20th July 2020
My journey with autism has been a complicated one, so I will try my best to round it up in a clear way. Unfortunately, my brain runs quicker than I would like, so it might become a bit messy. I’m 20 years old and I’m currently studying English Literature at Portsmouth uni. You would think that being 20 means I have a diagnosis and I understand my autism, but I don’t. For many people, particulalrly boys, they are diagnosed at a young age, having disaplyed the relevant traits already. I, however, am still waiting for a formal diagnosis, but after research, it is generally agreed in my family that I have some form of autism. But this is only a recent thing for me.
As a kid I generally always struggled with making friends and fitting in. I was extremely shy and preferred playing on my own. I’ve always had strong interests such as literature, art and animals. But I managed to cope until secondary school. When I first went to secondary school, although I found it overwhelming, I coped for a few years. It wasn’t until I was 14 when everything went downhill.
I can’t exactly pin-point the start of it but I remember being overwhelmed with anxiety all of a sudden. I started feeling sick all the time so I wasn’t eating a lot, I didn’t sleep much and I started feeling anxious about going to school and leaving the house. My grades began to drop at school and my attitude became very negative very quickly. I had a couple of friends in my class who I was very close with, however, there was a lot going on in their personal lives which also made things very complicated. The first teacher I opened up with was my science teacher. I told him about my self harming and he arranged a meeting with my parents. That day, for me, was emotional, it brought a sense of relief but also a sense of embarrassment, guilt and sadness. I was lucky that my parents were so kind and supportive. While my parents supported me, I also gained the support of my science teacher who allowed me access to his office whenever I needed a break. However, the school disagreed with this and instead sent me to the Special Support Facility which was basically where all the misbehaved kids went. I also went to see the school counsellor (not actually a qualified counsellor) who literally stared at me (this counselling technique I can assure you does not work for everyone. It sent me into meltdown as I hid under my blazer). My behaviour continued to worsen and I started to walk out of lessons or refuse to go to them. I can remember one particular morning where I was in my tutor room, upset and refusing to go to lesson. My tutor decided to go and get the deputy head who came into the room just as I was calling my mum, begging her to pick me up. I hung up on my mum as the deputy scolded me for calling her during school time. She said, and I quote, “your mum could rush down to the school and end up in a car crash because of that phone call”, which is obviously a great thing to say to someone with severe anxiety. So school continued and I didn’t go most of the time. My parents had arranged doctors appointments which really didn’t go much better. Eventually I got referred to CAHMS but i wasn’t willing to accept help and thought I was okay dealing with it by myself and with my family. I have since been referred to CAHMS again but the same thing happened. So that was my first experinece with anxiety.
After I left school I did a voluntary trip to Cambodia for 4 weeks which massively improved my confidence, and after this trip I made the move to Hazelwick Sixth Form which was considerably better than ICC. I recieved counselling, which was helpful but ended on a session in which the counsellor said “I don’t really know what’s wrong with you”. I had been tested for my hormones to see if that was impacting my mental health but it all came back clear. So ultimately we had run out of options.
It was only when I started attending uni that we thought about the possibility of autism. We accessed help at the uni, which (again) is not very suited to highly anxious people and went to the doctors who perscribed me medication for anxiety. We made another appointment to speak about autism with a doctor who told me it was unlikely I would be accepted for an assessement for autism (joke’s on her). I got accepted for assessment and filled out questionnaires which suggsted I had autism. We spoke with a woman from the National Autistic Society who told us about the recent surge in women being diagnosed a lot later than men. She advised that I showed signs of autism, and a few weeks later we got a letter with an estimated appointment time for my formal face-to-face assessment. It was about one and a half years waiting time which has now been increased to two and a half years. I was due my assessment in September 2020 but it has now been moved to 2021. So thats a basic outline of my journey so far. It has been confusing and complex but its slowly getting better. Not everything is resolved yet but now I am ready to raise awareness of these issues by sharing my personal experinces.