Why do I bother?

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:

  1. 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.

group hand fist bump

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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…

2005

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.

photography of a person pointing on something

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?

This is a test

November 2018

I’ve always found the phrase ‘lightbulb moment’ a bit silly.  Sure, it’s great when you’re watching a murder mystery and a seemingly innocuous occurrence leads to the detective magically working out who the culprit is. But in real life? I don’t think so.

‘Lightbulb moment’ was a phrase used by my counsellor last year. She said that clients often seem in total despair, but then, with no forewarning, have a flash of inspiration and everything seems to make sense. The idea that something could randomly pop into your head and solve life’s great problems seemed ludicrous to me, so I just dismissed it out of hand.

adult autism symptoms

Then a few weeks later I was tidying my daughter’s bedroom on a Saturday afternoon, when apropos of nothing an idea burst into my head. ‘Maybe I’m autistic’.

Now, it’d be disingenuous to say that there was no background at all to the thought, and I can’t imagine it’s the sort of thought that many people have on a dull weekend in November. But there was no direct thought process that led me to those 3 words.  My best guess is that it was a subconscious combination of my wife watching I’m a Celebrity etc – in which one of the contestants was an adult recently diagnosed with autism – and my counselling causing me long periods of self-reflection.  I couldn’t profess to have much knowledge of autism or any real reference points in terms of friends or family members.

Whatever it was, the lightbulb had come on and I needed to find out if I’d discovered a startling revelation about my entire life.

 

Pause for dramatic effect…

Summer 1987

I’ve no idea why my Nan decided to take her 7-year-old grandson to Lords to watch the sparsely attended cricket County Championship game between Middlesex and Kent. Maybe I’d shown a bit of interest in a game on television or maybe she was just stuck for a way to entertain me for a few hours, but there I was making my way into the ‘Home of Cricket’. Symptoms of adult autism

To say I was a bit different to the rest of the crowd would be somewhat of an understatement. Well, ‘crowd’ is over egging it a bit, thin scattering is probably a more accurate description. But of the few hardy souls in the ground that day, I must have been about 50 years below the average age.  It was the third and final day of play. Kent won the match by one wicket after just about chasing 130 to win. Fast bowler Kevin Jarvis took a hat trick in the afternoon session and bespectacled batsman Derek Aslett thumped two sixes into the grandstand during the chase.

Remarkably, I haven’t looked any of that up even though it was 32 years ago. I can recall it all perfectly (confession: I have just looked it up to prove my memories are correct!) and I can also vividly recall being sat perfectly still in my seat for the duration of the day’s play. We were in the new Mound Stand – it’s the one with the ‘umbrella roof’ if you’re familiar with Lords from television. Throughout the day we were approached by some of the regulars who were amazed at how still and quiet I was all day.

By the following year, I was regularly dragging my poor Nan to Kent fixtures, and by the end of that Summer I’d taken to religiously filling out a scorebook whilst the game was going on. If you’ve ever been lucky enough to do the scoring at a cricket game, you’ll now that it’s an arduous process and requires full concentration for every single ball. But to me it was simply part of watching the game.

This all-encompassing approach to watching sport and fascination was statistics has stayed with me ever since. Friends from various parts of my life have regularly jokingly referred to me as Statto.

No doubt this trait is going to crop up again in this blog in the not too distant future.

 

Back in the room

Adult Autism tests are easily found online. I would post some links, but honestly just use Google (or Ask Jeeves if that’s your bag) and you’ll find a couple of free ones quickly. Sometimes you find yourself just answering the same questions in a different order, and some have different sets of questions. There’s no ‘official’ self-diagnosis test, so you can’t just take your results along to the doctors, so they can give your head a big ‘Autism’ stamp.  NB – I don’t think that’s what happens when you get a diagnosis. But the more reputable tests are considered to be highly accurate and a lot of the areas covered are the same as what you face at diagnosis stage.

I completed 3 tests that afternoon and whilst there were minor discrepancies in my scores, all of them were placing me firmly above the ‘possible autism’ category and firmly in the ‘almost certainly’ range.

I’ve subsequently completed around 10 tests and my results are pretty consistent. I’ve also read countless articles and forums on the topic and found myself identifying with a big chunk of the symptoms and traits. This is something that will form the basis for plenty of my posts.

Have I got adult autism?

The tests are anything between 14 and 100 questions long. They cover off a number of areas and range from the simple (Are you easily distracted? Yes), to the seemingly leftfield (Do you find it hard to visualise characters in books you read? Yes).  Like pretty much everyone, I didn’t answer yes to every question (I don’t have trouble reading clocks!), but I was generally inputting yes to around 75% of the questions.

This realisation felt like a bit of an epiphany, I’d spent years unable to get to the bottom of why I suffered from anxiety and depression. Not to mention other issues such as why I struggle to progress my career, why I continually bit my fingers and why I often feel on edge. Suddenly, a plausible explanation had presented itself.

It was time to see a doctor…


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The next blog will be up in a few days time and will look at why I’m bothering to get a diagnosis.

And then we’ll get to the bit where I explain what makes me autistic!