+
More

As a woman, I was written off as lazy and disorganized. My unexpected diagnosis? Autism.

Difficulty adapting to daily life is not a symptom often factored into the diagnostic process for autism. It should be.

Rushing off the subway platform, I race through the crowded streets to try to make lunch with my friend.

I’ve canceled on her twice this week, something she isn’t exactly thrilled about. As I cross an intersection, my foot catches the curb and I tumble to the ground, my phone smashing into the busy street.

Grabbing it quickly, my daily reminders flash through the cracked screen  — wash dishes, clean room, buy tampons, email manager. I groan, remembering that I was supposed to do all of these things before lunch. I start to panic, contemplating how I will squeeze them into my schedule now.


Overwhelmed by the thought of having to sit down and socialize while feeling on edge, I call my friend to cancel. She digs into me for being inconsiderate. I head home, filled with shame. But instead of beginning my tasks, I push the clothes on my bed aside, turn off my phone, and crawl under the covers. I don’t resurface until the next day.

My inability to properly plan ahead and complete daily tasks has stunted my personal growth and well-being since I moved away from home seven years ago.

I live in a constant state of disorder, expressed through missed appointments, forgotten text messages, and errands and assignments that take twice as long than my peers to complete. My poor organizational and cleaning skills have fractured my relationships, prevented me from thriving in jobs, and, in the process, destroyed my self-worth.

I reached out for help multiple times, relaying to various therapists my struggles with organization and cleanliness. Not one specialist connected the dots. They viewed disorganization and forgetfulness as easily amendable and never searched for the source of my struggles.

Defeated, I lamented my woes to a friend one afternoon. When I mentioned that I obsessively ruminate  —  something I rarely admit to anyone  —  a light went on.

"Has anyone ever suggested autism?" she asked.

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental condition that’s thought to be primarily expressed through differences in socializing, communicating, and repetitive behavior. Lesser known are its effects on executive functioning (EF)  — the transit map in our brains that tells us how to plan and organize, keep track of time, and remember information in the moment.

Teachers and therapists don’t equate difficulty accomplishing daily living tasks with ASD. Continually showing up late doesn’t raise a flag like, say, lack of eye contact readily does.

New research, however, is shedding more light on how EF affects autistic people, especially those socialized as girls.

It’s presumed that autistic girls adapt better in life since many display stronger social skills. But a five-year study published this year in Autism Research unveiled a different layer  —  autistic girls are struggling in their ability to function in daily life, perhaps even more than their male counterparts. They just struggle with different skills.

My therapist was stunned when I broached the topic of autism. She hesitantly said, "But you don’t seem atypical." Like so many people, she believed autism manifests through missed social cues or lack of eye contact, neither of which I possess. My disarray doesn’t fit the mold, and so it was never seen as a neurodiverse trait.

The study looked at children and adolescents, which left me wondering  —  what about adult women? Are there women who pass socially but have difficulties navigating the pressures of daily life?

I posted the question online, and a flood of responses came in within minutes. Sue is professionally and socially successful, but struggles to remember appointments, manage money, and clean her room. Gregarious and emphatic, she didn’t see herself as autistic. But as she learned more about the different ways it can affect women, she realized that ASD fit her perfectly. She was diagnosed a decade later.

Melissa, a 32-year-old working mother, struggled to keep on top of daily tasks when she lived alone in her 20s. Trash and dirty clothes piled up in her apartment. She now leans on her husband, who does the cooking and cleaning and checks that her clothes are on correctly before work.

She has a master’s degree and a successful career, yet despite her accomplishments, she struggles with poor self-worth as a consequence of her differences in organization. "Most people see me as lazy and gross," she says.

Different executive abilities particularly hurt those socialized as women.

"Women are expected to just pick up daily skills naturally. You’re tainted as a moral failure if you can’t get organized," says Becker.

Bre from Oklahoma echoes this: "I compare myself a lot to other women. I am frequently disorganized and forget stuff  —  it’s been a lifelong struggle."

Melissa was misdiagnosed twice growing up, and it wasn’t until four years ago that a psychiatrist finally recognized ASD in her. Since discovering she’s autistic, she’s started to accept herself  —  but it has understandably been a long road. It’s easy for undiagnosed people to compare themselves to allistic (non-autistic) people, and it’s easy for allistic people to judge differences harshly if they don’t recognize a disability.

Every time I look at my messy room, I am reminded of this disheartening fact: So long as my friends, family, and therapists recognize me as allistic, my executive differences will always be interpreted as a personal failure.

At 25, I finally received my overdue diagnosis.

It hasn’t waved a magic wand over my messy room but, at least now, I understand why I struggle with organization, cleanliness, and short-term memory.

Still, while my diagnosis has helped me understand and accept myself, it hasn’t improved my relationships. When my differences surface  —  when I accidentally wear my shirt backwards, or bleed through my tampon, or tell my friends to meet at the wrong bar  —  my friends display an eye-roll, a sigh of exasperation, an embarrassed look away, a patronizing laugh, or pure anger.

Support, not criticism, after a diagnosis can help an autistic person learn how to accommodate their differences.

Recognizing areas of strain  —  that maybe those wont’s are indeed cant’s  —  they can try different methods, such as finding a routine that does work. They may also learn to accept, for instance, that maybe both cleaning and cooking are not possible in one day, as each depletes so much energy.

I am happy that, today, I have a better sense of who I am. My hope is that, eventually, we will live in a world that recognizes who I am, too.

Author’s note: To promote acceptance, I refer to myself as an autistic person instead of a person with autism because it is a central part of my identity. The people I featured identify as autistic as well. Additionally, some autistic people do not see their executive differences as a disability  —  and that is valid. My goal with this article is not to confirm or oppose that, but show how difficult it is to live in a world that doesn’t recognize EF differences.

