FAs for feeling deprived when the world crashed this year, I prospered. After a difficult start to 2020 dealing with health issues, I felt unable to do anything I had planned, no matter how much I wanted to see my friends, work, or travel. It was deeper than exhaustion: all my life I had struggled with things that other people seemed to find easy, like socializing, working, studying, or being comfortable in my own body. I often found myself overwhelmed, struggling to connect with people, and experiencing sensory overload when faced with certain lights, smells, sounds, or textures. I needed more time alone than other people to recover from being in the world and, selfishly, the confinement felt like a blessing.
I had realized my differences throughout my life, battling bouts of exhaustion and self-destruction, berating myself for my inability to connect with strangers or just feel remotely relaxed. He was always restless, oscillating between being distracted and hyper-focused on the wrong things. It became increasingly difficult for me to function, but it was not until 2015 that I decided to seek the answer that some teachers, family members and colleagues had suggested to me: a joint diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). ). ).
I tried telling my friends or colleagues that I suspected that I was autistic with ADHD, but without an official diagnosis, I felt unable to stand up for myself. Knowing why you are the way you are gives you more than knowledge: it empowers you. To be seen and known. Be forgiven and understood.
I spoke with several medical experts who shared my belief, but it is difficult to get an official diagnosis as an adult. While many autistic and neurodivergent people (a term that argues for neurological differences, including dyslexia, ADHD, and ASD are normal variations in the brain), people are diagnosed in childhood, many are not, particularly girls: we mask or hide our differences, which comes at great psychological cost. In retrospect, I presented quite typically as a child, but since I had no real developmental difficulties, ASD and ADHD were not considered.
I received a letter in April reminding me that I was still on the long waiting list for an NHS diagnosis. With the reduction in resources, my needs were a low priority and I understood. During the confinement, I wanted to make the most of this time, prioritizing my mental health after a lifetime of trying to survive. Although I loved being home, I knew that it would be impossible for me to get out of the protective cocoon I had built for myself without the words to explain how I experienced the world.
I saved my money and contacted a private psychiatrist for an evaluation. At the end of July, I sat down for lengthy evaluations, filling out what seemed like hundreds of forms on every aspect of my life, development, and identity. They even interviewed my mother about my childhood. The result was overwhelming and everything finally made sense.
I had searched for a diagnosis so I could help others understand me better, but it turned out that I had more to learn about myself. I began to review past friendships and relationships that had been fraught with conflict or had suddenly ended, and with my diagnosis I had the tools to reevaluate them. Like many autistic people, I struggle to “pick up” social codes or unspoken emotions, and I was embarrassed for not realizing where I had made a mistake, but justified myself by seeing where someone more direct should have been. He had begged people not to communicate through silence and passive aggression, telling them that he did not understand why they were angry. I also saw again where I had been intimidated or treated unfairly. Knowing that I did everything I could allowed me to treat myself with compassion.
However, the most surprising and unexpected result of my diagnosis has not come from within, but from the outside world. I have met a community of advocates and activists of the neurodiverse who make me feel hopeful about our future in the face of disability and bullying. The history of ASD research is incredibly bleak and dehumanizing, and much of it focuses on a cure rather than helping us thrive. People I have met advocate for ASD to be seen for what it is: a neurotype, not a disease. The world needs us: our difference, our compassion, our focus. We offer so much and would offer more in a world that accepts us for who we are.
Over the years, I have felt so much ashamed for who I am. I think of the times I’ve been reprimanded for not having enough fun, for being too fussy, for moving too much, for being too quiet, for being too loud. Now I know that these are not always my problems, but those of an inflexible society. Now I know that life would be better for everyone, not just neurodivergent people, if we set aside our expectations of how people should express themselves or socialize.
This year I finally accepted myself, and next year, when life starts to resume its normal rhythms of work and play, I’m excited that I’ll finally be able to live, understanding that the way I do it won’t always show up. exactly like everyone else.
Digsmak is a news publisher with over 12 years of reporting experiance; and have published in many industry leading publications and news sites.