Who am I ???

Finding your authentic self after diagnosis


There has been much discussion lately, in the online forums I attend , about masking and finding one’s own identity.
How to drop the mask and be more authentic? How to know who I really am beneath all the adaptive and self protective behaviors I have learned over my lifetime? How do I know which parts are “real” and which parts are camouflage for self protection or ease of coping?

I was at a loss for a long time about these questions. For me a lot of these questions did not apply because as I had aged, I had adjusted my style of dress, my social behavior, my willingness to put up with discomfort, etc.
I had become more authentic to myself for the most part before I learned of my autism.

It might be a process of ageing that we become less willing to put up with social and physical discomfort or meaningless rituals or distressing social situations, or I might have been lucky to have sorted out sources of discomfort and to have allowed myself to discard those things that were most difficult and distressing to me.

I understand the need to sort it all out, and to self accommodate in order to have the best experiences that life has to offer and to eliminate pain and discomfort where we can.

May I suggest we start with the things that we find most difficult and distressing? By figuring out different ways to do things, we can eliminate at least some of the things that are hardest for us to tolerate.

I learned to avoid physical discomfort first. Stopped spending hours on clothing, hair, makeup, and worrying about being “in style” or if I looked right. Flat shoes, loose fitting clothing, easy hair cut, minimal makeup applied only for very special times. Works for me! Even within dress codes, unless a certain specific uniform is required, there is usually some leeway.



I got rid of the scratchy couch that I could not bear to sit on, the bright flickering fluorescent lights. When I lived alone I did not use TV or Radio. I now remove myself to my quiet zone if my husband wants to participate in things that drive me wild (TV and Radio for example).
I have bright clear lighting that doesn’t flicker in places where I need it for reading and close work.
I stopped forcing myself to go to concerts, listening to podcasts or videos, trying to interact in large groups (4 or more is a large group to me), stopped going to restaurants, shopping malls, and other places that caused my sensory struggles to make me anxious and put me in ‘stampede mode”. What was the point?
If things like wedding receptions, anniversary parties, retirement parties, etc send you into panic or meltdown, consider a congratulatory card, note, email, or phone call along with polite regrets.
( you don’t have to explain, just say you are sorry you missed their big day but wanted to send congratulations or whatever message you’d like to give).


I found new ways to get a lot of things done, adapting them to my sensory struggles so that I no longer suffered loud noises, chaotic surroundings, etc.

In replacing those old painful experiences I found joy in solitary walks in nature, taking photographs, doing crafts, listening to my choice of music (peaceful or upbeat and not dissonant, no lyrics since I can’t readily process spoken or sung words), I found the ‘real’ me.

I lost a lot of anxiety and anguish by simply declining invitations to loud parties, noisy social gatherings such as dinners in restaurants, classrooms, malls, etc and substituting meeting with one or 2 people for quiet shared activities.

It may require others in your life to make adjustments too, or you might need to compromise to keep peace, but I urge you to find your most distressing activities and find ways to eliminate them or change them to things that provide pleasure or at least reduce discomfort.

Change clothing, change shopping habits, change the way you socialize or interact with others, change decor or arrangements within your home to accommodate your worst struggles. Many of us have it in our power to make adjustments that can make life so much better. You do not have to do anything one certain way, or in many cases you might not have to do it at all.

Sometimes we need to just stop and consider alternatives. Change can be scary, but taken in little bites, and not all at once, sometimes changes can bring about a lot of relief and comfort in exchange for the pain, anxiety and frustration.

What can you do, one step at a time to remove painful experiences from your life and to substitute or build new and pleasant experiences for yourself?

Diagnosis attempts continue

Yet another attempt to find somebody who understands adults, more specifically OLD adult women with autism.

This struggle is rather the norm for adults seeking diagnosis in the USA rather than an uncommon report.

I am blessed to have insurance that will help, but it still will pay for only a small portion of the diagnostic fees, and will not pay, of course, for all of the travel and personal expenses entailed in attempts to find somebody qualified and willing to work with older adult autism diagnosis processes.
The ability to travel or to absorb expenses not covered by insurance is non existing for so many adult elderly.

