Now we’re taking a detour into more non-fiction. Author Rachel Bushman received an Autism diagnosis later in life and wanted to help others explore the topic when things just don’t seem quite “right.”
Here’s her interview:
Jenn: Do you mind sharing a little about how you came to explore the topic of Autism for yourself?
Rachel: I was struggling with my mental health as a Mom of many young children. In trying to find answers, I happened upon a video interviewing an Autistic young woman. So many of her mannerisms reminded me of me. How her family spoke about her echoed things my family had always said about me. A lightbulb suddenly clicked. So many events in my life made so much more sense!
J: What did personal acceptance (accepting this diagnosis) look like for you?
R: I sat on this for about a year. I watched that video, and I was quite certain I was Autistic. I didn’t have access to a mental health professional to speak with about this, at the time. I didn’t know what else to do with this knowledge. I shelved it for a little over a year. Then, I couldn’t stand not knowing for sure any longer. That’s when I started frenzied research. I figured out what the most common tests were. I found groups of Autistic adults. I never realized that many others had lived experiences so similar to my own! I was so grateful to find my people! I had never before felt so fully accepted as I do in these groups!
J: How did you decide to compile ‘Could I be Autistic?’
R: I am now three years out from realizing I am Autistic. Two years out from exploring that possibility fully. And one year out from coming out as Autistic publicly. I see that question all the time in the groups I am in “Could I Be Autistic?” brought about by a person’s child’s diagnosis or by someone having a friend being diagnosed or by people seeing more Autistic representation in media which leaves people questioning their selves. I didn’t want others to have such a long and hard-fought journey as I had. I want people to have the information I have three years into this journey- but in an instant at their fingertips!
J: It’s great that the book is about starting the conversation with oneself and one’s medical professionals. Do you have advice for an adult when it comes to broaching the subject with family?
R: Be confident. There are so many misconceptions and stereotypes. People will likely say asinine and outdated things. Be you unabashedly. Odds are, you masked for a long time and it will take time to adjust to you being yourself more fully. There’s also a huge genetic component. Chances are, you are not the only Autistic apple to fall off this family tree! This might cause some people to be uncomfortable and their cognitive dissonance to flare up, as they might come to realize they are also Neurodivergent. Some people find relief in this, but it can cause other people to panic. Their reaction is not a reflection on you and is something they have to sort through.
J: Do you mind sharing how your family handled the news?
R: My family, on the whole, has been very supportive. I came out to most of my family early on when I was exploring the idea. I always marched to the beat of my own drummer. I was just so matter-of-fact about it. No one was particularly shocked. It explained so much, and they could feel how relieved I was to find answers! They could tell I was happy to know.
J: What’s your favorite autistic tip or “hack” to making life a little easier?
R: Let go of your shame. I had three and a half decades of shame associated with the various ways I failed daily. I thought for so long I was a broken Neurotypical person who was full of moral failings. I thought, if I just tried harder and applied myself more, I would no longer struggle with the things I did. When I started going into Autistic run spaces, I came across a beautifully written piece about a penguin living in a sparrow world. Reading this piece reframed my struggles and the shame I felt melted away. I am a perfectly functioning penguin!
J: Do you have any new projects coming up?
R: I am mostly working on my blog on Medium, More Relatable Autistic Content. I have a couple of more ideas for books floating around in my head! I am thinking about creating a Podcast. I used to work in radio and lettered in Theatre growing up. Getting back to my roots with the spoken word would be incredible!
J: What are you reading now?
R: I am currently reading Battlefield Earth. Again! It’s one of my favorites! I tend to like books with a lot of moving parts, that come together in interesting and rather unexpected ways- like Ender’s Game and Jane Eyre. I love Battlefield Earth because it touches on so many different genres and topics as it goes. History, geology, economics, military tactics. You never know what you’ll encounter from one turn of the page to the next!
Okay, that’s all for now. Be sure to follow Rachel’s blog. Have a wonderful day, everyone!
P.S. And, just in case you’re curious, I did take all the assessments in the book. Here are my scores:
The Ritvo Autism Asperger Diagnostic Scale: 97 / Language: 13 / Social: 50 / Sensory-Motor: 25 / Circumscribed Interests: 9
The Systemizing Quotient: 72
Self-Report Camouflaging Autistic Traits: 154 / Compensation: 57 / Masking: 46 / Assmilation: 51
The Aspie Quiz: Neurodiverse Score: 134/200 / Neurotypical Score: 74/200