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.
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…
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’.
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.
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!