“I’m autistic. I’m a 34-year-old woman and I got formally diagnosed two days ago.
And the next question you may ask is, how does it feel to be autistic? Well, how does it feel to NOT be autistic?
I went back and forth on how to say this. I’ve known for a while but finally received a diagnosis. I felt that I may be judged for all sorts of reasons. Not because of the autism diagnosis per se, but more for my purpose of seeking out a diagnosis. Or I could see the doctor who diagnosed me being judged because to some people, autism is a popular diagnosis now (it’s not. It’s severely under diagnosed). Or with me looking ‘so normal,’ people may think I was diagnosed because it’s a special interest of mine. They may ask why I would want to know that about myself, because I seem fine and happy. They may think I’m trying to be like my child. Or that I am faking it.
And all of these are irrelevant to me. Because no one is inside of my brain. No one knows how I think. What people do know is how I act. Or react.
I lucked out with my personality. I’m a good mix of super laid back with a small amount left for my super deep passions. I have intense sensory struggles and I’ve always thought the world kind of knew each other and I was the person watching. I don’t mind watching. But it’s always been a weird feeling. I’m sociable and able to have conversations. I’ve always been pretty gullible, naive, and many times communicated differently than what I intended. I have never understood why people think I mean one thing, when I say another. People interpret me wrong. I don’t stim in a way that other autistics may. I have melted down, but it doesn’t usually look like the normal autism meltdown. Because it’s usually a shut down.
Basically, I don’t look like the traditional model. But that doesn’t mean I should feel like an outcast my whole life. And it doesn’t mean I shouldn’t take action in understanding myself or finding my purpose. And It definitely means I shouldn’t be keeping the happiest version of myself hidden for the comfort of others.
After many years of learning about autism and child development, I started an even more intense search once my daughter started needing extra support. I started asking myself, ‘Why are these autistic individuals saying this is how autistics think, isn’t this how everyone thinks?’ I started to realize that maybe, perhaps, I am autistic too.
I had studied it in college, made a short career out of it and then continued to pursue my passion in neurodiversity. One would’ve thought I would’ve understood the actual thought process of autistics. But I had only been investigating the professional side. Not the angle of actual autistics. It’s been my special interest though and I think it’s because I’ve always known why. Because it’s who I am.
Considering that I don’t look like the stereotype, I haven’t felt like I belonged in either world. So, I’ve just been my outspoken, a little awkward and sometimes loud self.
In searching for my daughter’s needs, I’ve since found my support and more importantly, I have found myself. I’ve found a group of people that have helped me grow in exponential ways. My family and husband have been supportive. I’ve discovered the ‘Why’s and how’s’ of myself. I’ve learned that women get diagnosed far less because they tend to mask better. They can blend in. Which can be detrimental to their mental and physical health. Diagnosing adults is not the latest ‘craze.’ This is the beginning of discovering just how diverse the human population is.
And in reality, masking really means, pretending to look ‘normal.’ And that’s exhausting. In fact, I didn’t even realize that’s what I was doing until I learned I can take that mask off. Do you want to know how that felt? Liberating. I felt high as a kite. Free as a bird.
People may not understand why I would choose to come out with this. It actually doesn’t have much to do with me. I’m coming out with it to make it known that autism can look like all different things. I realize I will get comments. People’s perception may change of me. It already has and I am only two days in. And that right there, is why I’m choosing to speak. My child will someday fight this battle and I’m choosing to make a path for her.
But autism is beautiful. I get to see things and patterns that not everyone gets to see. I don’t always experience or understand my emotions and while that can be tricky, I feel fortunate to not have to deal with that burdening part of life. I certainly shut down more than someone should, and I do tend to say awkward things. I have a hard time figuring out social cues, and what to say. People tend to like that about me, which is why this is surprising so many people. Changing my funny and goofy perception to an actual autism label tends to change how they see my personality. I’m not funny or goofy anymore. It’s now, ‘the autism.’ Which people don’t know how to react to. It’s a huge reason why I’m speaking out.
But, I’m lucky. The neurodivergent world is truly unique. Not all people are chosen to see the world in this rare and unique way. And I feel extremely fortunate that I get to experience it for myself.
Autism is autism. You either have it or you don’t. Every person on earth may have their quirks. But that doesn’t mean they have an autistic brain. #actualautistics care about our future. We care how we are perceived. We care about how our children are included and loved. We care about our supports and how we can be helped. We don’t want to change ourselves. We just want to be given the freedom and ability to BE ourselves.
And that’s worth fighting for.
And it’s most certainly worth coming out for.
Stimmy cheers to the neurodivergent. The different. The proud. The passionate. The resilient. The fighters.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Tiffany Tully, 34, of Quirky.Stimmy.Cool. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here.Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
Read more stories from Tiffany:
‘We can’t be friends anymore. You’ve become ‘That mom.’ That’s a tough pill to swallow.’: 34-year-old Mom diagnosed with autism ‘couldn’t be prouder’ of creating a world where ‘differences are celebrated’
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