Check out Tom’s channel on My ASD Journey.
As part of Thomas’ journey of self-discovery since his ASD diagnosis – “Discovering Autism” became a way to share the experiences of individuals with autism and those who’s lives have been touched by autism, to promote a better understanding of autism by all. You can see other interviews and more about his experiences at “My ASD Journey” on YouTube. You can also see how he expressed different thoughts about becoming autistic in his “posters” on FaceBook called “Signs of Autism”.
It’s a lot to take in at once. ASD Level 1 was handed to me before I even knew what it
even meant. My voc rehab counselor suggested that I figure out if something else was going on besides just anxiety (after work-related error in judgment). Since she mentioned Aspergers specifically I sought out a specialist in the field. I fully expected to be told that this was me barking up the wrong coconut tree because I knew nothing about autism. Rainman, Baron-Cohen tests, and part of the “Pretending to be Normal” book seemed completely foreign and didn’t speak to me at all. All I had out of the pic on the left is “Difficulty in interactions with others”. Not much of match, right? I totally get why anyone would be reluctant to bother seeking a diagnosis.
I was already forty at this point. I’d been introspective my whole life. How could I not know this about myself? I knew everything… I had taken every test. I had read so many books, from Astrology to what Jungian archetypes fit me. I never had developmental delays according to my parents. I’m “normal”, just weird, right?
Nope. She said she knew in 15 seconds. *facepalm*
I googled the PsychologyToday for a local psychologist that would be PhD and a specialist in this field. This one, “Mary”*, said she was caring and kind, and that’s another story, but I bought it. I made the appointment. I sat down in the room, and I threw my life down on the floor before her.
I talked about my divorce, my education, my difficulties at work, my layoffs/firings, my parents, the years being stuck, and on and on. I talked about my upcoming trip to England, and how I love learning about cultures. I shared my “special interests” in politics, logic, history, and mythology. It all came out in one epic infosplatter.
Then I said, resolutely, that I wanted to know if maybe I was Autistic and the reason why. To my surprise, the answer was, “Yes.” And that’s when she said she knew “in 15 seconds”. That was her actual words. She told me I’d have to go through some testing to be sure, but it appeared she was already decided.
My head spun. I was almost angry. How many people would say they know your most inner self in 15 seconds? A gypsy fortune teller at some weird carnival in a horror film? The next week I was in a stupor. I started to google more about what this meant, and still I was lost on how this could be me. I wasn’t googling women and female in my searches yet because I just didn’t know there would be a difference.
The next two visits spanned my assessment. She wanted answers to specific traits common to our neurotype, although looking back, it was still male gendered or neutral traits, not what is common to women. Still, I fit.
Suddenly, a sigh of relief washed over me. I wasn’t alone anymore. There are lots of people out there that are my people, my clan. I started joining Facebook groups, and reading what I shared with others. It was transformative. We had some many joys and defeats in common.
The next session with “Mary” was not great. Once the relief washed away, the next emotion was grief. I started to mourn not knowing sooner and the choices I could have made differently. Instead of empathy, “Mary” was already past that and onto wanting to “fix” me. I was just trying to recenter myself after a gigantic, life altering revelation, and she’s over it. This is where some sympathy would have been appreciated, but she was busy trying to “help” me with my work issues by trying to work on my social skills.
Does anyone not see how that was invalidating my feelings?
Anyway, my time with “Mary” was short-lived. I gave her a few more sessions, even expressing my need to get used to the whole thing, to see if she would focus on just listening to my problems till I was ready to take on more. It didn’t happen. I got a blank stare then more urging toward skills and things I was not ready for. I took the next few months to reflect and debate whether this whole therapy thing was truly worth the bother.
*I’m going to be using the fake names in quotes in the future. I suppose at some point I’ll make a glossary.