On the Aspie Side

Broadly. Talks Working Autistic Women

There’s a rather oddly written article on Broadly. about Aspie women and the workplace. No, I'm kidding.I say oddly for lack of coherent order or argument flow. It appears the intention is to talk of symptoms we women face, but it really is not tied back to one central point because it switches gears between symptoms and an employment organization. That said, I get where she was going: advertisement of the org via article. Got it.

Anywho… The symptoms mentioned are a good place for me to start talk about what I’ve been experiencing because of my workplace. I’ve been working for the government for three years. It’s absolute torture, and I’ve been in and out HR more times than I can count now. If it wasn’t for union protection I would have been fired just for not being the meek, avoidance type. Thankfully I’m not though because they eat people alive.

Because of this I know a lot about Aspie Burnout. I’ve had burnout 3 or 4 times since I started this same job. I’ve been on two medical leaves, both for physical problems, and emotional as well. I’ve had enough of the bullying and mocking, especially when they know full well my diagnosis. EEOC is coming, all I’m gonna say.

Right now I’m in a whole new zone, somewhere beyond burnout, where my vindictive and conniver aka my bitch side comes out. I didn’t want this side to resurface this way, but I am so done with this place I’d nuke it just as a warning to others.
(Because of the world we live in today, no, I would not actually hurt people. Please put the gun down officer.)
I kind of miss the days when I was completely naive to the fact that I even needed to guard my words. I had far more energy. It’s not like I’m even any good at pretending to be normal anyway, no matter how much people tell me I’m “so normal”. Actually, they really want to say, “You’re not different, you’re just an a$$hole,” which is so much easier for them to wrap their teeny, tiny brains around than to try understand what I really go through.

In the newer understanding of female specific “symptoms” there is something called twofaced“masking”.  If you happen to not be familiar, it as studying another girl’s behavior to then mimic her as a way to try to fit in with other girls. Some (or many?) Aspie girls learn to do this to cope. It also costs far more energy than it would for a neurotypical to develop the same skills without a mask.

I never learned this mimicry, which has always been a double-edged sword. I’ve always felt super strongly that we are ethically bound to be open and honest. And now, in my late thirties & early forties, I’ve been fire forged to lose a bit of my naïveté, but gain the patience necessary to find out what people’s motives are, and they aren’t very good I’m finding. It is rather disappointing.

I have also believed in letting one’s freak flag fly, and this is not the exactly the standard business behavior. I have paid over and over for just being myself and hoping people will be accepting, but I am repeatedly disappointed there too. It does hurt the self esteem after a while, and it reinforces the idea either way that who you are is unworthy and people only want to be around mirrors of themselves. This is particularly true in my current office. Trump clones.

I don’t personally have issues with work clothing with the ever present exception of tags! and finding comfortable footwear. I don’t do cute shoes or anything girly really. But, I do struggle to find shoes that will accommodate the shape of my foot.

I wish my parents had encouraged my interests. Instead they’d say every single one as a waste of money. Toys for me were ever a waste of money. My parents let television raise me because it didn’t cost anything extra for them. My mother made a huge show of how wonderfully giving they were just to buy me new clothing at the beginning of the year and that became an excuse to not buy me Xmas or birthday presents. And, they weren’t even poor yet!!  My mother went to Ann Taylor. They went of trips to the Caribbean. And so on.

So, that covers the symptoms they covered in the article. I’ll need to separately add more of my own.

Anne with an E

With the exception of her lovely fantasy world and her terminal vanity, I identified annewithecompletely with Anne with an E. I see Vanity Fair is having a fit over the reworking of the story, but I just adore her. Her battle to survive and be accepted feels so much like my normal. Including her understandable PTSD, she’s definitely an Aspie.

Okay, so what if she saves the day twice in one season? So what if turn-of-the-century Ontario isn’t all roses and sweetness? This seems more like a real world, and rough like life is for an Aspie child. Imagine if you, Miss Joanna Robinson of Vanity Fair, actually understood what it’s like to be misunderstood and feel constantly like one giant shredded nerve.

Conversely, if you want to complain about a movie not matching the book. You should be far more offended by the movie version of Hitchhiker’s Guide. It was a terrible disappointment because they ruined Douglas Adams’ jokes. Never mind the pathetic version of Zaphod, all the missing scenes, and the reduction of a brilliant Trillian to a dim damsel in distress, they actual cut his humor, which is far more of an atrocity than the rest. And, this was never claimed to be “based on”. It was supposed to be half of what Adams had adapted, written himself, as a script before he passed. I wish I never saw it. Let’s keep outrage where it’s appropriate, hmm?

I don’t honestly care how well Anne with an E keeps to the Anne of Green Gables story. It’s only based on the story, it isn’t the exact story. The exact words from Wikipedia are, “series based on the 1908 novel”. They intentionally made it their own, and I think they created a new version that beefed up what many had suspected about Anne’s neurotype and her devastating life. Perhaps it doesn’t mirror the book, but it certainly mirrors the reality of being the outcast.

