Welcome to Unmasking: Your Journey Towards Self-acceptance. If you're an autistic woman or AFAB who has only recently been diagnosed with autism, you might be feeling a bit...lost. Although everyone's experience is unique, one thing is for certain. Receiving a diagnosis of autism in adulthood, and particularly later adulthood, feels like being hit by a truck. Much as it might come as a welcome relief, and most women do feel as if it's a huge relief, it takes a while to get used to.
If you're only recently diagnosed, or have reached a point where you have self-diagnosed, you might be grappling with the following questions:
- Is this really true (or am I just an imposter)?
- Why wasn't my autism picked up earlier?
- Can I really have lived my whole life as an autistic person and got as far as I have?
- How is being autistic going to impact me?
- Is my career, as I know it, finished?
- What are other people going to think?
- How can I make sure I get the most out of knowing I'm autistic?
- How can I be more authentic?
- How do I start recognising my needs as an autistic person?
*You'll find all your resources, including your recordings and written resources at the end of each week's module!*
You'll find PowerPoint videos to accompany each section. You have a choice of reading or watching videos - or both if you prefer! People take in information in different ways, so choose whichever format works best for you.
With all of these questions swirling around, it's possible for the initial positive feelings around diagnosis to get lost in all the worries. Navigating the world as an undiagnosed autistic person is tough.
Knowing you're autistic is the starting point for shaping a more rewarding life. Over the course of the next six weeks, I'll help you go further in embracing yourself and accepting autism as you shape a life which recognises your needs and strengths.
Making it to adulthood as an undiagnosed autistic person means that you've probably spent much of your time masking who you are and trying to fit yourself into a world which doesn't meet your needs.
As a result you've probably been left feeling:
- Ultimately...as if you're not good enough just as you are.
Over the course of the next six weeks, you'll learn to accept yourself as an autistic person and as someone who is perfect. Your starting point will be that you have a brain which processes the world differently to many other people. It's not better or worse. It's different.
I know what it's like to be a woman in her fifties who was raised in the seventies and eighties, with a complete lack of understanding about mental health. If you were different, you were made to feel less than, and there was certainly no discussion about meeting your needs. So, I'm not going to tell you to brazenly have a f**k you attitude to everyone around you. That just doesn't tend to work for people who have often spent a lifetime desperately trying to cover up their autistic traits and be all things to all people. If, like me, you've grown up in a completely unaccepting environment, the idea of moving from a point of lack of self-acceptance to a point of being completely transparent might be terrifying. If you have grown up in a more accepting family, or a more accepting era, you might be a bit further ahead on the past of self-acceptance, which is great. Even my much younger clients, though, have experienced a lack of acceptance at school or in the workplace which has sometimes pushed them to a point of camouflaging or feeling as if there is something "wrong" with them.
So, we'll take this at a pace which is right for you. Unmasking and self-acceptance as an autistic woman looks very different from person to person. You've spent a lifetime in various roles, each of which has shaped who you are.
Whatever your situation, what you will have at the end of these six weeks is a sense of self-acceptance. A sense of being OK. And a plan of how to change your life to fit with your needs, instead of constantly trying to change yourself to fit in with other people's needs.
You'll find PowerPoint videos to accompany the modules, suggested tasks, a journal where you can monitor your progress and, if you wish, you can join a community of other autistic women.
If you'd like to join a community of late-diagnosed autism women and AFABs, enjoy a free month's membership after which there is a small fee of £3.99 per month (approximately $4.80 USD). Membership can be cancelled at any time. Your membership includes advice and support from me, access to an exclusive community group and live-streamed question and answer sessions. Click here to access this community.
Diagnosed or self-diagnosed?
There are many benefits to accessing a diagnosis from a trained healthcare practitioner. Having someone who can objectively explore your experience with you and rule out any other reasons for the symptoms you have, which may well present similarly to autistic traits, can help you identify whether you are autistic or whether there is an alternative root to any issues you might face or differences you might experience.
Some people score highly on self-report forms, but their results are affected by past experiences, underlying personality traits or other factors. There's an overlap between how autism presents and how people with other neurological conditions, personality disorders, mood disorders and past trauma present. Seeking out a diagnosis or assessment is likely to offer a far more accurate assessment of whether someone is autistic or not, as opposed to self-evaluation.
However, the reality is that assessments can take years to access or can be prohibitively expensive. Although knowledge within the medical community is improving, there is still a lack of understanding about women's autism and some healthcare practitioners may fail to recognise the differences in a woman's presentation. Self-diagnosis is sometimes the only practical option.
So, if you've self-diagnosed for any reason, you are very welcome to take the course and apply its principles, in addition to joining the community!