My Writing Life – Autism And Depression

You know how social media influencers have these seemingly perfect lives? You won’t find that here. Firstly, I’m not an influencer. But secondly, I think that showing only the happy times and how successful you are, is damaging to everyone else watching you through this lens. None of us have smooth sailing all the way, and if we even begin to think that someone out there does, it makes our failings so much worse. You can easily become isolated in that thinking, and begin to believe that you’re the only failure in the world. Have none of that thinking here, my friend. I’ll show you the ugly sides of my writing life as well the good. You’ll get the ups and downs, the highs and the lows with me. Like today! Autism and depression. That’s what I’m talking about in this blog article.

Now, you may have noticed that today’s blog article and social posting is a few weeks after my last efforts. The reason for this obviously relates to the title. Yep, that’s right! I went through a bit of a tough patch the last few weeks, and only started recovering this past Sunday evening. (It’s Thursday afternoon when I’m writing this and I’m uploading it on Monday.) I had a lot of catching up to do because I kinda fell away for about two weeks.

About My Autism

I’ve been married for more than ten years to a wonderful man I’ve met online. (Story for another day.) We’ve always gotten along so well, it felt like we’re the same human being. It’s almost as though we’re the same soul that was divided and put into two separate bodies. After a while of us being together, I was told by his family that he was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome at a young age. I thought to myself, “Interesting… but surely not? We’re exactly the same person!”

At that point, I’ve only known about the Autism stereotype: A young boy who refuses to make eye contact and flaps his hands when agitated. I didn’t do anything like that. For one thing, I wasn’t a young boy. I didn’t flap my hands when agitated. I always make eye contact when speaking to others. To my mind, if I don’t do anything like that, then my husband isn’t autistic either. Like I said, we’re practically the same person.

But Over The Years…

I’ve realised that my husband isn’t like other people. Not only is he much more wonderful and kind, generous and sweet than any man I’ve ever met, but he also didn’t socialise like other people. He talks the bare minimum to others (we can talk for hours about movies and characters, though) and he doesn’t seem to mind much that people seems puzzled by his lack of communication. I looked into Autism. He definitely showed some of the typical symptoms whenever it came to socialisation. I realised that I was wrong about him being “normal”… and I obviously realised that I might have autism as well, seeing as how we’re the same person. It definitely would have explained why I’ve never been able to fit in, and why going to school was like a daily death sentence for me. “But no,” I thought, “I still talk to people. I make eye contact. I smile. I want to socialise and make friends.” It didn’t make sense to me.

I was about to dismiss Autism until one night I stumbled upon an article that made one thing very clear: Women with Autism do not show the typical signs thereof. Our symptoms are masked to the point where even trained professionals won’t catch them!

Girls With Autism

Boys with autism generally don’t care about socialising that much. They have their special interests that keep them perfectly happy. Most girls and women with autism, on the other hand, want to socialise. We want to fit in. But more importantly, we want to blend with a crowd so much that we’ll ultimately turn invisible. That way, people will just leave us alone. It’s the conundrum of some girls with autism: We need something that we don’t want.

Through years of observation, girls with autism pick out traits of neurotypical individuals and use these traits as their own. Most of the time, they do this completely subconsciously. For me, personally, I was so tired of making social blunders at school that I’d become almost anyone else in order to not be rejected by my peers. But kids always spot the ones who are different and push them out of society. In a strange way, I completely understand their reactions to me. It didn’t make it hurt any less, though.

School Was Torture

Imagine you’re woken up every day by your parent, dressed in clothes that you wouldn’t want to be caught dead in, and sent to another planet with aliens you’ve never seen before. Imagine the bewilderment you’ll feel. You’re both unable to understand what they’re trying to communicate to you with their various noises, but knowing that they expect you to know exactly what’s going on around you at the same time. And oh, if you don’t fit in, then you die. Good luck! You’ll be doing this for 12 years, and just as you think you might be getting used to the culture, you’re suddenly sent to a completely different planet with new rules. The only rule that stays the same is the death bit if you screw up.

Nice feeling, isn’t it? That was what my school life felt like. Pure bewilderment. Every. Single. Day. Nothing made sense. And you’re scared to make social mistakes, because death to your social life is a very real thing.

I remember thinking that I must have done something awful to be punished that badly. Looking back, I wish that someone sat me down and explained to me that the purpose of school was not to torture me through the constant rejection by my peers, but instead to have me study hard, and get good grades. The constant rejection was pretty bad, though, and didn’t help the self-esteem of a little bewildered girl between the fragile ages of 7 and 13.

Miss Goody-Two-Shoes vs Horrible Monster

I just wanted to disappear from school completely. I didn’t want to be seen or heard anymore than was needed. This prompted me to always do exactly as the teachers said because I’ve seen how much attention the teachers attracted to kids who didn’t listen, and I wanted none of that. But in the afternoon, when I went home, I was an absolute monster. My mom had no idea how to handle me. I remember wondering, even back then, why I couldn’t be as nice to my mom as I was to the teachers. I was a little explosive thundercloud at home. But I was at my happiest when I was left alone. I used to play by myself and make up worlds for my characters to live in.

Constant Social Blunders Made For A Rather Interesting Obsession

Back when I was around 9 or 10, I would make my little plastic animals go to “school” and put them in similar situations to my own to see how things could have gone a little better that particular schoolday. This way, I became obsessed with analysing social situations of the past to see what I could have done differently, as well as prepare for social situations that might happen in the future. This is to rehearse what I should say, you see. To this day, 90% of my thoughts revolve around past and future conversations. I still think it’s a shame that none of us received a script for life. (That’s what I’m told at least. It feels like everyone else already read through their scripts, because they always seem to know what to say.)

