Ever since I could remember I’ve always wondered why I was so different to everyone else. I remember asking myself, was there some kind of special class or training in social rules and relationship skills that I missed out on? Or was it one of those things where you had to be born with a certain type of personality? Whatever was going through my mind, never in all my years on this planet did it occur to me that I might be autistic…
Until one night when a former colleague, whom I was also quite good friends with, out of the blue texted me, “have you ever been tested for autism?”………
I replied “no.”
She texted back “Look it up as I think that you may be on the spectrum. I was once diagnosed with it so I know all about it 😊”
At this point I didn’t even know if it was a joke or what because the only thing I knew about autism or came close to anyone who was diagnosed with it were either severely non-verbal, unaware of things like danger, more likely acted really excitable or had a learning difficulty…
Out of curiosity I googled it anyway and to my surprise, my entire life repeatedly flashed before my eyes. Everything from the time I could remember, up until the present day, made so much sense. Tears strolled down my face like I had just found a long lost relative…Me.
I replied to my colleague with a crying emoji face 😢 but when she asked what was wrong, I had no words to say anything. The flashbacks were all too overwhelming.
The next morning I completed a few online tests and quizzes to reassure myself because you know what they say about googling symptoms 😏. All of them came back saying there was a strong chance I was on the spectrum and suggested to contact my GP(doctor) for a diagnosis.
I didn’t want to bother my GP for that though as I knew they were super busy so I waited until when I had something more urgent to see them about to then ask them about it…
Believe I had to see my GP about this 3 times 😑. The 1st time they said to me “I don’t think you’re autistic” and dismissed me, but that was partly my fault as I didn’t really articulate myself properly. The 2nd time I was told by a different doctor that they don’t do screening for autism for adults. I wasn’t aware of any alternatives to find out if I was on the spectrum so in my mind I kinda just gave up. The 3rd time was after I was doing CBT(talking therapy), after a couple of sessions the person I was seeing had realized something about me, stopped my sessions with them and immediately referred me to an autism service to get a screening for a diagnosis. I was RE-LIEVED.🙌
At this point I was 99.9% sure that I was on the spectrum and the flashbacks came back strong again.
One particular flashback which was more frequent than the rest was about a year back before all this transpired, when I was doing art therapy and I drew this picture:
I remember telling the art therapist when she asked what it was about, that I felt there was something special about me dying to come out and reveal itself, something that radiates inspiration on the world around me but I didn’t know what it was…fast-forward a couple years later. Now I know.
The screening was quite a long process, I think it was about 4 hours total, split up across two 2 hours appointments.
I had to recall a lot of things from my childhood…what it was like in school, at home, friendships, my hobbies, my interests, social interaction, communication, my mental health, what I don’t like, my sensory issues and my daily routine.
We went over other things aswell to rule out if I was really on the spectrum or if it was just a personality thing or if it was something else similar to the aspects of autism. The doctor also checked for signs of any learning difficulties and other mental health problems. Apparently it was very common for autism to be diagnosed along side other conditions.
After this thorough process I had to wait a few weeks for the end result and official diagnosis. In my gut I already knew I had Asperger’s Syndrome but I can’t even lie, I was a little scared after the screening session because 1). The doctor said some people came in dead sure that they were autistic and after their screening found out that it was something else. 2). I really wanted to know if I had any other conditions that I wasn’t aware of.
Anyway fast-forward to the day I met with the doctor again, she introduced me to this lady who I think was a social worker at the time. I was a little scared of this woman for three reasons; 1). I didn’t know what she was there for. 2). She had a Canadian accent. 3). She kept smiling at me the whole time. The only conclusion I came to was a straitjacket and two guys in white suits waiting outside to take me to a mental institution by the end of this unfortunate encounter.
Yes people these were my actual thoughts.
My heart was racing and in my head I started to devise an escape route, you know, just in case. I tried to look as calm as possible even though all I kept thinking was what have I done, what if I’m crazy…😨
Then the doctor asked “have you ever heard of Asperger’s Syndrome?” I said “yes”. They both looked at me like they wanted me to elaborate. Then she asked what do I know about it and I explained. She said results show that this is what you have. Again they both looked at me like they wanted me to be surprised. Truth is deep down I had already accepted that I was an Aspie and in the end came to conclusion that I watched too many horror movies. 😂😅
The reason that lady was there was because the service was looking to start an autism peer support group for others who, diagnosed like me, can meet other aspies and they wanted me to join, which I gladly did. Also the lady would work with me for any support that I needed.
I was so happy that day, my mind was finally at ease and I could finally sleep.
I don’t regret being diagnosed late as I feel like even though it would have been nice to know why I am the way I am, have others understand me better and been more supportive, I think I did a pretty good job handling life on my own. I also think that people coddling me and possibly underestimating my abilities would create a major hindrance in my growth as a person.
When people meet me for the 1st time they always say “but you don’t seem autistic” or “you’re doing really well because I never would’ve guessed.” I’m proud of that. Not that I’m ashamed to be autistic or I’m trying to hide it to appear “normal” but I’m proud of the skills I’ve acquired over the years that neurotypicals take for granted everyday and it was not easy.
After my diagnosis I stopped looking at socialising as a horrible chore but a skill that could be improved. Like an art. Ever since I’ve got better and better and my confidence grew a great deal. My obsession these days are now on human behavior, why they think the way they think, do the things they do and feel the way they feel.
Autism I believe is such an amazing gift to the world as it makes people aware of themselves. It makes others think about their attitudes, their behavior, how they think and in turn make them want to become better people.
Thanks for reading!