Chameleon: An Asperger’s Memoir eBook is now available on Amazon. A paperback edition will be published later this week. Thank you so much to Jennifer Gensic from Learn From Autistics for the opportunity to participate in an interview to discuss my writing, life with autism, relationships, marriage, and other topics related to life as a woman on the spectrum. Read below for the complete introduction which opens the memoir, and thank you to my readers for sticking with me!
Click here to read the interview on Learn From Autistics.
Chameleon: An Asperger’s Memoir
After reading and researching bestselling books and memoirs written by people with autism, I realized I wasn’t finding what I really wanted to read. And that is where this memoir was born.
There are lots of great how-to books with instruction and guidance. For example, Dr. Temple Grandin is a fascinating and informative writer and can write technically about the brain and how it works differently in autistic people. I am far from an expert on autism or its history, but what I do have is an experience as someone with Asperger’s whom many people don’t recognize as someone with Asperger’s.
Even though the prevalence of autism in society has grown exponentially, and is probably even more prevalent than we know, most people still seem to have a very narrow view of what autism is—what it “looks” like, how it is manifested, and what behaviors are associated with it. Those who are interested may know that there are a lot of people who believe such figures as Albert Einstein or Beethoven were autistic. Some of you may have come across an article or two about an autistic savant who cannot communicate verbally but can play technically difficult music on a piano or sketch an entire city skyline in perfect detail having only seen it once.
But there is another shade on the autism spectrum that encompasses people who are characterized as the “quiet” guys, the “shy” girls, or the “loners,” with a unique propensity for fascination. Of course, there are people who are shy and obsessed with trains who are not on the spectrum, but for those who are, there is more going on than many people realize.
When people talk about those who are autistic, but “just a little bit,” most people go for the most common characteristics they know of. Typically, they believe, autistic people have very little interest in others, don’t feel emotions, don’t like to be touched, are intensely interested in a few specialized hobbies, are unable to talk in social settings, and have anger problems, just to name a few. These may be common, but they by no means define all autistic people.
Even less is known about women, particularly, when it comes to autism. The accounts of women on the spectrum that I’ve read are fascinating, and it is interesting to see women’s memoirs coming across as more personal than many of the men’s memoirs. Some of it has to do with writing style, perhaps. But there is one main thing that I, personally, wanted to try doing differently.
I didn’t want to write about the subject in a dry way. It is a big mistake to think that people who have been diagnosed with Asperger’s, especially women, do not feel emotions. Some of the most interesting female accounts I’ve come across have come from video journals on YouTube. They are created by women who are hurting, lonely, and who feel like the only way they might be able to connect with someone is through the internet, and that they must lay it all out on the table in order to find someone who might sympathize, or, more importantly, empathize. These women I’ve listened to have a lot in common. They are lonely and they don’t have many friends, if any. They struggle with comorbid diagnoses like depression and anxiety. And, finally, they typically aren’t diagnosed until later in life, at least compared with boys. I watched one lecture by a woman who was 38 when she finally got a diagnosis. She had spent many years lost and depressed and confused about the core of her struggles.
I wanted to write about some of the struggles that women with autism face, but I also wanted to highlight some of the gifts and strengths that come with Asperger’s. Of course, this is going to be just one example, and the range of possibilities for similarities and differences between myself and other women with Asperger’s is endless. I don’t want to pretend like I am speaking for the group—just myself.
To this end, I wrote this memoir as a personal narrative while organizing much of the content into categories that I think are important for understanding life as a woman with Asperger’s.
My ultimate goal is simply to shed some light on Asperger’s in women and how it can affect a woman’s life as well as the lives around her.
The prevalence of autism is growing, and there doesn’t seem to be any stopping it. I think we have a lot to learn and wrap our minds around as a society before we can begin to understand the value in having people around who see things a bit differently, and who feel things a bit differently. After all, according to many people, some of the greatest entries in human cultural and scientific history have come from the weird man or woman who never went to parties and preferred to stay up all night studying their singular fascinations in life.
My family does not make much of an appearance in this book, simply because my experience with autism and Asperger’s began much later in life. With that said, I was incredibly lucky to be raised in a loving and supportive household. My brother and I attended a private school outside of our school district simply because my parents wanted the absolute best for us. My brother attended boy scouts, and I was chauffeured around to hundreds of dance classes and competitions throughout my pre-teen and teenage years. I love my family very much, and I am grateful for their unending love and support which has endured throughout my life.