That’s the thing. I never anticipated being a 19-year-old sitting face to face with my Therapist discussing the possibilities of an Autism diagnosis.
It seems, my wonderful Therapist had picked up on possible Autistic traits in me during our sessions together (for my Anorexia Nervosa) which had mutually been a struggle for a while. My inability to express my feelings, thoughts and emotions without great difficulty and high intensities of distress and agitation. I could willingly speak endlessly about animals, but every other subject seemed to be a chore. I also struggled to maintain eye contact and would often stare at the floor or at the wall during our chats together, when I could actually form a sentence instead of nervously giggling. Alongside an inability to cope with changes in appointments (I adored sticking rigidly to Thursdays at 12!) and my inability to understand sarcasm.
In April 2016, I was diagnosed with Autism. (ASD). My condition unknowingly present from birth, but not picked up on until later in my teenage years after a lengthy assessment process where I became increasingly distressed and impatient. I always remained aware that something about me was different, but I could never quite pinpoint what that was. The wait was gruelling and torturous and each day I would hurry home excitedly hoping to be met with an appointment letter, with my disappointment only growing as I waited longer and longer.
“An Autism diagnosis is life-changing, but not defining”.
With increasing numbers of adults diagnosed with the condition, mostly due to the ability to mask and imitate those around us as a means of fitting in and seeming less “odd”. Though, the thing is, I never purposely intended to be the same as those around me. So, personally, Autism has been a real journey of self discovery, finding out who I really am beyond the copying and uncomfortable habits I forced myself into.
And no. Autism isn’t solely a “Children’s condition” and it most certainly doesn’t disappear magically whilst growing up. Autistic children become Autistic adults – it’s a lifelong, developmental condition.
Unfortunately, I was prone to the stigma attached to Autism and (alongside my lack of knowledge) due to minimal awareness I thought I knew what Autism “looked like” in an individual, a huge part in the reason I like to raise awareness of my condition. So people understand, and accept, people for their uniqueness and their quirks. And so people stop putting a “face” to Autism, the condition affecting one in a hundred of us.
Autism isn’t a label that fits all.
To begin with, I viewed my diagnosis as a bad thing and became upset for a short period of time, until I grew to learn more about my new diagnosis and what it meant for myself and others.
Over two years along the line and I have finally found, not only comfort, but also acceptance in myself which may not have met without my diagnosis. Something I never imagined myself to need until it became present in my life. Fitting in the “missing puzzle” that had previously been vacant from my life and filling it with knowledge, happiness and self-worth. The acceptance of learning to love myself for the crazy goat lady I am. Animals being my interest, whilst others on the spectrum may have other areas of passion and happiness!
I grew determined to ensure my Autism didn’t restrict, or define, me in any way possible. Meaning I have overcome anxiety-ridden fears and have tackled many obstacles over the years. Including, my ability to use public transport alone (giving Ive planned the journey strictly!) my transition to university life in Wales, a completely new setting, being introduced to people I hadn’t previously met. And my recently new found ability to vocalise when I am finding a situation stressful – particularly busy places or loud noises.
Whilst challenging myself is exhilarating, it is also exhausting and I usually require days to rest after fighting my anxiety.
Autism doesn’t have a cure, though I wouldn’t choose to cure mine for The World. It remains as a lifelong condition with each day being a learning curve and a milestone in each individuals journey!