Daydream Believer

I retreated more and more into my thoughts. I made up little stories in my mind and would easily slip out of reality and into a reality of my own design. It’s better there. As a child, I was the hero of my stories and, of course, I was a much better version of myself: A version of myself that always knew what to say, and saved people from terrible situations. This is why movies and superhero stories always appealed to me. People in most movies always know exactly what to say, and they don’t stammer. Nobody talks over them. And when it came to characters like Zorro, Flash, and Superman in The New Adventures Of Lois And Clark, I was in love with the way these characters helped others. I’ve learned very early on that it made me feel ecstatic if I could help someone else. But since I’ve always been incapable of helping anyone in real life, I ran away from reality and into my imagination.


I hated school, as I’ve already said. But to this day I still carry a deep love for that school’s library. I can still see that massive room when I close my eyes. The bookshelves filled with books, the windows, the desk where the (lucky) librarians would be to check out your books… Not that I approached them, of course. That would have meant talking to someone I didn’t know very well. I just wanted to hide in there and read. The town’s library was also the most magical and wonderful place to me. As such, I also developed a deep love for books. Not only did I have my own imagination for escapism, but other amazing and clever people did some imagining of their own and put their stories onto papers for me to read! Books are pure bliss and truly helped me through some dark times.

Diagnosis Will Be An Uphill Battle

I’ve been suspecting Autism for a few years now. But, as you can imagine, most people that I’ve talked to about my suspicions react in the same way. “No, you’re not autistic. You’re talking to me right now and making eye contact.” What makes matters worse are the stories of women who were misdiagnosed with other mental health issues long before someone finally diagnoses them with autism. I live in a country where psychiatrists are very expensive and health insurance even more so. I don’t stand a chance of being diagnosed now. Not after my many years of subconsciously learning how to hide my autistic traits.

Social Interactions Are Exhausting

I had to learn how to talk to people in a socially acceptable way: Smile. Make eye contact. Show your interest with your body language. But socialising is not a skill that comes to me naturally. Maintaining conversations with people drains me emotionally and physically. It’s similar to playing a sport. Socialising is as draining to me as it would be for a person playing football. The longer I am on the socialising field, the more exhausted I become.

Want to know what goes on in my mind when I’m having a conversation with someone I don’t know very well? It sounds a little something like this:

“Make eye contact. Smile. Not too creepily, though! How’s my facial expression right now? Where’s a mirror when you need one? I need to see if I’m sneering or smiling. The person will think I’m a serial killer if I don’t smile nicely. Oops, was that a sad part in their story? I should probably not smile right now, then. I should frown with sympathy. My arms are crossed! When did that happen! I’ve read somewhere that it shows you’re guarded. I need to relax my arms. What do I do with my arms now? It would look weird if they just hang loosely while I’m sitting! My legs are cramped, I need to change position. Am I leaning in too close now? Does my breath smell? I should close my mouth. How many ‘yeah’s’ can I add before the other person feels like I’m rudely interrupting them?! Uh-oh. They are frowning slightly, did I miss yet another social cue?”

And guess what? With all of this going on in my mind, I barely take in what the other person is telling me! It’s been so many times that I catch myself having this thought process and have absolutely no idea what was said to me. The bizarre irony of it all is that I want to look as interested as I am, and it causes me to completely disconnect from the conversation!

With all of this mental strain of worrying about my facial expression, body language, tone of voice, interjections of surprise, happiness, sadness, or disgust at the appropriate times, breath smells, appropriate responses to questions, and all the other subtle little social aspects that other people seem to do naturally, it’s little wonder that I feel like I’ve been playing sport for hours. All of the exhaustion. None of the fitness benefits.

This Exhaustion Can Lead To Depression

Dr Tony Attwood saved my life the last few weeks with this video and this video. Dr Attwood, if ever you read this, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart.

I suffered social exhaustion a few weeks ago and was very near recovery when someone I love dearly went through something horrible. I carried their pain so strongly, and so intensely, that it nearly ended me. I was an empty shell for two weeks, just trying to make it through the day, and just when I felt like I was nearly through, something else happened that sent me falling back into that pit of despair.

The pain of undiagnosed autism is that you can’t simply take a few weeks off from work or family life. I think the pain of diagnosed autism is the same, though. Life goes on, whether you feel like you can deal with it or not. That is why the videos I linked to proved to be invaluable during my two weeks of depression. Dr Attwood helped me understand why I felt what I felt, and that it was temporary. I would get through it. (His videos made me cry with happiness. Finally! Someone understands! He pretty much explained me, even down to the fact that I don’t speak with my native accent and I love using movie quotes.)

What Does This Mean For Me As A Person And As A Writer?

Here’s the thing. After years of feeling like I don’t belong anywhere, it helps me to know that I’m most likely autistic. It gives name to my difficulty with social interactions. It allows me to stop beating myself up for my social blunders. As a perhaps clumsy example of how it makes me feel, think of a person with impaired vision. They won’t keep wondering what’s wrong with them if they walk into furniture. They know full well that they have impaired vision. That knowledge allows them to adjust their lives accordingly.

With my writing, I’m able to explore human emotions, and at the same time, I give another person the gift of escaping reality. I get to help people, and I understand the world better at the same time. I just have to take better care of myself so that I have the strength and courage to write better.

As other writers might already know, writing is difficult at the best of times. Depression is so far removed from the “best of times” that we’re dealing with anxiety about not writing. Yeah, that’s where I’m right now. I’m getting back into it, though.

Thank you for reading this rather lengthy look at my writing life!


  1. Ronel
    Feb, 10, 2020 10:38 PM

    Brilliant!ly explained! I share your pain, literally. Keep up your excellent work!!

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