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How Do I Perceive the World as a Newly Diagnosed Autistic Woman

Writing by Andy Reyes // photograph by Daria Nepriakhina

I haven’t written for a while.

But here I am and I’m happy because I finally received my autism diagnosis.

I would like to share a little about this journey with you.

Learning that I am autism has been so liberating. Throughout my life, I have always had a lot of uncertainty about how I perceived the world. From a very young age, I had anxiety, depression and hugging or touching was incredibly uncomfortable for me.

I always knew there was something about me that didn’t quite feel “normal”. My problems socialising or understanding the world have affected me for more than 20 years.

After several misdiagnoses such as: social anxiety, multiple personality disorder and attention deficit disorder to name a few. I finally got my autism diagnosis at 28.

My life before being diagnosed with autism was very confusing. I remember perceiving myself as someone who did not fit in with ‘normal’ people or in ‘regular’ places. I am very selective with who I spend time with, I cannot be with many people.

Something very characteristic of me is pain and discomfort towards certain things like clothes, accessories, even food. I can eat the same food for days or weeks and I like to order my plate of food by sections.

School for me was an unpleasant experience, I never had friends – children can be really cruel. Classmates would make  fun of the way I walked – always looking at the ground. From the age of 8 to 10 I ate in the school bathrooms. Remember the scene in Mean Girls where Cady, played by Lindsay Lohan eats in the bathroom? That was my school life.

In order to get a diagnosis I had to go through a lot of “you don’t look like an autistic person” responses. In the eyes of others, I didn’t have the appearance of an autistic person.

I was finally able to have access to a diagnosis after almost two years of searching for a good professional, one who listened to my doubts, my concerns and did the corresponding tests. I had to learn a lot about autism in women and how, many autistic women are not diagnosed at an early age, like me.

I would like to share with you how I perceive the world as neurodivergent:

  • I can’t look directly into someone else’s eyes, it’s like I’m receiving too much information and that makes me feel very uncomfortable
  • When something excites me too much my hands get out of control and start clapping. This is known as stimming.
  • I have hypersensitivity in my ears, I can’t process noise like neurotypical people. Cars and loud music are painful and I start to have panic attacks. I usually regulate myself by covering my ears or recently with sound cancelling headphones..

In the process of learning my diagnosis, I realised that the tests are still intended for men since it was believed that women could not have autism.

Some professionals are poorly informed about autism in women, since often times we do not fit 100% of the symptoms that usually appear in men in the first years of life.

This was something I had to deal with because some specialists told me that autism was only diagnosed in men and that it was impossible for me to be autistic.

Now that I have my diagnosis and know I am part of this world, I no longer feel excluded as before. The characteristics that make me unique no longer embarrass me or make me feel bad.

As I write this, I think of all the women who live without having a diagnosis or are living with the wrong diagnosis. I would like to hope that the voices of autistic women are being heard more so we don’t have to suffer late diagnosis and a lifetime of confusion.

During this process I was able to meet many autistic women who helped me to understand my autism. They helped me to know that I am not alone. Many of these women have raised their voices and have fought to have access to information about autism in girls and women.

I do psychological therapy every week, where I learn a lot about myself. I no longer have to hide who I am – I love myself more every day and I finally feel that I am living.

Andy Reyes

Andy Reyes (she/her) is a Mexican writer, columnist, and poet. She is a feminist – the women she admires the most are her grandmother and mother. She is proudly Mexican and is interested in psychology and journalism – her favorite hobbies are knitting vests, reading, and making pancakes.

Andie started writing when she was seven years old, with the purpose to understand why she suffered from school bullying, she created a narrative about her experiences at school from the perspective of animals, that is where she fell in love with writing.

Andie likes sunsets, cuddling her cat Mushu and her little dog named Coco.

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