In 2008, I was diagnosed with high functioning autism.
I’d had very little knowledge of autism before this diagnosis. I was being assessed by a clinical psychologist to see if I was suitable for cognitive behavioural therapy for my problems with anxiety. During the session she told me that she thought I was probably on the autistic spectrum and asked me if I would like to have a diagnosis. This came completely out of the blue as my problems had always been put down to severe anxiety, depression and OCD.
The diagnosis took three sessions, each session lasted around 2 hours. There was also an hour long telephone conversation with one of my parents in order to get some childhood background. I was then invited back for another appointment at which time I was told that I definitely had High functioning autism. This diagnosis was preferred over Asperger syndrome because of my delayed speech development as a child. During this session I was given quite a lot of information about my brand of autism. It felt as though I was joining an exclusive club that only a few special people belonged to. I felt like I suddenly had answers to questions I’d had my whole life.
I was given all these new terms to search for in Google, Neural typical, theory of mind, weak central coherence and the triad of impairments. I felt like celebrating. It was like finally getting “closure” on all the difficulties I’d had all these years. I was so relieved to finally have the answer. I thought that autism specific services would be offered to me and I would get lots of support from professionals that would give me useful information and help me to function more effectively in the world.
So what did happened next?
Well nothing really. There was not an autistic fairy godmother waving her magic wand, turning me into anything other than I already was. Pretty soon I realised I was on my own. I still had my severe mental health problems that seemed as untreatable as ever, and now added to the mix I had this new category of symptoms called autism that I was struggling to make sense of. Things went from bad to worse and there seemed to be no new solutions. Gradually through many hours spent researching autism on Google along with some different medications for anxiety and depression, I began to get some understanding of what autism means to me and how I am affected by it’s symptoms.
Within a few months of my diagnosis I had began a new life. I gave up some of my freelance work and applied for jobs that I thought I would be happier with. Everything began to fall into place. The hard part was trying to work out “who I was” now that I was living with the knowledge that I was on the autistic spectrum.
Getting diagnosed with high functioning autism has been a very positive experience
Absolutely yes. I can be a lot more forgiving of myself when I act in a certain way or find social situations uncomfortable. I do not just feel like a stupid person any more as I did before I had my diagnosis. It has improved my self esteem and confidence.
I’m not saying that life is perfect now. Far from it. I still have my mental health problems and I still struggle with my autistic symptoms and the resulting anxiety. But overall I feel like I am so much more in control of my life and I continue to learn about autism.
The more I learn, the better life gets.
Thanks for reading-Steve