Alex The Astronaut is no stranger to getting personal.
Through a string of singles and her captivating debut album, The Theory Of Absolutely Nothing, fans got a glimpse of the 26-year-old musician at her most honest and endearing.
She’s tackled subjects like teen pregnancy, domestic violence, and untimely death. But the heavy themes are always treated with empathy and respect.
Now she’s taken on another personal subject: being diagnosed with autism. But this time, she’s talked about it during her first ever stand-up comedy set.
Uploaded to YouTube this week, Alex started the bit with a quip about what it’s like telling people about her diagnosis.
“Telling people you’re autistic when you’re 25 is a very similar experience to telling people that you’re gay,” she told a crowded room.
“Some people are very empathetic and warm and great about it… and then some people, despite having very little knowledge, are not shy at all about sharing their own opinions about it.”
She goes on to describe what one of those opinions were.
“I got a little bit of… ‘if you’d known you were autistic when you were little, then you would have used it as a crutch and not been able to behave so normally'”, she said.
“That shit it made me want to tell people that I started experiencing signs after I got vaccinated,” she joked.
Alex told Hack she found the comments mildly offensive, and said it came down to not being educated enough on the disorder.
“We haven’t got a comprehensive understanding of a lot of disabilities,” she said. .
“I kinda see parts of [autism] as a disability and for other parts I see it as kind of like a superpower.”
Struggling as a kid
Alex can laugh about it now, but said she really struggled as a kid with not knowing why she was so different. Sometimes her mates would even make jokes about it.
“That’s the kind of thing that held me back,” she said.
“That joke is actually stopping a lot of people from being diagnosed and making it more of a negative thing.”
Alex would find herself in uncomfortable social situations because she’d often miss non-verbal cues.
“Some people I connect with really easily and it’s all fine, some people it either takes me a long time, or I just never do,” she said.
“That used to really freak me out, I thought I was a psychopath.”
She brought it up with her psychologist too, and then went down a bunch of TV and podcast rabbit holes to learn more about the disorder.
“I started realising that the experience for girls with autism is completely different from boys and girls are way less likely to be diagnosed,” Alex said.
According to Autism Awareness Australia, autism is different for everyone, but people with the disorder often have difficulties with communication, social interaction, develop specific interests and can have over or under sensitivity to sounds, smells or touch.
Getting diagnosed a relief
Eventually, Alex got tested and was diagnosed with Level 1 autism.
She said it was a massive relief.
“I think having a little explanation in the back of your head where you can just be like, I have autism, there are some people that I’m just not going to get and that’s okay,” she said.
Understanding how her mind works also means Alex is able to understand why she may not be comfortable in a particular situation.
“Being a musician and being autistic is a bit of a joke in itself,” she laughed.
“Loud noises are not ideal, but I’ve got my little noise cancelling headphones.”
Alex says knowing she’s got to be careful about that stuff means she doesn’t get overwhelmed as much while she’s doing the things she loves.
“I love going to festivals, I love music shows. I love being a punter, I love camping and all of that stuff,” she said.
“I just wear earplugs and I know when I need to leave.”