On September 23rd 2015 at around 11 in the morning, I was officially diagnosed with autism. At the same time as this diagnosis was given to me, I was told that I exhibited classical signs of autism in a female, which kind of makes me wonder how I fell under the radar for seventeen years.
Since this diagnosis a year ago, I’ve experienced a range of emotions towards it. On the one hand, I’m extremely fortunate that I found an online autistic community the day I was diagnosed, so a part of me has always felt that being autistic is a positive thing due to the attitude reflected from this community. Still, I won’t lie and say there haven’t been moments of resentment or frustration when I realized the problems I faced on a daily basis would be life-long battles. As the months went on, I became more and more used to this identity; I embraced it as a part of me and the negative feelings reduced greatly. I won’t lie and say I’m proud or happy to be autistic 100% of the time, because everyone has bad days, but for the majority of the time, that statement definitely rings true.
Bar coming to terms with the fact that I was autistic, one of the biggest things I had to adapt is how much I let other people’s opinions or comments affect how I thought about myself.
Before my diagnosis and through the ten-month journey that resulted in my diagnosis, I was constantly told that I ‘couldn’t be autistic, unless I hid it really well’. One comment I remember particularly well came from a professional in year 11, a few months before my diagnosis, who said I couldn’t be autistic because he worked with an autistic person and they had a photographic memory—a trait which isn’t the only indicator of autism. These comments, said to me on an almost daily basis, made me go from thinking the diagnosis could be a positive thing if it proved there was something different about me, to wondering why I bothered to put myself through the process at all.
Even now I have the paper, “official” diagnosis to back me up, pretty much everyone I’ve told has expressed their disbelief at such a label, or decided to throw the “you don’t look autistic” comment in my direction. I know this is supposed to be a compliment, but trust me when I say it really doesn’t come across this way.
In addition to this, I also had to face the fact that I do face difficulties in my everyday life that someone who is neurotypical may not necessarily have to think about. For example, I have to carefully plan my days so that I don’t get overwhelmed by social activities, as that can leave me so exhausted I’m unable to put the social rules I’ve learnt into practice and often come across as rude if I over-exert the time I spend around other people.
The one area that hasn’t really changed since my diagnosis is my education, which kind of surprised me considering that, at the time of the diagnosis, this was the reason it was rushed through in the first place. That isn’t to say I don’t have any problems being in a college environment, but there’s very little that can be done within the college to help the things I struggle with. I’m not someone who would usually say something like this, but I genuinely think my determination has worked wonders for raising my morale and given me the motivation to push myself, even when doing certain aspects of my course is harder for me than others.
What I’ve mentioned above are just a few of the most important and perhaps surprising things that have happened to me since my diagnosis last year. If I tried, I could probably sit here and write a several-thousand-word essay about everything that was different between now and a year ago, but I’d be here for ages and it wouldn’t necessarily be very interesting.
If you do take anything away from this blog post at all, take away the fact that this diagnosis has been an overall positive thing. It’s given me the opportunity to understand myself better and be able to explain why I do the things I do to others easier than I have done in the past.
Thanks for reading.
Until next time,