finding communities of people who share their experiences and stories about being late diagnosed or self diagnosed. If you suspect you are Autistic, it is equally important to seek evaluation (online to start) as well as speak with and hear from people who are Autistic to get a full understanding of what that means.


Are there any resources (books, articles, videos, etc.) you would recommend for people who just learned they’re autistic?


Exceptional Individuals quizzes

Embracing Autism quizzes

Unmasking Autism - devon price (audible or paper copy).

Content Creator videos about lived autistic experiences

Connecting with and following professionals that are Autistic or that diagnose and work to support Autistics. (I suggest Linkedin for that).


Connecting with You


If someone would like to connect with you, how can they reach you?


My Medium Blog! Subscribe and comment on my stories!

https://neurodivergentrising.medium.com/


Tiktok! Message me and follow my profile.

https://www.tiktok.com/@jeangrey_rising


Do you have any works, websites, or other creative ventures you would like to share with others? (please provide links)


My linktree has everything https://linktr.ee/jeangrey_rising

 

Thank you for reading. If you are a late-identified autistic, I would love to have you participate in this series. Please email me at jackieschuldart@gmail.com if you are interested.

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