By Laur Charleston

Hello! My name is Laur and I’m a Zoologist and pre Vet from the UK. Alongside my interests in animal behaviour, welfare, and medicine, I am passionate about autism advocacy. After receiving a late-diagnosis, I am keen to share my story and experiences with others to raise awareness (coincide with the highs and lows) of life with a Neurodivergent Brain.

The first Autism diagnosis dates to the nineteenth century; The revelation that Females can too be Autistic commenced later following the prevalence of masking and an understanding that Females conceal Autistic traits better than Male counterparts.

Females attempt to fit in more than Males, which makes it harder to detect Autistic traits. The number of Girls and Women receiving an Autism diagnosis is on the increase. With such advancements, we now have Autism charities dedicated to Autistic Females, including Autistic Girls Network.

Despite this, in 2016, I found myself with limited information about 1) Autistic Females and 2) Adult Autism diagnoses in the absence of Neurodivergent TikTok and Instagram influencers. Even in 2016, I found myself receiving apologies after the disclosure that I was Autistic, as though I had just announced a terminal illness soon after I was thrown into a World of learning to navigate life with a disability. A glimpse into prehistoric days where individuals were institutionalised simply for being Autistic and ‘different’ to an unwritten societal norm.

With such insubstantial information about Autism came feelings of inadequacy and embarrassment for seeking a late diagnosis, which escalated the thoughts that I ought to conceal my diagnosis to abstain from judgement and discrimination. Although with time, exposure, and acceptance I have succeeded at finding peace in my Autism diagnosis, and my Autistic self, I reaffirm that this has not always been the case and that I once held resentment and shame towards my diagnosis.

I’ve learned that I feel angry at my Autistic Brain at times. Though mainly when I “fail” at completing a task or understanding a verbal instruction in a non-autistic way. I placed myself on a pedestal of trying to ‘fit in’ for so long; I am beginning to unravel that and to live like Laur. In addition, my Brain also has magnificent qualities, it aids my goat obsession and allows me to retain buckets of information.

I pledge to seek the positives of an Autism diagnosis and what this means for me and have grown to appreciate that this is an ongoing, daily journey. I continually seek role models to motivate me throughout stagnant, trying, times, and am now beginning to consider the implications of growing up as an undiagnosed, Neurodivergent, member of society. I remain grateful for my Autism diagnosis and feel particularly privileged as a Woman to have an awareness of my Neurodivergent Brain.

I’m no longer at the ‘newly-diagnosed’ stage; I am continually learning new things about being Autistic every day!

In retrospect, the journey towards acquiring an Autism diagnosis took around 6 months. I appreciate that my waiting time was minimal in comparison to others, yet this still had profound implications on my mental health and overall wellbeing.

Throughout the waiting process, my anxiety became exacerbated, and I began experiencing suicidal ideation and documented in-depth plans and thoughts about ending my life. The fear of the unknown escalated to self-harming behaviours and a prescribed dose of antidepressants. Coincide with this, I was battling an eating disorder – Anorexia Nervosa, to which I am currently in recovery from. It felt as though I was carrying the weight of the World on my shoulders, with limited resources available to guide me through the process.

I cannot recall ever feeling further from myself as I did on, what was anticipated to be, a journey of discovery. I felt misunderstood, isolated, and trapped when I was unable to be left alone for safeguarding concerns. Further, I longed to hear a story of somebody going through the same, which is why I have established a personal goal to advocate for myself and others through sharing my story and raising awareness.

I masked heavily throughout School, College and even my home life. Upon attempts to aid my curiosity into how I was perceived by others, I was met with comments from Teachers such as “You don’t seem Autistic to me”. I loved the structure and routine that came with educational settings and felt overjoyed at becoming immersed in my interests but struggled greatly with self-criticism and perfectionism segmented in the layer of academic success. I submitted assignments well, became hyper fixated on researching for hours and had excellent punctuality; None of this felt good enough when I continually failed to fit in within friendship groups. The ability I had to conceal this well meant I coped, not thrived, without support for my whole School and College life.

It’s approaching 8 years since I received my Autism diagnosis. Here are some of the ways in which I have found peace in my diagnosis. Though, admittedly, I didn’t anticipate reaching a stage of peace and acceptance. It was only when a newly-diagnosed friend reached out to me for advice that I reflected on my journey, so far.

I succeeded at finding peace upon the realisation that it’s a daily process and that my idea of peace may look different from another persons. Moreover, this does not mean feeling 100% happy with being Autistic all the time, but learning to recognise the trials and tribulations of life with a disability.

  1. Connecting with Neurodivergent people – I have found that my closest friendship groups consist of Neurodivergent people, which has helped me to feel comfortable, while aiding my abilities to unmask and accept myself. I continue to learn valuable life lessons from my Neurodivergent friends about the tips and tricks to wing it through life.
  2. Social media – Following and interacting with more Neurodivergent ‘creators’ who’ve offered information and resources when they have been sparce elsewhere. I find them particularly helpful on Instagram and TikTok, where I can relate to videos and written words.
  3. Giving myself time and permission – Navigating the World as an Autistic individual comes with its challenges; I’ve learned to take things each day at a time and to give myself longer as and when required. It’s okay to do things differently, it’s okay to take time.
  4. Learning to accommodate myself – This has meant allowing myself to use sensory aids (Such as fidget toys, loop earplugs and earphones) in public settings to assist the self stimulatory (Stimming) process. With this included accepting accommodations and no longer feeling ‘undeserving’ of them, which could mean additional time in exams, airport assistance and access to quiet spaces.
  5. Prioritising time for my special interests – Alongside my biggest interest in animals, I am also interested in writing, photography and getting into nature. These interests enable me to regulate and to find a temporary escape from my busy Brain.
  6. Finding my voice – An unwritten component of an Autism diagnosis is self-advocacy. I began my journey with restricted communication (And a limited knowledge of Autism) I’m now learning to find my voice, which means challenging things when I feel they are not quite right and advocating for myself to gain the support, understanding, and accommodations that I require.
  7. Stopping comparison – I grew up comparing myself to non-autistic individuals and then began comparing myself to autistic individuals after receiving my diagnosis. I picked at myself constantly for not having *every single* autistic trait. I have since realised that it’s possible to share a ‘label’ with another person, but to be completely individual.

Biography

Hello! My name is Laur and I’m a Zoologist and pre Vet from the UK. Alongside my interests in animal behaviour, welfare, and medicine, I am passionate about autism advocacy. After receiving a late-diagnosis, I am keen to share my story and experiences with others to raise awareness (coincide with the highs and lows) of life with a Neurodivergent Brain.