I’ve never been too nervous around medical appointments. Indeed, I prefer a trip to the dentist to a visit to the barbers. You’ve got your mouth wide open at the dentist so there’s no scope for small talk. Give me that over the inane chat in a barber shop any day of the week. No, I don’t want to tell you what I’m doing at the weekend or where I’m going on holiday. And I don’t think you really give a toss! Just cut my hair quickly and I’ll leave.
Sorry I digress; I was saying that I don’t get too worried about medical appointments. When I got my confirmation through for my initial autism assessment I was almost entirely calm about it. For a start, it was progress. I was fortunate that I didn’t have to wait too long for my appointment (I’ve heard some horror stories about people waiting years).
To further help matters, I had a week in Spain booked for the 7 days prior to the appointment. I’m not one to ‘turn to drink’, but a week of generous amounts of alcohol, sunny weather and lots of fun with the family is a pretty good way to partially take your mind off things. I still had my usual holiday ‘moments’ and that’s a topic that deserves a post to itself, but all in all it was ideal timing ahead of the appointment.
On the day
I didn’t enter full on ‘panic mode’ until the actual day of the meeting. Suddenly it was happening and I had no idea what ‘it’ was. The invite letter was pretty vague – ‘Initial’? Does that mean there are going to be a few of these appointments? Is it just a fact finding meeting? Do I need to take anything along? Will I get any results on the day or later?
Without wishing to sound overly dramatic, this was about my entire future and past. I was on the path to finding out that I (potentially) had been living with a condition for my whole life.
My wife accompanied me to the meeting, which was a great help in stopping me from getting too anxious. The venue was a Victorian townhouse that reminded me of a dentists. There was a basic reception area and various practitioners’ rooms around the building.
Upon arrival, I had to complete a long assessment form whilst sitting in reception. It was pretty similar to various online tests I’d completed and sent to them previously. I guess they were just checking for consistency – although being consistent can be tricky when your answers can depend on your mood.
After this, we went through to a room that was similar to many counselling rooms I’ve sat in over the years. My assessor was a woman who looked about half my age – admittedly this is more a reflection on how old I feel, rather than how young she looked! What followed was an hour of questions relating to my emotions, childhood, senses, my thoughts and so on. It was essentially an elaboration of the online tests I’d done. But the 121 setting gave more scope for qualitative answers and probing follow up questions. My wife chipped in a few times as I struggled to think of good answers to some questions. The woman was good at her job and let me talk as much as I did or didn’t want.
It was pretty exhausting mentally, but at the end I was left with the feeling that I hadn’t fully got my ‘case’ across. I hadn’t fully explained my thoughts and feelings. On a few occasions I wanted to just ask her to look at this blog for further information! But I guess she knows more about these things than me so was just getting the information needed.
The conclusion was that she needed to have a meeting with other practitioners to go over my answers plus the various tests I’d done. In a few weeks I’d receive a letter outlining the best help they could offer – be that 121 sessions or group workshops aimed at giving me support. In terms of diagnosis, that depended on whether there was a clinical value in diagnosing me. So again, I really don’t know what’s going to happen
She said I had plenty of autistic traits, but obviously couldn’t commit to saying anything further. We left and went to Aldi to buy a cheesecake.
It’s now 2 days later, and I’ve gradually got more anxious and worried about the whole thing. For a start, I hate waiting. I know, it could be worse, but I’ve had some progress now and I want to keep that momentum going. Secondly, I also hate uncertainty, what will the letter contain. How can they help me? Will I get diagnosed? Will they tell me that actually I’m not autistic at all?! In which case I’d need to change the name of the blog to ‘My Adult Adventure’, which sounds like something entirely different!
I’ve previously written about my reasons for pursuing a diagnosis , now I’m a step closer to finding out more about myself. And I guess that’s a positive. I just need to focus more on the positives, which isn’t easy when your brain isn’t programmed that way.