Am I or aren’t I?

I waited a long time for my autistic assessment.

Here’s a link to find out more if you’re in the UK autism diagnosis for adults

If you’ve been reading about adult autism/ Aspergers experiences from other women, you’ll have a fair idea about what the diagnosis criteria are – and reasons for seeking diagnosis.

I wrote a bit about the circumstances leading to my referral for autism assessment in my first blog which can be read here.

My reasons for wanting to seek diagnosis are linked to life-long social awkwardness and communication difficulties. Feeling like I don’t “fit in” anywhere, using endless research from books, films and later, online searches my entire life to work out – or try to understand – the complexities of relationships.

I keep diaries and write notes to myself in attempts to make sense of what has been said and what I have experienced in attempts to avoid, change or simply understand baffling behaviours.

Reading other women’s experiences of adult autism diagnosis, was the first time I felt like the “puzzle” of my life made sense.

So, back to diagnosis – I was NOT given an autism spectrum diagnosis this month. The assessment focussed on the classic aspects of autism which you can find a bit about here.

IMG_2213

One reason given for not receiving a diagnosis was my lack of childhood background information, which can evidence pervasive difficulties. Answers I gave about “restricted and repetitive behaviours and interests” were described as being aesthetic.

The view was that many of my difficulties fell into the category of “communication”.

I’m being referred for help with severe social anxiety now. I was advised my childhood experiences should be discussed in depth and the roots of my anxiety will be identified.

By the way, social anxiety can become a secondary (co-morbid) mental health condition for autistic individuals – and I look forward to sharing any help or inspiration I pick up along the way!

I’m still being treated for long term anxiety and depression.

In the UK, a mental health condition is considered a disability if it has a long-term effect on your normal day-to-day activity. This is defined under the Equality Act 2010 which can be read here.

But still, do I think I’m autistic?

Do I think I’m on the autistic spectrum? Yes I do. I think what’s made a difference to my life is that I’ve experienced the rare, good fortune of being supported in a powerful, life affirming buddhist practise and philosophy with Soka Gakkai.   A daily practise that reduces stress, and builds a strong inner life, encouraging individuals to identify and overcome obstacles to their happiness and joy.

I knew way before the assessment that I don’t fit a classic, “male autism diagnosis”.

Seeking acknowledgement of lifelong difficulties has been a first step for me. It’s a massive step at life improvement!

Here’s how I weigh up the benefits of seeking diagnosis and help:

Individuals born, with a brain that does not support – let’s say, eyesight – will go through life experiencing everything differently to those who have eyesight.

Their brain will develop differently. Their “disability” of blindness will impact every aspect of their communication.

They will find out they don’t have eyesight and are in a human minority.

Will the individual with the eyesight disability live a happy or unhappy life due of their neurological difference? What habits will they develop that sets them apart from “seeing” individuals?

Another neurological difference is left-handedness, it affects around 10% of world population. As is dyslexia and dyspraxia.

Autism is another neurological difference.

Not knowing one has a neurological – and often invisible – difference, can lead to stress, anxiety, self-loathing and a whole lot of suffering.

So am I or aren’t I? Do I have an illness or a disability? Severe social anxiety or an autism spectrum neurological difference?

Seeking help and diagnosis is new to me. It gives me a powerful sense of hope, it is moving my life in a positive, beneficial direction. Being able to access help is my good fortune and I feel grateful.

Have a special day,

Jo