The best hope for ageing populations with autism is to familiarize the medical and supportive communities with autism struggles and the ways this might present itself in older adults. (We who have not had the advantages of diagnosis and support in youth, and who have largely had to struggle through life with little understanding of all the ‘whys’ surrounding our varied forms of disability and how those have affected us all our lives. )


I had talked briefly with my GP (general practitioner) DR about my search for diagnosis and she agreed she could not help, did not know of anybody who worked with adult subjects. She noted the input from my previous unsuccessful attempt with the neurologist.

Evidently the following/second attempt at diagnosis psychologist’s appointment notes were not forwarded to her as I requested, perhaps pending my diagnostic appointment which never happened due to extreme illness on the part of the psychologist.

The GP Dr has been aware of my struggles with anxiety and depression, and had prescribed meds for me about a year ago. It helped with my mood, and I was able to experience time with no anxiety, but at the cost of sleeping 4 or 5 hours during the day and at least 10 hours each night. I was sedentary and my weight shot up 25 lbs in a 2 month period. We decreased dosage but I was still lethargic and feeling unhealthy in spite of a less anxious outlook on life. I made the decision to go off the meds.
Anxiety is far less since I retired, and my understanding of how to control situations that might call up stress or distress (by avoiding them!) has helped greatly to reduce every day anxiety. Depression seems to be lifting as my feelings of being helpless to deal with so many day to day situations (mostly involving other people) have been fewer.

I saw the GP for my yearly check up yesterday and after my explanations about struggles with communication (which she has experienced with me herself, losing patience when i tried to talk to her and ask questions in the past) she has become more empathetic, or my perception of her recognizes this in her, where in previous encounters that factor seemed to be missing.

Dr GP agreed ( after some verbal wrangling and misunderstanding on both of our parts but mostly mine), to proceed with referring me to the Adult Autism diagnosis clinic in another state. It will entail a long drive (over 8 hours) and overnight stays both before and after the day of testing/examination. I will learn more when the clinic calls me to gather information and set up an appointment.
I have read the books the Autism diagnosing doctor has written about elderly autistic people and how diagnosis differs from standard diagnostic procedures for youngsters.
I have struggled recently to listen to a podcast interview with her. (my auditory processing is not very good) and I am sure she will either be able to pick my much-adapted autism out or tell me I am not autistic with accuracy.

This will be the ‘last stop’. If diagnosis is not autism I will have to look elsewhere to understand all the things that learning about autism seems to have answered for me. I can not ask my very supportive spouse to continue to invest our retirement dollars in a quest that will be of no financial benefit to anybody, and will only confirm what I am sure of in my own mind and heart. ( the benefit of official diagnosis for me being credibility as an autism advocate).
I will no doubt discuss the appointment and everything surrounding it in more detail as things fall into place for the event to happen.
Mean time I worry.

The neurologist of my first diagnosis attempt told me I was not autistic with an aura of almost gloating smugness, and the emotional devastation I felt because of his descriptions of my so called “other diagnoses” still gives me anxiety and dread.
I know his knowledge (or lack thereof) of autism was from the 1960’s-70’s when autism was not understood as well, and was not accurate, yet the damage done through his assigning so many other labels of impairment/mental illnesses had/ and still has me shaken to the core. The childhood and early adulthood me believing I am wrong and bad about everything surfaces and remains strong when I think about this, it is so easy to slip into the old habits of my approach to life for the first 65 years – all my fault!!!



One small part of me is fearful this will happen again.

So many people, women especially, in some of my on line autistic groups report having been given multiple labels for serious mental disorders and having been treated sometimes for years, for these disorders with little to no success, drugs and therapy simply compounding struggles, making one inert, or actually making things worse.


Society and medicine are just beginning to understand autism and how to recognize it, especially in aged persons who have had to learn coping mechanisms on their own, and to find their own way. I look forward to seeing adult diagnosis and understanding of autism before I die. I think it is coming. The more we can do to raise awareness of adult autism and help establish criteria and availability of information to diagnosing and supporting entities, the sooner this will become reality.