I was in the pub yesterday and I told my group of work friends about how I found out about my autism. They were all shocked and asked ‘how did I cope?’ It got me thinking how did I cope? The way I found out about my autism was quite unusual and quite frankly difficult. I’d always known I was different from a young age. I used to say to my friends at school ‘I just don’t think like you guys, I don’t know what it is but I just think differently’. It was at the age of 16 during the summer holidays that things changed for me.
I was alone at home, bored out of my mind. I went into my wardrobe and saw this box that had my name and ‘documents’ on it. I just thought lets have a look inside because it had my name on it. So I brought it down from the top shelf and opened it. It has things like school awards, school work, typical childhood memories. But when I dug deeper I saw all these letters and reports from my local council. Assessments, reports, letters all about me. I started reading through them. I was a quiet child, I had stopped talking or making any sounds after 18 months, I’d regressed, I didn’t understand how to answer the question what’s a fork (I answered knife and fork), I didn’t interact with peers, I didn’t respond to my own name………….it went on and on and on. Nursery nurses, child psychologists, parents, all these people writing about me about my development. Having a statement of special educational needs for communication and behaviour. There was one sentence that stuck out the most ‘your child meets some of the criteria for autistic spectrum disorder we are referring her to a specialist clinic.’ My mind had been hit with a brick. What is autistic spectrum disorder?
To answer my question I went to the only logical place: the Internet. I read loads and loads of articles, definitions, studies, health websites trying to get as much information as possible. It became an obsession if I had something in my brain I wanted to know as much as I could know about, I’m still obsessive about it even now. For the first time in my life I made sense. The things that I knew were different about me that I couldn’t understand were finally making sense. I felt a relief, I wasn’t stupid or mad or broken I was autistic. Though it took me a long time to say it aloud and I hadn’t told my parents that I found these documents for ages it felt like a horrible, shameful secret. I began to act out even more at school I was starting my a-levels and having to deal with this as well made me go bonkers. I remember one lesson I got really annoyed, it was a drama lesson and someone accused me of being secretive and creating an atmosphere with another student, there was already tensions in our group. I kicked a bin over stormed out of the room and sat on the floor outside furious and unable to move. The teacher came out and I just lost it and just spilled my heart out. This was one of the first times I’d admitted to myself I wasn’t coping and that I had a reason for it and it was okay.
I did eventually tell my parents if found them and I felt much better when I did. I’m not going to lie I felt a lot of resentment towards them for keeping this from me and not going to the clinic that I’d been referred to. Back in the 90s autism was barely know and it was a struggle even to get as far as they did. Also changing an autistic child’s routine and taking them out of school to go to a clinic was never going to work. Also I began to realise that my teachers all must have known because there were certain things that I got away with. My headteacher at secondary school knew my mum and he’d always try and talk to me and I’d get really embarrassed because all the other kids would be like why is he talking to you? He was talking to me because he knew, he’d check up on me and once took me to his office and spoke to me when I lost it and was swearing and stormed out a lesson. Everyone knew about it except me.
Years later I feel through going to university and speaking to other autistics there I have accepted it. Now I acknowledge more and more at work what I find difficult and it’s okay to ask for help because I shouldn’t be ashamed of it. I used to feel like it’s my problem and I should just deal with it. But I’m not in control of it. It is what it is. It’s there and it’s not going anywhere. I’ve learnt to really I like it. I’ve began to see the benefits of it and use them to my advantage. I’m funny, precise, passionate, want to do things right, can do things repetitive, honest, loving, caring and so much more. I will always hold my breath when I walk down the school corridor, I will stim when happy or stressed, I will be blunt and get a few enemies from it. But essentially I’ll be me. I’m glad I found out I was autistic and I’ll never know what things would have been like if I’d known earlier. Maybe I’d have not learnt how to control my autism because I’d have used it as an excuse. Or maybe I’d have had a better time at school. But who cares now it has worked out for the best. I learnt the skills I needed and have gone from being middle/low functioning to high functioning. I’m not thinking in the box or outside the box. I think in my own box. I love my autistic self. Well most of the time.
Thanks for reading. Hoped you liked it. Peace out.