Why I'm Grateful for Starting My 'Late' Autism Diagnosis
When I first joined The Mighty’s contributor team, I did so knowing I have always been labelled “different.”
I also did so knowing I am in essence a walking ball of anxiety, and always have been.
What I did not know, however, is that I would pursue a diagnosis of autism for myself.
Yet that is exactly what happened in the last year. Like I said, I have always known I was different, my parents have too, and several others in my life have as well — whether it was the bullies when I was younger, or the teachers who arranged for me to stay in the library during break time even when others weren’t allowed to, just so I had somewhere quiet to go.
I know now that I have always been autistic too, not just “different,” and it did not develop; it’s always been there. I also know I always will be autistic.
It was so obvious to everyone, family and professionals alike, that looking back, I should have been diagnosed a lot sooner. Someone let me down at some point in that respect. One of my schools looked into a diagnosis, but never carried it out. So I had to do that myself with the help of my parents and GP last year.
It would have solved a lot of the problems I encountered between then and now had I been diagnosed sooner, but the important thing is that I know now.
Which brings me to where I am today.
I am 18 years old and on a waiting list for my full adult diagnosis. Because of this, I’ve started talking about it much more, and writing about it more. I’ve even started a resource project for those on the spectrum to help teenagers and adults in my situation, and incorporated my autism and dyspraxia into my creative writing too. I feel much less “different” or “abnormal” and far more me. And even better, I’ve discovered a whole community of people just like me.
Not all my experiences are, or will be good ones.
I spent years with the majority of my teachers letting me be bullied because “Jacob’s different and doesn’t fit in.” I was expected to be “normal,” so I spent a long time praying into the void that I would be made “normal” so I could just not be targeted by people, or noticed. I wanted to hide away from being different.
However, it is important I now make this a positive experience, which is what I try to do as each day passes.
So yes, I am nearly an adult, I’m autistic, and I’m “different.” And I’m going to be honest — I’m proud. I’m different these days, because OK, I may be not so good at emotional understanding, at coordination, at social skills, at exams, at focusing, or functioning in the way the society I am in wants — but I am smart, I’m creative, and I know that when I’m in the right environment, or with people like me, the stars seems to line up perfectly.
I have hypersensitivity problems related to my autism, so this means I’m quite sheltered, but that affects nobody but me. I need that alone time just as my mother who has diabetes needs her insulin.
My counselor helps me to be proud of being myself. I am never going to hide being autistic, and I will never try to fit in ever again. It was like suppressing a whole part of myself, but now it is like flying free.
I do have a lot of processing issues, social difficulties and emotional understanding problems, but again, they are part of me. I also experience executive dysfunction at times. I have anxiety problems, which I’ve written about before. And I do not find it easy to communicate at all. But now I know, in part at least, why I have all of these things.
Life is generally just really hard to navigate, especially since I get fairly easily overstimulated, overwhelmed, and worst of all in my opinion, I get so very tired. I get meltdowns, shutdowns and panic attacks. The reason I decided to get diagnosed is because a member of staff witnessed a meltdown during a meeting at college. I even had a meltdown on my 18th birthday. But it is not the end of the world. My birthday was brilliant regardless.
My diagnosis has presented me with solutions too. Stim toys, ear defenders, learning support, and so on are all things I would not have if I hadn’t finally plucked up the courage to see my doctor for a referral.
To anyone out there who thinks they might be autistic — I encourage you to get a diagnosis and find some resources. In the long run, it will help. The help I am getting right now, and the help I will get in the near future, is something I would’ve loved to have much sooner had I known what a benefit it would be to my quality of life. I also thank my college’s learning support for encouraging me to see my doctor after the meltdown I had, and my best friend for constantly assuring me that I should be proud of being different.
I am no longer scared of stimming in public, or in class. I am no longer always wondering why I am different. And I now know it is never too late to find out why, or get the help you might need because you are different. I can spend time learning about myself, my special interests, and everything else the world has in store, instead of spending time worrying I don’t fit in. I tell people I’m an Aspie now. Which sounds far better than the word “different.”
In summary, the reason why I am grateful for my diagnosis is:
I can be me. I can be different. I can be proud of being autistic now that I know it is a central part of being me.
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Thinkstock photo by Art Paseka.