The #ActuallyAutistic Culture and Identity Project S16
Name, and/or twitter handle: Jess @mud_and_stars
Parent/non-parent: not a parent to human children, but I have a lot of plushie children hehe
Age when you selfdx/were diagnosed autistic: I was diagnosed last month at the age of 30!
1.Did you feel you were different from others as a child?
When I was very little, I don’t think I cared: I was just rolling around and doing my own
thing. However, my mum said I would scream if other children came near me, so I guess I
felt THEY were different from me, and didn’t want them intruding on my space/rolling time!
I don’t remember a lot about my experiences from primary school, but I know I spent a lot of
time wandering around on my own! I do remember crying in my bedroom because I ‘had no
friends’, although this wasn’t strictly true: I did have friendships, but they were always very
stressful and tumultuous and fraught with jealousy for some reason.
Up until secondary school I don’t think I considered myself ‘different’, but I was severely
bullied during my time there, so I quickly grew to feel that way about myself, because other
people convinced me there was something ‘wrong’ with me. Even though I had a group of
friends by the time I left, many of whom I still consider good friends, I still felt like an
outsider, and I had crippling self-esteem issues! (Still do! Love that for me.)
2.Are your parents supportive of you as an autistic individual?
My parents have only just found out I’m autistic because I’ve only just been diagnosed, but
they are very supportive. I strongly believe neurodivergence runs in our family, and I grew up
not realising certain traits weren’t the norm because they were normalised for me by my
For example, my mum has a lot of sensory issues like me, so I assumed everybody else did
too. Because of her sensory issues, my mum always accommodated mine, dressed me in
comfortable clothes as a kid, etc. Also, my dad has very intense special interests, so I was
never made to feel there was anything ‘wrong’ with monologing about mine!
It helped massively to have parents who understood my needs, even if I didn’t recognise
those needs at the time or know why I had them.
3.How did you determine your ethical system?
I grew up going to church, so I guess that’s what determined my moral code initially,
however as I grew up, I started becoming aware of prejudice, discrimination and
contradictions within what I was being taught, and I realised my internal ethical system was
completely at odds with the church’s.
After facing adversity myself, particularly homophobia within the church (which was indirect
as nobody knew I was bisexual, but still had a huge impact on me), bullying at school and
ableism in the workplace (based on my mental health issues as at the time I didn’t know I was
autistic), I learnt what discrimination can feel like, and I became resolved never to tolerate
I think the only ethical code I need to live by now is to never deliberately cause pain, to
apologise and change if I unknowingly do so, and to stand against anyone who hurts or
4.In which way does your private self differ from your outward facing front?
My private self is a lot less smiley and bubbly than my outward facing self. When I am
masking, I am excessively chatty, smile a LOT, and am putting on the best show I can. Once
I’m away from the social situation, I flop and crash completely.
On the other hand, my private self is also a lot more enthusiastic and excited about a bunch of
things that other people don’t want to hear about. I do talk about my special interests with
other people sometimes (mainly plushie collecting, One Direction, YA books, and Animal
Crossing), but I (try to) reign in the extent of my interest and pretend to be a lot more casual
about these things than I really am, so other people won’t think I’m weird.
5.Do you enjoy finding mistakes/errors in the production of films and
I don’t really do this with films and television as I have a hard time concentrating on them,
but I am always noticing this kind of stuff in books, and I am notorious for correcting other
people when I can see they are wrong! I have a deep need to be right, and point out other
people’s mistakes, but sometimes I have to stop myself because it’s ‘rude’ or whatever
… If it’s a bigoted opinion I’m correcting, however, I cannot hold myself back.
6.What are the top 3 traits you look for in a friend?
Mutuality, laughter, empathy.
7.What are the top 3 traits you perceive as negative but are willing
to overlook in a friend?
I could overlook most things in a true friend – everyone has flaws. The only things I wouldn’t
overlook would be them causing me harm or causing harm to others (including via the way
they vote politically).
8.What are the top traits you look for in a partner/traits your
Kindness and support, sense of humour and silliness, intelligence, geekiness and passion for
their interests :) I’m very lucky to have found someone who has all of these. <3
9.What would you do with your life if you had unlimited funds?
I would scrap so many systems and institutions that aren’t working (and are actively harming
people) and start again from scratch, building something that works in the interests of
EVERYONE. I’d start with the mental health system and the police!
10. What does freedom mean to you. What does it entail?
Freedom means not having to mask who I am, whether that be the fact that I’m autistic, that
I’m disabled, that I’m bisexual, or the fact that I’m a 30 year old woman who carries a cuddly
pig toy with her everywhere she goes. Freedom is being yourself without fear of
11.What does success mean to you?
Success to me means self-acceptance and contentment. If I can say that I accept and respect
myself despite my many flaws, and that I’m happy with where I’m at (rather than needing to
reach some wild, unattainable goal), then that’s success.
12.Are you more stable/happier/productive within the structure of a
relationship...partner/good friend/long-term roommate?
I have been in a relationship for ten years and I’m very happy with my partner, but I think all
three of these things are separate from relationship status. I don’t think you need to be in a
relationship to have them, and I don’t think being in a relationship means you’ll have them all
figured out. I wouldn’t necessarily describe myself as stable OR productive, but I am happy!
13. Do you find it stressful to be around other parents at school functions?
I’m not a parent, but I guarantee this is something I will find stressful in the future. I hate
small-talk sooooo much, I hate group social events with lots of people, and I hate noise!
14. How often do you pretend to not see people you know if you don’t
want to talk?
Hahahaha. I used to do this all the time when I was living in my hometown. Especially when
I used to take the bus to work in the mornings, which is sensory hell in itself, without having
the added pressure of making small talk with someone you know throughout the journey.
Now I live in London, I know a lot less people, and the people I do know are a lot more
spread out across the city, so thankfully it’s not something I have to do… that often!
15. In which areas do you identify the most with other autistic people?
Anxiety when plans change, inability to cope with uncertainty, struggling to cope with heat
and loud noises, being exhausted after social interactions, and on a more positive note,
getting excited and squealy about special interests!
16.What are the most stressful aspects of parenting an autistic child
as an autistic caregiver?
I don’t have any kids at the moment, but I would like to have some within the next few years.
I think the hardest part for me will be sensory overload and fatigue. I used to work in a
nursery and when I’d get home from work at the end of the day I would barely be able to
speak let alone look after myself. Having kids is going to require a lot of my spoons, and
probably some additional support, but it is 100% something myself and my partner want.
17.What are the top 5 things you want your children to know about the
world and why?
That empathy and kindness are the most important traits, no matter how much society tries to
tell you they won’t get you anywhere.
That there are so many good people in the world, you just have to look extra hard to see them
That everyone has an inner-life you will never fully understand/appreciate.
That you are allowed to say no to things.
That the earth needs people to care about it too.
18.Does living off the grid appeal to you and why/why not?
Sometimes I dream about running away to live in a mushroom house in a wild forest with
only woodland creatures for neighbours, usually when I’m feeling overwhelmed and
overloaded. Realistically, I could never do this because I need support and I would miss
19. What is your favorite style of architecture and why?
I love country cottages because they’re so cute and calming and cosy. I also love cathedrals
(despite my uneasy relationship with religion) as they are so intricately designed and
interesting, and make me feel like I’m in the midst of a gothic short-story.