Autism: The Dark Side

Generally, I have found autistic people to be supportive and friendly, but over the past few years it’s become apparent that the autistic ‘community’ has it’s fair share of.. how shall I put this?


You see, there is this so called ‘war’ between the neurodiversity movement and the Autistic Dark Web and, believe me, dark is what you get. So switch on those SAD lamps, folks and I’ll take you to the dark side..

What is The Autistic Dark Web?

The Autistic Dark Web is a group of autistic people who find little or no positivity in being autistic and most would rip your arm off for a cure, though I doubt even they would thank you for a bleach enema! 😮

I visited the Dark Side recently and it was, erm, unnerving. It suddenly went icy cold and It was as if all the happiness had gone from the world.. or am I confusing it with the Dementors in Harry Potter?

How To Spot A Dark Webber

  • The rapid drop in temperature when you engage with one. (Brrrrrrr)
  • Dark images. (Menacing looking figures wearing hoodies)
  • Images of Buddah (Bit of a misnomer)
  • They often answer your question with a question. (Avoidance strategy)
  • You point out that they haven’t answered your question.
  • They belittle you by saying that ‘your’ effing inept at communication’.
  • You suggest they check their grammar before insulting others. (low blow, but what the hell)
  • They lose their shit and block you, but not before they call you a banker (intentional typo) one last time.

To be fair, some proponents of the Dark Side are able to debate without resorting to abuse. They are clearly articulate, but even then there is an air of superiority about them that prompts bile to reverse itself up one’s oesophagus and into the mouth. You get me?

But there is one subject in particular which has most dark webbers foaming at the keyboard and that is self-diagnosis.


“Stop speaking over autistic people. Plus stop promoting self diagnosis, it’s still dangerous.” ~ Twitter

I engaged with this delightful young lady and she called me a swear word that rhymes with punt. 😮


“i dont get why people think they can self dx autism cuz when i was diagnosed they had to ask my mom about my early childhood that i dont remember at all” ~ Twitter

The professionals would have had a hard job asking my parents about my early childhood seeing as they were both dead. Aside nabbing the nearest medium and summoning them up via a seance – there wasn’t a whole lot I could do about it either, but, surprise surprise, I still got a diagnosis.

How about this one?

“People give me headache. If someone tells you they felt ill for a decade and never addressed it save for adding it as selfidentity either they are lying or need to be seen as victims. I thought for years autism may explain things but never identified autistic until dx. #respect #” Twitter

Autism isn’t an illness, but it’s a popular argument over at the Dark Side and one dark webber used a brain tumour as her argument as to why it’s wrong to self diagnose. Is it a credible argument though?


If you think you have a brain tumour, you generally see your GP and pronto or risk dying. To my knowledge, nobody has ever died of autism. Autistic people are at a higher risk of dying earlier due to co-morbid conditions (not to mention the strain of having to deal with pillocks on social media) but autism itself can’t kill you. A brain tumour, however, can render you as dead as a dodo!

There are valid reasons why people self-diagnose such as accessibility, lack of money for a private dx and having autistic children whose needs come before their own. It should also be noted that diagnosis isn’t always beneficial. However, the dark ones claim that the real reason people don’t go for assessment is because ‘they know they won’t meet the criteria.’

Say wuh?

Then there are those whose debating skills just blow you away..

“Get tested or shut the fuck up.” ~ Twitter

Personally, I think this should be the tagline for the Autistic Dark Web.

As it is, I self-diagnosed for four years. The reality is that most self-diagnosers go on to receive a formal diagnosis, but simply being understood by another human being is enough for some. However, you won’t receive any support from dark web types who categorically state that you are NOT autistic until you have an official diagnosis and, what’s more, you have no business identifying as autistic!

Then there’s this.

“#autisticdarkweb I’m going to say it. If someone is married (or in a relationship), has children, has friends, and a good career or job, then they are not autistic. And should not be diagnosed as such because they are obviously not disabled by their ‘autism'” – Twitter

*sets fire to diagnosis papers*

In response to the above tweet – I’ve been married twice and I have three children. I’ve had five jobs over my lifetime and seven ‘real life’ friendships – none of them instigated by me. I’ve also had two eating disorders (A+B), a nervous breakdown, anxiety disorders, depression, OCD, chronic illness, IBS, chronic migraines, sensory disorder, insomnia and so on and so on..

At this point, I’d like to underline the living shit out of the next two sentences. Alas, WordPress only allows for one..

It’s the anxiety and the eating disorders and the chronic illness and the depression and the mental breakdown etc which gives a clue as to how hard it’s been to achieve all of the above.

In that person’s opinion, I can’t possibly be autistic because I tick most of those boxes. But the problem with ticking boxes is that it doesn’t account for the gargantuan effort it takes for an individual to achieve such things. Nor does it account for the cost to mental and physical health. Being a wife and mother doesn’t make me any less autistic – it just means that I’ve had to work hard to accoumplish it.

