17th August 2020: Diagnosed.

Photo of Erica with an overlay of letter from ASD assessment

This is a backdated post to coincide with the original post across my social media platforms, I decided to share here to continue the honesty and journal the update here too:

I’ve thought long and hard about sharing this post and why I need to share.

At almost 33, I have a diagnosis which I’m still trying to grasp. And, at almost 33, I wonder if people think, “What difference is it going to make? You’re an adult now. You’ve got this far without this diagnosis…”
…………….. And maybe they’re right – What difference will it make?

This takes me back to one of the earliest lectures in my first year at university, challenged by the thoughts of others. Some people question the authenticity of a diagnosis: “It’s fashionable to say you have anxiety or depression…” I hear where they are coming from – After-all, clothing companies often inappropriately use mental illness for fashion statements. Labels become just that. Labels.

However, my argument is that having an actual diagnostic assessment to support a diagnosis can mean a great deal to the individual. Especially when it can offer a huge range of support from services such as CMHT and social services, which you may not be able to receive without it.

We know that in the past decade, there has been a rise in mental health issues (mainly due to social media) – Are we also seeing an increase because people are now more willing to accept it, or are the professionals handing out these “labels” like they’re Smarties?

Two tubes of retro cardboard Nestle Smarties (pngkey.com)

As said above, having a diagnosis can mean the world to an individual.
So surely, it is better to empathise with them, than judge them for seeking answers?

Let’s speak personally: It took years to get support after various diagnosis’, but these diagnosis’ allowed me to go through specific therapeutic interventions. If I didn’t go through the assessments, it is highly unlikely that I would not have been given the opportunity to receive this particular treatment.

Whilst Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and mental health are two separate entities, there can be some overlap in certain conditions.

ASD runs in my family, and as I got older I could see similarities between us all. So when I’ve had people question why I wanted the assessment, was it because I believed I am also autistic? Honestly, I had no idea. It was 50% Yes and 50% No.

I felt it could explain why some therapeutic interventions worked, whereas others didn’t. It would also explain why I have been misunderstood my entire life, or that I can sometimes come across as being “challenging” or “difficult”. I wanted to find out why social situations see me in various states of mind, where my behaviour alters depending on the situation. People say they don’t notice, but I feel a change in my anxiety. I guess, this is where I have learnt to mask – and the burnout is real!I didn’t know what would come of the ASD assessment, and admittedly I was anxious and afraid. It could explain a lot, but it could also make me realise that this is never going to go away.

The outcome of the assessment was: Diagnosed with Autism. I’m still trying to figure out what this means for me, and it has been suggested I have counselling specifically addressing the new diagnosis. It is co-morbid with my mental illness, meaning they go hand-in-hand with one another.

*People are often misdiagnosed with ASD or a personality disorder (in this case BPD… And yes, you can have both!)*

As ASD can be hereditary, I was most likely born with it. Yet, even the biological and environmental factors can contribute to mental illness in developing a personality disorder, as some people are more susceptible and sensitive to life events and this affects the chemicals and wiring in the brain which manifest into distorted thinking (This is why it is possible to have both autism and a personality disorder). I’m glad in some way to have a definitive answer, but I’m also struggling to adapt to the news that this *is* me.

I may be autistic and I may have complex mental illness, but there is much more to who I am. I’m just hoping that now, I may be understood, and have support in place to help me when I’m having an episode or meltdown, rather than feeling like I’m being judged and misunderstood all the time.

This is a whole new chapter in my life, and I wanted to share this with you because it is important to be true to yourself, and I want to share this chapter with you.

Image designed by Erica with a quote from Dr Temple Grandin, an autism spokesperson, who is also a Professor in Animal Behaviour.

Here are a couple of links to explain more about what Autism is, and although there are more out there, please choose:
NHS – What is Autism?
National Autistic Society

Not everyone is a fan of ‘memes’, but I believe they can be helpful for self-expression. Particularly, if they can be done with good taste, humour and at no expense of at hurting someone.

I found these memes via autism sites on social media, eg, Instagram, and I connect with these. I am sure many people will be able to identify with them in some way or another. I just find these amusing as they are things I do a lot of, and weirdly, I’m okay about it. That’s me!

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Your support will go towards materials to help me make not only this space bigger and better. Thank you!

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