I have four dates coming up this weekend. One each evening from Thursday to Sunday. I know this sounds like a flex but I’m a bit stressed about it. I’m having to forgo any other socialising with friends to make sure I don’t overdo it, and to keep my energy levels in check. Why? Because I’m autistic.The last time I did this amount of dating was back in my self-proclaimed Hot Girl Summer of 2019. That September, I had three dates on three consecutive days but I was also working a full-time office job, socialising lots and making bad decisions, and I was heading right towards a bad period of burnout.
Two weeks later I got a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), which hit me like a train. I became very overwhelmed and unwell for a variety of reasons, and stopped dating.I was still feeling rubbish when the pandemic hit but things got better as the summer came around and I adopted a cat. I ventured back onto dating apps but I didn’t date very seriously, knowing we’d be going back into lockdown at some point. I decided over winter that Zoom dates and cold, awkward walks weren’t for me so I’ve only been going on dates since April, when lockdown began to ease. The autism diagnosis allowed me to unlock a huge amount of knowledge about myself that I couldn’t access before. So many things made sense: why I didn’t like eye contact, why certain noises caused me physical discomfort, why I’d always struggled in some social situations.I was diagnosed with various mental health issues in my teens and early 20s – including depression, anxiety and anorexia – but I had always felt like something else was going on. I stumbled upon some articles about how autism presents in adult women and I was speechless. There I was.
Women are woefully under-diagnosed when it comes to autism. The diagnostic criteria is very male-oriented because the condition was originally thought to affect only men and boys. Hence most autistic girls and women slip through the net. As far as I know, nobody ever suggested to me or my parents that I could be autistic. I only got diagnosed because I learned about what autism was really like in women, related to it, then pushed for the diagnosis myself.