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Waiting for 'Yes' as I Sought an Autism Diagnosis

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As I sat in my therapist’s office, I came to the sinking realization that I hadn’t heard a thing she’d said for the past five minutes. I told myself it was OK, because I’d been waiting for a different appointment, in a different office, with a different therapist for nearly a month now. I was waiting for the appointment that would change my life.

The only way I can describe the wait is the feeling you experience in the moments after someone tells you we need to talk. In that time, you know your life is going to change, but you have no idea how.

The answer I was waiting for was binary, it would be either a yes or a no, and either answer would change everything. The path to this answer had officially begun when I started treatment almost a year ago, and had unofficially begun more like 28 years ago. Either way, it had been a very long wait.

I wanted a yes. I wanted it more badly than I could begin to express, which was good, because we’d been assuming yes for quite some time. Everyone was in agreement — off the books, of course, that yes made the most sense, so why wait for an official answer when we could start moving forward now?

Moving forward was an exciting prospect, because I’d spent the better part of a year in treatment with my mental health not moving much of anywhere. It was, this lack of movement that gave us the idea that maybe we should be asking some questions. Important questions. Life-changing questions.

The idea of questioning really appealed to me, because all of a sudden the language around me changed. People stopped using words like “stubborn,” and started using words like “undiagnosed.” I was no longer “unwilling to change,” no longer a “chronic case.” You can’t believe what that does for a person’s self-esteem.

Before we could get our questions answered, I had to be stable, both physically and mentally, which looking at my past history seemed like a dire task. But for this new try, we made changes to my treatment plan, ones based on assumption that the answer was yes. Like any good scientists, our questions led to tests, and oh how many tests there were. As I sat in a small office full of toys, talking to a doctor I’d never met, I realized one thing very quickly: this woman could read my mind. The questions she asked were so pointed that they brought forth answers I didn’t even knew I had.

On the way home from the appointment, I argued with myself. It must be a yes. This doesn’t mean yes. Or could it? Between testing sessions, I sat on the couch with my laptop and researched. Late into the night, my emotions cycled more times than I could count. Diagnostic manuals don’t typically evoke much emotion, but right there in front of me were criteria and symptoms that all said yes.

But there was a downside. There always is. The realization that I was born this way, but in 28 years of life not a single person had noticed. No doctors, no parents, no teachers, no therapists. No one. If just one person had thought something, or said something, I could have gotten a yes earlier. My life could have been different.

I kept these feelings inside me during the last round of tests, knowing I had no chance of resolving them until I had an answer. According to the doctor, that answer would not come for at least a month.  So there I was, utterly distracted on my therapist’s overstuffed couch, waiting for an answer I was sure wouldn’t come for several more weeks. And then out of nowhere, the feelings came out. The anger and the fear and the doubt could no longer wait for an answer. But then one came. She said yes. Yes, we were right. Yes, it was real.

Yes, it was autism.

Getty image by Utah778.

Originally published: March 5, 2018
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