I managed to (mostly) stumble through life but always felt like the outsider, the weird one, the unsocial one.
My idea of a good time was to curl up with a book. I enjoyed the solitude.
Occasionally I wondered why I was so different, but for the most part I just accepted it was who I was.
Until I had a major episode of depression. I had always battled anxiety and depression, but this time was different. This time there seemed no way out, no hope, no purpose. The only thing that stopped me taking my life was my aspie child – I knew he would struggle without me to connect him to this world, that he found even more perplexing than I did at times.
This went on for a week or two, the days blur into nothingness. I enountered a friend, an aspie friend, who seeing my desperate need rang my doctor for me. Made me go, he would have taken me if I had needed. He knew that doing nothing was not a sensible option. He cared enough to DO something more than utter words.
In the Doctor’s office I broke down. He prescribed meds but more importantly he prescribed counselling. Counselling with a man who turned out to be very skilled at his job. I was sceptical about counsellors and counselling, to this day I am not quite sure what made me turn up to the appointment. I did not like strangers. I did not like opening up to people about personal, emotional issues. I did not want to talk and have someone sit and just listen and spout of platitudes.
To my surprise the sessions were hugely beneficial but in the process I found myself often struggling to reconcile answers to questions he posed. I found my answers though seemingly logical were not, in fact, always right. My counsellor for his part commented that I tended to have a very black and white view of things, especially myself. He noticed other things, things that made me question myself, things that made me question whether or not I was on the autistic spectrum. I was familiar with my now adult child and and how Asperger’s Syndrome manifested for them but I had never really met a female on the spectrum and spent any time with them.
The more I thought, the more I questioned, the more I researched the more I realised that I needed to find some answers. The internet opened doors of discovery for me. Tests like the AQ test and the aspie quiz found at http://www.rdos.net left me with more questions that needed answers. This led me to visit my counsellor’s colleague who was familiar with Asperger’s Syndrome and often handled pre diagnosis for people. After spending some considerable time with her she encouraged me to pursue diagnosis, she has continued to be a source of encouragement. She is an ally in a world I often find bewildering. She practices acceptance.
The State system here had long waiting lists. Getting diagnosed as an adult is formidable and often fruitless in the State system. I know because I had tried to help a friend through the State system only to have him be told “I don’t believe in labels, I don’t find them helpful. I believe in addressing behaviours”. He sent my friend to a Men Against Violence course in an effort to deal with his meltdowns. I did not want to go through the same thing. I just wanted answers, one way or another. Maybe I had another mental health condition – I have family members who have actual mental health disorders and are treated by psychiatrists, maybe I had what they did (and still do).
I had to wait for several months. During this time I became more and more anxious. This process was not helped by the way my appointment kept getting shifted, up to four times! In the end the final change brought my appointment forward by a month.
I remember the day clearly – it was gloriously sunny. I took my camera to the appointment. After I parked the car I took photos of the gardens in the grounds to try and ease my anxiety. I am geographically challenged so it took me a while to find the rooms which were located in part of a convent so my anxiety crept up again – I was terrified I would be late and miss out on my appointment. Or that I would get to the appointment and be deemed certifiable and in need of some serious type of therapy.
The receptionist was kind and matter of fact, older than I expected. I wanted to get up and pace but there was little room. I wanted to rock but was feeling self conscious because it was just the two of us. I have learned that stimming is not always considered socially acceptable.
Finally the Dr. himself called me in.
I don’t know what I was expecting but I encountered a tall, gentle, man and it helped put me at ease. He was wearing a blue jacket and his glasses. I liked his accent. He had read my file, including my medical history and previously completed questionnaires. He talked for some time, observing and taking in my responses. He had not a doubt I was on the spectrum and told me so. I remember him saying at one point “Of course you are Aspie, you know that. You didn’t need me to tell you that.” But of course I did need him to tell me. I wanted it official, I wanted to abide by the rules. I wanted to know I hadn’t made a mistake.
A barrage of emotions came over me: relief (that I wasn’t going mad), joy (I was me, I had ‘found’ me), sadness and grief for the time lost, nervousness (how would others react?). He asked me quite a few more questions but I was in another space and time – I remember not really wanting to talk. I wanted to leave. I had spent enough time there in unfamiliar surrounding. I also remember wanting desperately to tidy up the toys and shelves that seemed to be very disorganised to my way of thinking.
I left that day the same person as I went in, except now I had answers. I felt a sense of freedom, free of doubt because I now had answers. In a blurry haze I paid the bill (private diagnosis costs but it was worth it) and somehow managed to control myself as I walked back to the car. Once in the car I remember just sitting there – stunned. Then I cried, with my head on the steering wheel. I was euphoric and wanting to sleep at the same time. Instead, I drove to the home of an autism advocate to tell them my news, desperate to share with someone who would understand my joy and relief at having found my people.