I’m also the mother of a really amazing autistic boy who has had many challenges to overcome in his nine years, including experiencing a hate incident at eight years old. But I don’t hate autism and I don’t hate being autistic because I have nothing to compare it to, so what’s the point?

To the dark webbers who claim that I’m not autistic because I have a family and don’t hate myself.

I didn’t expect to experience abuse or exclusion by other autistics. Granted, this was naivety on my part because autistics are clearly no different to neurotypicals when it comes to conflict. This is because humans are hardwired to fight. That said, conflict takes a lot more out of hyper-sensitive autistics like me and so it’s with regard for what remains of my sanity that this post draws a line under my interaction with the Dark Web (and Twitter) as my month off has led me to realise that it’s bad for my mental health.

Having been frost-burnt by several dark webbers, my advice is to leave them well alone – the hardliners more so. But should you decide to venture over to the Dark Side to take a peek for yourself, I suggest you wear your thermals.

However difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at. ~ Stephen Hawking


Diagnosis/Self Awareness – How Does That Affect Masking?#TakeTheMaskOff


Until the age of five, I didn’t mask. There was no need to. I was free to exist in my little world without fear of ridicule. I was happy with who I was. Then one day my mother took me to a strange place. This place was loud and scary and had lots of other children in it. It was a sensory nightmare.

My mother stayed with me for a while, then she got up to leave. I remember trying to leave with her, but she told me that I had to stay there. So I did what many children do on their first day of school – I cried.

The teacher sat me on her knee, but it didn’t comfort me because I didn’t like the closeness of her. She was a stranger invading my personal space, but I couldn’t move. I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t do anything to change the situation. A bell rang (loudly) and we were told to go outside where it was hot and the noise was deafening. It hurt my ears. I mean really. I didn’t know what I was supposed to do, so I just stood in the middle of the playground trying (and failing) to process the sensory stimulus that was threatening to overwhelm me.

That was the first time I remember experiencing loss of control.

At that moment, a girl walked up to me. I thought she was going to talk to me. Maybe offer me some friendliness? But she didn’t say a word. Instead, she looked at me as if I was something particularly nasty. Like shit? Then she pinched me hard on the arm.

Whatever I was expecting it wasn’t that.

To the onlooker, it must have looked like I didn’t react at all, but inside of me all hell was breaking loose.

I stared at my shoes while my brain went into overdrive.

I remember wanting to run off home to be with the family who loved me unconditionally and the invisible friends who understood me.

I also remember that nobody came to help me.


How could nobody have seen this?

And why had my mother left me in this horrible place?

At the end of that first day of school, I went to collect my coat, but there was something else on my peg – a mask. I placed it over my face and I wasn’t me anymore.

I wore it for the next forty-one years.

In my forties I became ill. The mask had been slowly suffocating me and now I was struggling to breathe – to live.

During this time I saw a doctor who saw beyond my anxiety. He sent me to see a psychiatrist who sent me for an autism assessment.

Nine months later, I was formally diagnosed as autistic.

First there was relief. Then came the grief – not for being autistic, but for all the time I’d lost trying to be something I’m not and can never be. I grieved for the fearful child that I’d been, the troubled teenager I became and the adult who masked so much that she lost her own identity!

In the beginning, masking is helpful because it provides a way to fit in with everybody else, but over time the mask gets heavier because you lose energy and strength. The mask starts to suffocate you. But you’ve worn it for so long you don’t know how to take it off. Then, life has a way of forcing change upon you and it often comes in the form of mental illness.

Mental illness shrinks you. Literally, in my case. My clothes became loose. My skin lost it’s elasticity. My mask came loose. In the end, it came away with no effort at all, but it was because I was ill. I thought I would feel vulnerable without it, but mental illness takes you to the darkest place you could imagine. A place you NEVER want to be again. I would rather take on the world in it’s full judgemental glory than go back there!

I masked because the world didn’t want the real me and I needed to try and be like everyone else to survive. Being me wasn’t an option – certainly not when I was school in the 70s and early 80’s. It also meant that I flew under the autism radar.

Masking delays diagnosis. Boys are diagnosed a lot earlier because they are generally crap at masking. The example I can give is of my son and myself. My son doesn’t mask and he was diagnosed at 4 years old. I have masked for the majority of my life and I was diagnosed at 46 years old.

Since my breakdown and subsequent diagnosis, I no longer care what people think of me. I get to be me, now.


I walk out into the middle of the infant school playground towards the smaller version of me.

She looks lost, awkward and out-of-place.

She’s hurting, but nobody knows it.

I gently take her hand and whisper, ‘Don’t worry. I’ve got you now’.

We walk past the girl who is responsible for the bright red mark on my younger self’s arm.

We could use the law of retaliation and give the little bitch an eye for an eye, but this is about healing, not revenge.

So we place the girl’s image into an imaginary balloon and let it float up into the sky.

Then we walk off into the cloakroom where a solitary coat is hanging on its peg.

I remove the coat and replace it with a well-worn mask.

We don’t need it anymore.

We’re free.

Autism: The Pretender

I’ve always known I am different, but for most of my life I haven’t known why.

