No, I’m not talking about the tv programme, or that word you shout when someone cuts you off while driving. I’m not even talking about anorexia, a topic that’s come up on here before. I’m talking about autism.
It’s not something I often talk about, not to friends or family, and the vast majority of people in my life don’t know I was diagnosed last year. In a film I watched about Temple Grandin, she says autistic people are “different but not less”, and it’s something I remind myself often. I see the world, the patterns, the rules, the chaos, the pain, the people. Sometimes I feel like I’m seeing more than neurotypical people, sometimes maybe less, but I know autism doesn’t make me any less of a person. The difficulties I face every day, the ones I so seldom mention, the ones I often hide, don’t mean I am worth any less. But why with all this hiding, with the quiet challenges I face, why talk about it now?
There’s a quite striking statistic that 1 in 5 women with anorexia have autism as well, and autism is underdiagnosed in women, leading to years of misdiagnosis or denial of the help they (or we) need. I’ve lived with autism my whole life, but anorexia is still fairly new to me. Rather than the stereotypical body image symptoms, for me, at first, food just seemed an easy way to control my life when my routine changed – I couldn’t stop the world changing around me, the days muddling up. I thought I could stop one part of the chaos, but I was wrong. Anorexia is chaos. Hospital was chaos. Life was chaos.
Now? Well I’m still autistic if that’s what you were wondering, and I still have anorexia, just like so many undiagnosed others, but we all have a place to raise awareness of how often the two come together. It took years of treatment before the possibility of autism was mentioned in my care, and it took me being hospitalised to finally get a diagnosis, but with greater awareness, diagnosis can be earlier, and more importantly so can the access to the correct support.