I’ve always been an introvert, but this tends to surprise people as I socialize reasonably well. You wouldn’t guess that I find being around others overwhelming and exhausting. I asked on Twitter today if anyone else ever got sensory overload?
I’d accidentally stressed myself by combining an intense physical activity with an intellectually demanding one, forcing myself to process touch, sound, and audio. I received a lot of interesting replies back but one friend asked me gently if anyone had ever tested me for the autism spectrum.
I had not ever considered it. The typical struggles I associated with non-neurotypical spectrums weren’t ones I personally had. But he showed me a fascinating article on how women get missed in diagnosis as their patterns are quite different. What I thought of as autism is the dominant presentation in men. In women it shows up differently for many of them. Naturally it is less studied than in boys and men so we’ve got less scientific study to go on. But these presentations all match me. Do please keep in mind that I don’t know anything about the space, it’s politics, or what is or is not appropriate so go easy on me. I’m just noticing that these are patterns I see in myself.
- Work very hard to “camouflage” her social confusion and/or anxiety through strategic imitation, by escaping into nature or fantasy, or by staying on the periphery of social activity.
- Show different sides of her personality in different settings.
- Be more prone to releasing her bottled up emotions at home through meltdowns.
- Be exhausted from the work of deciphering social rules or of imitating those around her to hide her differences.
- Be anxious in settings where she is asked to perform in social situations.
This is interesting enough to me that I’d like to explore further if I might be slightly on a spectrum. Perhaps the exhaustion I feel from socializing is more than simple introversion and should be treated as as something I can accommodate rather than admonish myself over.
I remember spending much of my life working hard to master and emulate social and class markers and behaviors. I didn’t find them confusing. If anything I made a study of it.
I became so good at social cues I would often get praised for it. But I often resented the energy these performances required. When I would express anger or frustration I’d be scolded, told I wasn’t a nice girl, or even told that I was a bad person for not wanting to spend time with people. As an adult I have the choice to use my energy and focus as I see fit.