Autistic people have a shockingly low rate of employment. Recent UK statistics from no less a source than the British government report that only 22% of British autistics have any kind of employment. Other research suggests that as few as 16% of autistic people are in full-time employment – and I’m not one of them.
In fact, until my interview with the Open University last summer (where I disclosed having ongoing mental health issues and that I am currently awaiting an autism assessment), I hadn’t been offered a job as a consequence of an interview since 1997.
Thank God I have the world’s nicest husband who doesn’t mind supporting me when I’m having a rough month financially. Thank God I can earn money from freelancing so that people who don’t want to be around me face-to-face can stomach hiring me at a distance.
I jest. But there’s no way to hide how demoralising it is to be continually rejected for paid employment for over 20 years.
I try. I really try. I shower, I wear clean clothes, I smile, I attempt to copy neurotypical eye contact without looking like a creepy serial killer or a liar (I have no idea if I pull it off). Of course the anxiety gives me headaches, I forget the answer to questions I know, I flail and I probably ‘mask’ so hard I come off as inauthentic. I also (I think completely understandably) lack confidence.