I’m Sian, an autistic woman in my early 30’s.
I work (intermittently) as a freelance travel writer.
I love learning and sharing about autism, whether through reading, researching, blogging or connecting with other autistics.
I’m currently in my late twenties and I’ve spent a lot of my life to date in education. I really enjoyed studying and earned a BA and MSc from two UK universities in Geography and French, followed by Development Studies. I loved the intellectual challenge of my courses and also the fact they enabled me to do quite a bit of travelling. During my five years at university I embarked on a few different fieldtrips, dissertation research expeditions and year abroad placements. At the time I found these trips sometimes quite challenging, but they left me with some great experiences overall.
After graduating, I was set on pursuing a career in International Development and I got my first “proper” job as a research assistant in a policy consultancy firm. To put it lightly this didn’t exactly go well for me, for reasons I was only to discover later. I was unable to tolerate the open plan office environment and also felt quite confused and stressed by many aspects of workplace culture and the whole notion of employment in general. I knew I had significant issues, I just didn’t understand exactly what they were or why I was having them.
I left my job after only a few months and took some time trying to figure out my next step. I toyed with a couple of options, including the possibility of doing a PhD which I ended up applying and getting accepted for. In the end I turned down my place and decided to give self-employment a try. Again, I researched and experimented with a few different ideas, before settling on freelance writing in the travel industry. I’ve been working in this area for over a couple of years now and I’ve certainly learnt a lot in the process! Whilst I do enjoy the actual work itself, most of all I relish having plenty of independence and control over my work environment and schedule.
During this time I also spent a lot of time devouring information on various topics, as well as launching a few different writing and creative side projects. I wrote a blog (now discontinued) which covered quite a disparate range of topics, such as personality psychology, adventure travel, nutrition, self-employment in the digital age, work culture, neoliberal capitalism, and more. I immersed myself in various aspects of personal development and lifestyle design, started eating healthy, exercising regularly and practising more self-care. I became interested in everything from atheism (especially Richard Dawkins) to practical philosophy (like The School of Life), reading about epic adventures (such as over on Alistair Humphreys’ blog) to location independence and dreaming about living off-grid in the wild like these people. In hindsight, most of this was in a bid to try to understand and improve myself and think about where I might fit into society*.
It was in the midst of all this reading that by complete chance I came across something that would change my life. I’d become very interested in introversion (after reading Susan Cain’s book) and in Elain Aron’s work on HSPs – two concepts which, combined, I thought explained some of the differences I’ve felt and difficulties I’ve experienced. But I still had some niggling thoughts that these ideas didn’t quite go far enough in explaining myself to myself. Up to half the population have introverted personalities, whilst 1 in 5 people are highly sensitive, and I definitely felt in a smaller minority than between 20-50% of the population! But then a blog post I was reading mentioned Asperger’s Syndrome and provided a link to the Autism Quotient (AQ). At first, I didn’t think too much of it. It played on my mind for a while and gradually over the course of a few months I started to take it more seriously and eventually launched into an intense bout of research. The more I learned, the more convinced I became that this might apply to me, especially after I came across information on the female presentation of autism. You can learn more about my autism discovery and diagnosis process over on the autism blog. To cut to the chase, I ended up receiving a diagnosis on the NHS in July 2016. It’s been pretty transformative so far, even if only mainly in a psychological sense in terms of how I think about myself. I’ve developed a very strong interest in autism since then and I’m sure there will be many important, long-lasting and hopefully positive effects that will come from having (finally) discovered my autistic identity!
*I still feel very much attached to many of my previous interests, but because of the nature of the autistic brain, when something new and big emerges in my life (like autism has done for me) it tends to creep in and before you know it it’s taken over pretty much everything else. So I’m embracing it and following my instinct to focus 100% on this one thing (as if I have a choice!) Because discovering I’m autistic has been so huge and I feel I’ve now found my “place”, I’m optimistic this interest will stick with me for life. I find it can be quite disorienting and inconvenient to find myself continually jumping from one thing to the next, especially as it usually happens before I feel I’ve achieved any sense of much-needed closure. Of course, there are many benefits to having multiple and diverse interests, it just doesn’t seem to fit with me that well, at least not at this point in my life. This is why my new blog is focused solely on autism.