Having spent my entire life searching for answers (and being misdiagnosed along the way), I was finally diagnosed with autistic spectrum disorder (high functioning autism / asperger’s) at the age of thirty-two. Autism in females is not well understood: possibly because autistic traits manifest themselves differently in females than they do in males and females are better as masking their autistic traits. Therefore, it is of no surprise that many females go through their entire lives without a diagnosis.
With the hope of raising awareness of autism in females and removing some of the mental health stigmas and misconceptions attached to the label, I will use this platform to share my experience of living with autism. I intend to post a small section from my book – Label Me – on a weekly basis, and with the hope of attracting a small audience over time.
I feel that there is no better place to start than with the synopsis…
Label Me by Francesca Baird (unpublished)
From an early age, I felt different. I had no desire to take part in gender appropriate activities – I was obsessed with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and enjoyed playing football with the boys. At school, I observed from the corner of the classroom. Others saw me as a shy girl, who functioned very well, both in an outwith the school setting. However, internally I was consumed by anxieties particularly about my health – I constantly felt one step away from deaths’ door. A true master of masking, I did what I had to do to fit in in a neurotypical dominated world.
After many years of emotional suppression and social exhaustion, my life took a different and somewhat destructive path. I developed an infatuation with the ‘man of my thoughts’, dropped out of university, worked in nine different shops (all within the same shopping centre) and developed a thrilling gambling addiction. Through all of this I was constantly questioning and analysing my behaviour and my identity; only a diagnosis could provide the answers. In search of a label to help myself and others understand the workings of my mind, nothing and no one was going to stand in my way…
While there is an abundance of books targeted at individuals who have been diagnosed with autism and health professionals alike, there is little out there for those individuals who are searching for a label that explains their condition. Autism in females is not well understood: possibly because autistic traits manifest themselves differently in females than they do in males and females are better at masking their autistic traits. Therefore, it is of no surprise that many females go through their entire lives without a diagnosis. If my book prompts even just one person to seek a diagnosis to understand themselves better, then I will have succeeded in my goal as an author.
Moreover, autistic traits do not belong solely to people with autism. Indeed, we all share the same traits, but people with autism experience some of these traits to a greater extent that their neurotypical peers. My book is not just about autism. This is a book for anyone and everyone who has struggled with life and wants to understand themselves better.
See Francesca’s Autism Blog on Facebook