This story first appeared at The Establishment, a platform dedicated to amplifying marginalized voices, and is reprinted here with permission. Support The Establishment's work by becoming a member here.

Nature

Pennsylvania home is the entrance to a cave that’s been closed for 70 years

You can only access the cave from the basement of the home and it’s open for business.

This Pennsylvania home is the entrance to a cave.

Have you ever seen something in a movie or online and thought, "That's totally fake," only to find out it's absolutely a real thing? That's sort of how this house in Pennsylvania comes across. It just seems too fantastical to be real, and yet somehow it actually exists.

The home sits between Greencastle and Mercersburg, Pennsylvania, and houses a pretty unique public secret. There's a cave in the basement. Not a man cave or a basement that makes you feel like you're in a cave, but an actual cave that you can't get to unless you go through the house.

Turns out the cave was discovered in the 1830s on the land of John Coffey, according to Uncovering PA, but the story of how it was found is unclear. People would climb down into the cave to explore occasionally until the land was leased about 100 years later and a small structure was built over the cave opening.

Keep ReadingShow less
Architectural Digest/Youtube

This house was made with love.

Celebrity home tours are usually a divisive topic. Some find them fun and inspirational. Others find them tacky or out of touch. But this home tour has seemingly brought unanimous joy to all.

“Stranger Things” actor David Harbour and British singer-songwriter Lily Allen, whose Vegas wedding in 2020 came with an Elvis impersonator, gave a tour of their delightfully quirky Brooklyn townhouse for Architectural Digest, and people were absolutely loving it.

For one thing, the house just looks cool. There’s nothing monotone or minimalist about it. No beige to be seen.

Keep ReadingShow less
Pop Culture

Buffy Sainte-Marie shares what led to her openly breastfeeding on 'Sesame Street' in 1977

The way she explained to Big Bird what she was doing is still an all-time great example.

"Sesame Street" taught kids about life in addition to letters and numbers.

In 1977, singer-songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie did something revolutionary: She fed her baby on Sesame Street.

The Indigenous Canadian-Ameican singer-songwriter wasn't doing anything millions of other mothers hadn't done—she was simply feeding her baby. But the fact that she was breastfeeding him was significant since breastfeeding in the United States hit an all-time low in 1971 and was just starting to make a comeback. The fact that she did it openly on a children's television program was even more notable, since "What if children see?" has been a key pearl clutch for people who criticize breastfeeding in public.

But the most remarkable thing about the "Sesame Street" segment was the lovely interchange between Big Bird and Sainte-Marie when he asked her what she was doing.

Keep ReadingShow less
Health

Oregon utilizes teen volunteers to run their YouthLine teen crisis hotline

“Each volunteer gets more than 60 hours of training, and master’s level supervisors are constantly on standby in the room.”

Oregon utilizes teen volunteers to man YouthLine teen crisis hotline

Editor's Note: If you are having thoughts about taking your own life, or know of anyone who is in need of help, the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline is a United States-based suicide prevention network of over 200+ crisis centers that provides 24/7 service via a toll-free hotline with the number 9-8-8. It is available to anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress.

Mental health is a top-of-mind issue for a lot of people. Thanks to social media and people being more open about their struggles, the stigma surrounding seeking mental health treatment appears to be diminishing. But after the social and emotional interruption of teens due the pandemic, the mental health crises among adolescents seem to have jumped to record numbers.

PBS reports that Oregon is "ranked as the worst state for youth mental illness and access to care." But they're attempting to do something about it with a program that trains teenagers to answer crisis calls from other teens. They aren't alone though, as there's a master's level supervisor at the ready to jump in if the call requires a mental health professional.

The calls coming into the Oregon YouthLine can vary drastically, anywhere from relationship problems to family struggles, all the way to thoughts of self-harm and suicide. Teens manning the phones are provided with 60 hours of training and are taught to recognize when the call needs to be taken over by the adult supervisor.

Keep ReadingShow less
Family

Mom shares her brutal experience with 'hyperemesis gravidarum' and other moms can relate

Hyperemesis gravidarum is a severe case of morning sickness that can last up until the baby is born and might require medical attention.

@emilyboazman/TikTok

Hyperemesis gravidarum isn't as common as regular morning sickness, but it's much more severe.

Morning sickness is one of the most commonly known and most joked about pregnancy symptoms, second only to peculiar food cravings. While unpleasant, it can often be alleviated to a certain extent with plain foods, plenty of fluids, maybe some ginger—your typical nausea remedies. And usually, it clears up on its own by the 20-week mark. Usually.

But sometimes, it doesn’t. Sometimes moms experience stomach sickness and vomiting, right up until the baby is born, on a much more severe level.

Hyperemesis gravidarum (HG), isn’t as widely talked about as regular morning sickness, but those who go through it are likely to never forget it. Persistent, extreme nausea and vomiting lead to other symptoms like dehydration, fainting, low blood pressure and even jaundice, to name a few.

Emily Boazman, a mom who had HG while pregnant with her third child, showed just how big of an impact it can make in a viral TikTok.

Keep ReadingShow less

The cast of TLC's "Sister Wives."

Dating is hard for just about anyone. But it gets harder as people age because the dating pool shrinks and older people are more selective. Plus, changes in dating trends, online etiquette and fashion can complicate things as well.

“Sister Wives” star Christine Brown is back in the dating pool after ending her “spiritual union” with polygamist Kody Brown and she needs a little help to get back in the swing of things. Christine and Kody were together for more than 25 years and she shared him with three other women, Janelle, Meri and Robyn.

Janelle and Meri have recently announced they’ve separated from Kody. Christine publicly admitted that things were over with Kody in November 2021.

Keep ReadingShow less