I’ve had to suppress the real me and try to be like everyone else in order to try and fit in.

Masking. Mimicking. Copying. Pretending. Camouflaging. Whatever you call it – it all amounts to the same thing: Survival.

The cost of trying to fit in is high as many autistic people succumb to physical and mental exhaustion at some point in their lives. Like me. I burned out at 46 years of age.

The moment we leave the security of our homes we become somebody else in order to survive.

We are performers.

So much for autistic people not being able to act, eh?

As well as mimicking my peers, I took inspiration from characters in books and TV. Sometimes it was hard to know where the characters ended and I began. I remember asking my mirror reflection, ‘Who are you?’

Forty years later, I was diagnosed autistic.

Finally. I knew who I was.

Make-up has always been a tool in my ‘how to survive life’ box. Like clowns who hide their true identity behind over-sized clothes and painted on smiles, I tried to hide my ‘weirdness’ behind eye-liner and a layer of foundation thick enough to plaster walls. I’d seen how make-up changed my mother’s face so I experimented on my own and suddenly I didn’t look like me anymore, and if I didn’t look like me, then surely it would be easier to pass off being like all the other girls and, just maybe, they’d like me?

Er, no.

I wore eye-liner at first, but Dad went paternal on me and made me sponge it off. He didn’t understand my reasons for wearing it. How could he? He was a ‘man’s man’ and he just wanted me to stay a little girl as long as possible. It’s understandable, I guess.

Girls my age were wearing make-up – the difference with me was that make-up put a barrier between me and them – at the same time allowing me to blend in a little better. It was psychological because in reality I was still different. I just looked more feminine..

“My dad used to say makeup was a shallow girl’s sport, but it’s not. It’s armor.”~ Courtney Summers – All The Rage

For me, make-up wasn’t about beauty or fashion. It was about protection. Just as a riot cop would never go into an affray without their helmet on, I would never go out without my ‘mask’ on because I would feel vulnerable and exposed.

It was about pretence.

“Costumes and makeup play an important role in the drama, character creation.”

I have reinvented myself more times than Madonna, only with less success. And money.

Is it any wonder I burned out?

Since my diagnosis there have been changes. I feel different. Lighter. Less tolerant of people’s crap. I’ve found that the word, ‘no’ comes a lot easier these days.

I’m a long way from being make-up free as some habits are hard to break. Plus, I look bloody horrifying without it, but the mask is slowly falling and hopefully one day I will wear make-up simply because I want to – not because I need to.

So, what’s changed?

I accept myself for who I am. Also, I’m knackered from decades of trying to hide who I am in order to fit in and for what?


Bullied. Ostracized . Whatever. It’s basically human beings exploiting vulnerability instead of offering protection and support.

I’d hazard a guess that most autistic people have encountered bullies at some point in their lives?

Bullies are cowards. Bullies are not stupid enough to abuse people bigger or stronger than themselves. They dominate those who are different in order to boost their own self-esteem and there lies the problem: Bullies actually have low self-esteem.

While I am new to knowing I’m autistic – I have always been autistic and I’ve been feeling resentful towards the people who have let me down over my life. However, resentment will only harm me, not them. That said, I feel more in control of my life than I have ever been. This is why the mask is starting to fall because I no longer need to hide. For what’s left of my life, I will embrace being autistic because it’s who I am. Some people say their autism will never define them but I don’t feel that way. If I wasn’t autistic, I wouldn’t be me.

Being autistic explains everything. Every moment of my life. People think I struggle because I’m autistic, but that’s not true. I struggle with an overwhelming (and confusing) world and I struggle with people.

People are a major problem.

I’ve floundered about from one self-help book to another trying to ‘find’ myself and only when I had my third child did I finally get my answer because he was diagnosed autistic. I have so much to thank him for because without him I would still be struggling with my identity. I’m not sorry that I’ve passed my autistic genes onto him because he’s the happiest little boy I know. He does NOT suffer. He’s NOT a burden. He requires NO CURE. However, I’m am sorry that the world still has a long way to go when it comes to understanding him.

Not so long ago, the school asked him to name things he liked about himself and do you know what my beautiful autistic son said?


Will I ever be able to say that about myself?

Lets just say that I’m working on it. Yesterday, I left off the eye-liner AND eye-shadow and I went out into the world. Maybe to most women, that isn’t a big deal, but to me it’s HUMONGOUS because it means that the mask is slowly coming off.

I’m also growing my hair-dye out. This is a challenging process as I need things to be visually ‘right’ and the mad badger look isn’t exactly flattering. However, I choose to think of it as a transformation from my old (and confused self) to who I am now and with each inch of silver hair, I can see the real me emerging. Like a butterfly, no?

Sounds wanky, but it stops me from reaching for the box of hair dye that’s in the cupboard..

For most of my life, I have been a pretender – always trying to be someone else because I thought that I wasn’t good enough.

I AM good enough.

I always have been.

Wanting to be someone else is a waste of who you are ~ Kurt Cobain

Image Via Pixabay