There are a lot of things in this interview with Shannon Hughes that trigger what for lack of a better phrase I’ll call my autistic imposter syndrome (which also presents in other ways) but not this bit.
What was it like living as an adult without a diagnosis?
Being an adult on the spectrum who was not diagnosed in childhood is very lonely, confusing, and isolating. If you’re employed full time, you’re using all of your energy, all of your mental and emotional resources, to function in a neurotypical environment. I was good at it, but I didn’t have anything left over for relationships or developing a support network. That’s a very difficult way to live.
However, I think the hardest thing about being an adult who wasn’t diagnosed until later, is the cumulative effect of a life spent feeling different, of not being able to do things the same way other people do them, of not seeing things the way other people see them, and of the interpersonal trauma that comes from being in situation after situation where you don’t know how to manage the stress or take care of yourself. Chronic invalidation in work, school, and personal relationships is extremely destructive, but also, people on the spectrum don’t have the same instincts for protecting themselves as the average person.
I’d have to make one adjustment in the above for my own purposes: the last time I even had a part-time job, the shortfall in other parts of life wasn’t about “relationships or developing a support network” it was around things like, you know, hygeine and housework—things which always have presented me with executive function and autistic intertia challenges.
That job placement debacle two years ago really did seem to suggest that I’ve got a choice: I can work, or I can maintain, but there seems to be a real question as to whether or not I safely can do both.