I’m roughly 95% certain that I’m autistic. To all intents and purposes I’ve accepted it. So why should I bother getting an adult autism diagnosis? Why put myself through an already stressful process, especially when stress is a large part of my problem in the first place?
An adult autism diagnosis doesn’t fundamentally change who I am, so why not just plough on, comfortable in the knowledge that I’ve got a handle on some of my mental health issues? In short, what can I gain?
I’ve reached this point in life without even considering adult autism. I’ve got a family, a mortgage, a job, friends and even
6 4 goldfish. So why do I need to go through the hassle and complications of getting a diagnosis?
All of these thoughts went through my head before I found myself in a doctor’s room a few days after my ‘lightbulb moment’. In that time I’d reached my conclusion, via lots of research, chatting it through and plenty of self-analysis. In the end it came down to 4 main reasons:
- Getting the right support
There are different categories of autism – as far as I can make out, these categories change sporadically, so by the time I get diagnosed I might have something that doesn’t exist at the minute! The specific diagnosis will help dictate what support I get going forward. Do I have ADHD? Aspergers? Or something else? Because my mental health is rubbish, getting the best appropriate support is essential. It’ll help me understand what I need to do to get the most out of life and be happy.
When I get nearer to diagnosis time, I’ll talk more in-depth about the different types of autism.
- Other people
If I am autistic, then that’s me and who I am. It’s also how I come across to other people. In no way is it something to be ashamed or embarrassed about, but it is something highly relevant to my behaviour and attitudes. So whether it’s a case or ticking the autism box on a job application or trying to explain to a friend or loved one why I’m acting in a certain way, being ‘officially’ diagnosed is really important. I’m not sure what I think about autism “defining me”, but it’s clearly hugely relevant to who I am.
- A happier future
The last few weeks have seen me analyse my past in a way I’ve never thought of before. Why was I the way I was as a child? Why has my career panned out the way it has? Why do I bite my nails? Why do I suffer from anxiety and depression. The list is endless. For better or worse, my life would have turned out very differently had I been diagnosed as a child. I can’t do anything about that, but getting diagnosed can have a positive impact on my future. Be that, career wise, social life, home life or the general health and well-being of myself and people close to me.
- The 5%
What if I’m not autistic? What if I’m just highly introvert, a bit weird and depressed? Then what? Getting a positive diagnosis would help put these fears to rest and enable me to get a greater understanding of who I am and what I can do going forward. Notknowing for a absolute certain is something that causes me anxiety, so getting closure on that is important.
In conclusion, I needed to find out. Like most mental health issues, the NHS employ a postcode lottery system. This means you have to hope for the best and be prepared for a lot of waiting. When my doctor agreed that I needed to be referred she told me that the average waiting time in my area was 4 years!!!
Sorry, 3 exclamation marks are a lazy writing device. But seriously, 4 years!!! That’s the gap between Olympics or World Cups. 4 years is a US Presidential Term. It’s also the regularity of a Corpse Flower blooming, but that seems to get a lot less media attention than the other things. Basically, it’s a very long time! It’ll be 2023 in 4 years’ time. 2023!!! That sounds like the setting for an absurd futuristic sci-fi film. My doctor is a hologram!!! The Rock is running for the US presidency and Brexit is still being negotiated.
I wasn’t happy with 4 years as a waiting time. Without boring you with the tooing and froing that then took place – my doctor was very helpful by the way – she eventually managed to get the referral to a place that would get me seen within 3-4 months (I hope!).
Pause for reflection…
I applied for an internal promotion at the company I was working for. It was a perfect fit for me. The job spec was all stuff I could do well. It was work I would enjoy doing and it was a decent pay rise. I got an interview. I was happy with how I performed in the interview. I didn’t get the job. I was annoyed. I wanted some feedback.
The gist of the feedback was yes, I did perform well and my answers were very good. But there were three reasons why I didn’t get the role. My body language, my lack of eye contact and the fact that other candidates appeared to ‘want it’ more than me. I was even more annoyed.
I didn’t for one second dispute any of those statements in terms of their factual accuracy. I struggle to maintain eye contact with people (the middle distance is my friend!), my body language isn’t great (arms folded is a go to) and I do struggle to convey passion and emotion when I’m talking – especially to people I don’t know very well.
My annoyance was with the fact that any of that mattered. Who cares if I’m looking someone in the eye? Who cares if my attitude isn’t the best? I can do the job and (I think) I’m the best person at doing it.
My manager explained to me that all of the above factors WERE important, but I really struggled to process it. I was confused, upset and angry. I’m not great at processing information in those circumstances. I’m also not great at ‘getting over it’, so occurrences like this weigh me down for months and stop me having a positive outlook.
Variations of this issue have plagued me throughout my working life. In all honesty, even writing this now, my brain still doesn’t really ‘get it’. Why should it matter? The whole ‘work thing’ merits at least one full post, so watch this space.
Back in the room
And that is where I am at. Waiting. I hate waiting. I hate being late. People being late makes me anxious. If I’m meeting somebody who is always late, I’ll be slightly late myself to try to negate the issue. Traffic, delayed trains, bus stops…all put me on edge. If something is going to happen I want it to happen…now!
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t scared. I feel like the future is a bit of an unknown at the minute. What’s ‘wrong’ with me? How will I live with it? What help will I have etc etc. But equally, I’m trying not to see it as a negative. There are a lot worse things that somebody can have, and I really hope that a diagnosis and subsequent support can enable me to thrive in the future.
I’ve opened up a can of worms and my brain struggles with that kind of analogy!
I feel like I’ve touched on a load of issues in this post. Work, home, my past, my symptoms, counselling, mental health et al. Think of it as a little taster for what’s to come.
I’ll be going into far greater detail on these areas (and many more) in future posts, as well as covering off my thoughts and experiences as I go through this journey.
But next time I’ll be getting to the crux of the matter – what makes me autistic?