I’ve been the girl a parent says their child can’t go near for nothing more than horrible assumptions. I’ve been the girl the popular girls corner and taunt. I’ve been the girl that hides in the tutoring room during lunch because I had nowhere else to sit. I’ve been the girl that was punished by teachers for things I never did, publicly humiliated and privately apologized to. Is Anne with an E believable? Emphatically YES.

It certainly more believable than the an poor orphan being immediately popular with wealthy townies. Seriously, what does everyone think of foster kids right now even? Humans were no nicer or accepting then than now. Let’s get a grip. Life was never Little House on the Prairie.

That all said and certainly more importantly, the Aspie traits I see in Anne are as follows, and feel free to comment and deny or add anything you like.

  1. The fantasy world Anne retreats to to get the acceptance she craves.
  2. The loud and very chatty behavior Anne has on topics of her interest.
  3. The well-read knowledge she has for her age, including the large vocabulary.
  4. The “get out of my way and let me fix it” attitude, even towards adults.
  5. The inability to tell what is inappropriate knowledge to share with peers.
  6. The play acting out how she thinks conversations with go in a social setting.
  7. The desperate attempt to follow the social rules she’s told directly.

After watching the series with my father, my mother for the first time in my 41 years actually said she finally could comprehend the abuse I received in grade school. Imagine that!? That’s enough for me to give this puppy an A+.

15 Seconds: My Diagnosis Story

It’s a lot to take in at once. ASD Level 1 was handed to me before I even knew what it
Aspie behaviorseven meant. My voc rehab counselor suggested that I figure out if something else was going on besides just anxiety (after work-related error in judgment). Since she mentioned Aspergers specifically I sought out a specialist in the field. I fully expected to be told that this was me barking up the wrong coconut tree because I knew nothing about autism. Rainman, Baron-Cohen tests, and part of the “Pretending to be Normal” book seemed completely foreign and didn’t speak to me at all. All I had out of the pic on the left is “Difficulty in interactions with others”. Not much of match, right? I totally get why anyone would be reluctant to bother seeking a diagnosis.

I was already forty at this point. I’d been introspective my whole life. How could I not know this about myself? I knew everything… I had taken every test. I had read so many books, from Astrology to what Jungian archetypes fit me. I never had developmental delays according to my parents. I’m “normal”, just weird, right?

Nope. She said she knew in 15 seconds. *facepalm*

I googled the PsychologyToday for a local psychologist that would be PhD and a specialist in this field. This one, “Mary”*, said she was caring and kind, and that’s another story, but I bought it. I made the appointment. I sat down in the room, and I threw my life down on the floor before her.

I talked about my divorce, my education, my difficulties at work, my layoffs/firings, my parents, the years being stuck, and on and on. I talked about my upcoming trip to England, and how I love learning about cultures. I shared my “special interests” in politics, logic, history, and mythology. It all came out in one epic infosplatter.

Then I said, resolutely, that I wanted to know if maybe I was Autistic and the reason why. To my surprise, the answer was, “Yes.” And that’s when she said she knew “in 15 seconds”. That was her actual words. She told me I’d have to go through some testing to be sure, but it appeared she was already decided.

My head spun. I was almost angry. How many people would say they know your most inner self in 15 seconds? A gypsy fortune teller at some weird carnival in a horror film? The next week I was in a stupor. I started to google more about what this meant, and still I was lost on how this could be me. I wasn’t googling women and female in my searches yet because I just didn’t know there would be a difference.

The next two visits spanned my assessment. She wanted answers to specific traits common to our neurotype, although looking back, it was still male gendered or neutral traits, not what is common to women. Still, I fit.

Suddenly, a sigh of relief washed over me. I wasn’t alone anymore. There are lots of people out there that are my people, my clan. I started joining Facebook groups, and reading what I shared with others. It was transformative. We had some many joys and defeats in common.

The next session with “Mary” was not great. Once the relief washed away, the next emotion was grief. I started to mourn not knowing sooner and the choices I could have made differently. Instead of empathy, “Mary” was already past that and onto wanting to “fix” me. I was just trying to recenter myself after a gigantic, life altering revelation, and she’s over it. This is where some sympathy would have been appreciated, but she was busy trying to “help” me with my work issues by trying to work on my social skills.

Does anyone not see how that was invalidating my feelings?

Anyway, my time with “Mary” was short-lived. I gave her a few more sessions, even expressing my need to get used to the whole thing, to see if she would focus on just listening to my problems till I was ready to take on more. It didn’t happen. I got a blank stare then more urging toward skills and things I was not ready for. I took the next few months to reflect and debate whether this whole therapy thing was truly worth the bother.

*I’m going to be using the fake names in quotes in the future. I suppose at some point I’ll make a glossary.