Comedian Charlie George on being dismissed as “dramatic” before her autism diagnosis

For women who have struggled to get a neurodiversity diagnosis, comedian Charlie George’s experience will sound frustratingly familiar. Too often dismissed as “dramatic”, “sensitive” or simply an “old soul”, it wasn’t until late 2022 that she was finally diagnosed with autism.

It was the pandemic that prompted Charlie to really explore her feelings and behaviours. “Up close, I could see I needed a lot more time, space and support to do things than other people,” she writes in this week’s Stylist+ cover story. “I’d made a rod for my back by using masking strategies to hide this: making endless lists, staying up into the early hours to finish things I clearly couldn’t do in the time allotted and running myself ragged behind the scenes to make deadlines.”

She says everything she had been doing to cope suddenly broke down when the pandemic forced her to slow down. And when lockdown started to lift in 2020 and we were encouraged to return to ‘normal’, Charlie started to panic. “There was no way ‘back’ for me. I needed help,” she explains.

What followed were appointments with a mental health organisation associated with the NHS Right To Choose scheme, a misdiagnosis of ADHD and a bad reaction to some medication. Recognising signs in herself that she’d seen in her non-speaking autistic nephew prompted a return to the doctor, only to be put on a two-year waiting list for an autism service while she persevered through a “destabilising and demoralising time full of grief”.

In this essay, Charlie candidly shares her journey: “For me, it was time that I was at last seen, heard and validated in something I had been experiencing.” And she also shares the game-changing coping mechanisms she hopes will help other women who may benefit from reading about her experience.

What’s evident is that the journey to diagnosis remains a struggle for women in particular. “A lot of women just learn to put on a mask to minimise their difficulties,” Charlie notes, but one of the gifts of her experience is seeing the growing communities of people who’ve been diagnosed late with neurodiversity, and Charlie shares details of some of these in her feature this week.

Jazmin Kopotsha
Executive editor, Stylist 

This week I’m…

Listening to The Price of Paradise: I’m a sucker for a drama full of secrets, lies and complicated fall outs. This new podcast hosted by Alice Levine promises all of the above. Listen on Wondery

Giving in to the Birkenstock hype: Having tried to resist buying new shoes, I’ve finally caved on the cult-favourite clogs and will be treating myself on payday. £150, Birkenstock

Why do narcissists love the silent treatment so much? A psychotherapist explains

Most of us will have experienced ‘the silent treatment’ before. It’s uncomfortable, awkward and disorienting to be on the receiving end of. And, according to psychotherapist Kathleen Saxton, it’s one of the manipulation tactics of choice for people with narcissistic personality disorder.

“To be clear: I’m not talking about purposefully and healthily taking time out to cool down during a heated discussion or attending to feelings of short-term overwhelm or dysregulation,” Saxton explains. “But rather chronic and repetitive use within a relationship to assert control and deliver punishment.” Thankfully, though, there are valuable techniques she recommends to clients that can help you challenge and understand this behaviour, too.  

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