I’m feeling a bit unsupported.
I don’t think that’s anyone’s fault as such. Certainly no one I can point at, it’s more of a vague fist-shake in a general direction.
Funding is always at fault though, so the lack of government funding has directly affected my journey.
We can start that at the 18 month wait between GP referral and first appointment with a specialist. It was another couple of months after that before I was told that I had Autism Spectrum Disorder. Two months after that, in the midst of self-doubt, I chased up a confirmation of diagnosis, which I received within 48 hours by email and post with apologies.
It’s now five months since diagnosis and I’m thumb twiddling.
Should I blame them? I can blame politicians for not enough staff.
But what use is all that?
The past five months I have found enormous and real support from a group of strangers online.
Some I feel warmth towards. Some I don’t feel I have much in common with. But with each anonymous post of, “I do that too!” comes a kind of acceptance that I’ve never known before.
The way we talk on our thread is not the way I talk elsewhere on the Internet. There’s no real dialogue. We respond to each other’s questions, but reading through is almost like reading a list of separate statements. We are a tangential bunch. There is little small talk. It’s refreshing.
At the same time it’s scary. Even in this small group of newly diagnosed, adult women, we struggle with the rules of not having to follow the rules. We apologise for not posting for a while. We all seem to be intermittent posters, going through periods of intense engagement, and then times of stepping back. We still feel guilt for stepping back.
So there has been support there.
And it’s been needed.
In the early days after diagnosis I was elated. Excited. Full of adrenaline. I felt acceptance. I felt sane. I felt like a real person for the first time ever. All my exhaustion was validated. It was amazing.
Then time wore on and I worried. I worried I must have tricked them somehow, that I couldn’t be so different. I quizzed my NT (neurotypical: someone who has normal social processing) husband about all my thoughts. I’d say, “when I do this, is it a normal thing? Would you do it?”
And he reassured me. He told me he couldn’t say what was and wasn’t, but he could tell me that he’d read about autism, and it fitted.
I don’t know what I would have done without him as I argued against myself.
Then there was the realisation that I would never get “better”. I already have myriad coping techniques in place, a veritable cornucopia of survival methods for all sorts of places and things. But they exhaust me. They will always exhaust me. I will always have to take that into account, and I don’t want to.
That was the low part. I had a few weeks of feeling very low. I didn’t seek help. I didn’t ask for help. It was hard. It was winter. It rained a lot. It was bleak.
Then Spring sprung and I started to improve a bit. And now here I am. I have told some friends, but not all. I have very recently told close family, and they’ve surprised me with how accepting they’ve all been. I keep telling people I haven’t changed. They’re safe, I’m still me.
What would have made the difference?
Someone to help me. Someone to advise me on telling people. Someone to help me deal with the angst I felt as I swung between never telling anyone, and wanting to tell the world, then backing out again and again. Someone to help me deal with the conflicting emotions of discovering and accepting that I have a disability. Someone to help me understand that it does disable me as well as enrich me.
I need to know the good and the bad. I needed to know the reality. I want a dentist to tell me, “This is going to hurt a lot.” That to me is a good dentist. I don’t like minimising.
Not that the people who diagnosed minimised. They were honest. They were clear that emotionally knowing could be good and bad. In fact they were the first people ever to
My life is enormously fulfilling, but I needed to accept that I can’t do some things. It’s not easy to accept that. It’s not comfortable either. I’m fiercely independent and don’t want to ever ask for help, but it’s a part of the journey too.
Having an expert around to support me would have helped.
There are still more things that I need help with. I would like to create a fulfilling work life. I need help with that, and that help needs to be specialised.
I need to find people like me in the community. I don’t know where they are or how to find them. I want a network. I want to be useful.
I’m not in a big city. I’m not near one either. Living rurally is perfect for me, but it means resources are scarce. It means those networks are missing.
Every once in a while I’ll search online and come up with a phone number for someone co-ordinating something. And I look at it, and I know I won’t phone. It almost seems like a sick joke. Why would you provide phone numbers and not websites and email for a group notoriously phone-avoidant? I’d laugh if it wasn’t such a ridiculous barrier.
Maybe the time will come when I feel together enough to start working on those things. But I’m still floundering a bit.
I blame myself for not reaching out, but I was told there would be another meeting post-diagnosis, and it’s yet to happen.
So I’ll do the thing I do. I’ll be very British and just wait patiently. Hoping that what people say will happen, will happen. Because that’s how I work, and deep down I’ll worry that it’s one more way that I don’t understand everyone else and the world is passing me by.