How my diagnosis came about…

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.

Physical relationships, Intimacy and bodily contact…

Firstly sorry for such a long time since updating, I 100% haven’t stopped, work and life has just been particularly busy the last week. This is has also been one of most trying posts to bring myself to write. This is one subject that has haunted me and caused much upset during my adult life and an area that many haven’t understood about me. Physical relationships and Intimacy.

To begin lets start simple, sometimes as previously mentioned I can be the most cuddly, need to be close to you person, probably too much so, and on the other hand I can cringe away at the most simplest of touches on other days and feel absolutely terrible about it.  This can be with anyone. I do not like people I am not comfortable with touching me in any way, my skin crawls when they get too close and my whole body feels tense. Obviously, I have learnt to control this, as you cannot avoid contact all the time and I can normally act ‘normal’ during these circumstances. If I am feeling particularly anxious, upset or angry at all then this is all magnified and it can feel like razor blades attacking my skin, I feel the need to physically scratch or brush off the area which they have touched. I can feel the touch for some time after too, depending on how bad I am feeling beforehand. Oddly this can be worse with people I am close too. It is like having two different people, I can either be glued to you and seek out as much physical contact, no matter how small. Laying an arm against your side, sitting up close, snuggling into you or I cannot even cope with the air between us if we are too close and I need space, to breath, a bubble of my own to escape inside so that I can pull breath into my lungs, calm the buzzing sensation within my brain and stop the horrible itchy, dirty, painful feeling running along my skin and nerve endings. Understandably this can be hard for people to understand, especially as it isn’t as simple as being okay with one person and not another and really can depend on many things, some that I still can not pinpoint.

This has lead to many failed relationships or issues within relationships over the years with friends and more specifically with partners. How can I expect them to understand that one minute they can hold my hand,  hug me, kiss me and the next its like I am physically repulsed by the very idea of it all. I spent years and years beating myself over this before my diagnosis. What kind of freak was I? Why couldn’t I just get over it, let things be. This lead to me forcing myself to let these situations happen sometimes, which I know may be seen as a form or therapy but honestly it just made me feel worse. My body would almost shut down, block everything out or go into complete melt down mode resulting in panic attacks. Of course this would make guys believe that I didn’t like them, which just wasn’t the case. How could I express something that I didn’t even understand myself? How could I make them understand what my body was feeling when none of my friends or the people around me were clearly suffering the same way I was. I was broken. My body and brain were a traitor.

Being Intimate was even worse. I could be completely in the mood, okay with being touched, lets be honest turned on, body reacting the way it is supposed to and then suddenly nothing. No sensation, the need to stop overwhelming me, pain, panic, fear or just absolutely nothing at all and the feeling of is it over yet? Again this made me feel utterly broken. When you hear everyone around you talking about how much they enjoy sex, anything sexual in fact, and how amazing it is all supposed to be. Don’t get me wrong its not that everything was bad or I didn’t enjoy it at all it all started out good, just would all suddenly go away and I was done, not in the orgasmic way it should be just a total sensation ending. Naturally this lead to a lot of issues within relationships too and a lack of explanation from me probably didn’t help matters. The most frustrating thing is it wasn’t for lack or desire on my part, lack of want or trying. Just seemed physically impossible. This lead to bucket load of upset, worry and avoidance when beginning new relationships which I knew was going to make things worse but I didn’t know how to prevent it. Friends would often comment that maybe it would all be better if I pushed through it a few times, let it become more familiar. This didn’t work. Also maybe if I met the right person it would all just fall into place. I hoped this was so but put a lot of pressure on every relationship I started. Amazingly things have got immensely better in this area. I don’t know if it was the diagnosis that allowed me to understand and therefore accept myself, and take the pressure away from things or if I have just been in a better place with the last few people I have been with. Now with my current partner things couldn’t be better, he understands so well. I don’t feel any pressure, and if I am having an off day or one of my random cannot deal with anyone in my space moments he understands. He doesn’t push me or make me feel bad even if I can’t be intimate or cuddle up. I have never been happier or more comfortable and actually want all these things physically with a person rather than my brain want them and my body protesting profusely. I finally feel okay within myself to admit that these feelings in my body sometimes are okay. They are part of me. My body and my brain sometimes process things differently and can be overwhelmed and that is okay. I will come through it. People won’t all leave me because of it. Not everyone thinks I am freak. I can be desirable and loved for every part of myself. (Even if not by me all the time.)

I am sorry if this has included too much information for some people, it is meant only in an informative manner. Also if there is anyone reading who would like more information or to talk about their own experiences please contact me or leave a message.