Beginning with my teenage years I suffered from Depression and anxiety, much of which came from my obsessive relationships with people or lack of understanding over personal relationships and from the lack of relationship I had with my parents, and how my mother only cared for socialising down the local pub. I started self harming around the age of 13 and from then suffered on and off with depression. I tried lots of different medication to treat the depression and anxiety but none seemed to make much of a difference. I tried different councillors throughout but this is where my social skills really became and issue. I couldn’t talk to them. They would expect me to just sit there and real off what the issues were and tell them everything, I couldn’t do this. I would sit there in silence for the whole session awkwardly waiting for something to happen or the session to finish. I can answer questions but I cannot just sit their and talk at someone. It didn’t work for me.
I remember once at my university counsellor after about the third time of me attending and spending the whole time just staring at the plant in her office she told me that maybe this wasn’t for me and I should consider not coming back. Makes you feel even worse when the professional cannot even help, doesn’t know what to do. After that I gave up on seeking help for a while, decided I could just get through it myself. This worked okay for a little while, yeah sure I knew I was still depressed and everything but I was coping okayish.
Then everything came back with a vengeance. I was the most depressed I had ever been and the self harming was getting worse. I was having panic attacks all the time, was cutting myself and banging my head against the wall to try and stop feeling the way I was and because doing this focussed the sensations in my body into pain. My doctor was brilliant and tried lots of different medications to help, sent me to a psychiatrist who diagnosed me with a condition called cyclothymia (similar to bipolar) and personality disorder, both of which I have recently learnt can be misdiagnosed before an autism diagnosis in adults, referred me for different types of therapy to help, sent me to day centre to attend classes to help with anxiety, I had a care coordinator for a while with whom I had to meet with regularly to check in with in case I got suicidal but nothing was really making any kind of difference. I didn’t know what to do anymore. Was it better to just give it all up?
Finally after being on a waiting list for a year and a half I was referred to a therapist. She was fantastic. Asked me questions to get me talking, seemed to understand the difficulty I had in just talking at her. Of course, there were moments of silence and where I struggled still but it was the most open I had ever managed to be. There were times where I wanted to give it up and it felt pointless and I couldn’t wait for my sessions to end but in one of my last sessions everything changed. My therapist asked me what I knew about autism. Given my job in early years I knew a fair amount about autism and many of its traits, in fact during training sessions team members had often joked about how I do some of these. She asked if I had ever considered the possibility that I could be and gave me a questionnaire to fill out. She explained how there was some things that we had dealt with that we could put in a box and say these were because of my parents and there was these other things which she couldn’t fit into this box, they were bigger than this and could all be explained by the autism. So I filled out the questionnaire which confirmed the diagnosis and here we are now. As much as the diagnosis does not define who I am it made a huge difference knowing why I wasn’t seeing everything the same way others were and that all these sensations and feelings inside me had a reason.
Since my diagnosis I have been able to look at myself and see what things are autism related and which are more likely because of my past. This has helped me greatly to move on from the past and although the autism isn’t always easy even for myself as there are days where I long to see the world I assume everyone else does and not over process everything; my diagnosis was the best thing that happened to me. It liberated me to look into the condition more, it made me better at my job working with children, and most importantly it allowed me to understand myself, accept myself and know that I am allowed to see things differently, I am allowed to be me.