Getting Diagnosed

Greetings Earthlings! πŸ™‚

In continuation from my previous post, you may ask how I came to be diagnosed. I survived in (relatively)blissful ignorance for 23 years, what changed?

The truth? I was tricked!

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By my own family no less!

I had been led to believe that I was attending a counselling session to work on my (mild) social anxiety issues. How very wrong I was…

I suppose I should have guessed that something was up when my mother joined the session (to provide a ‘developmental history’ or record of my behaviors growing up). There was no logical reason for her to be there, I was over 18 after all.

Eyebrows were raised and faces were pulled as I was confronted with what seemed like an unusual combination of questions, such as “do you have any issues with textures?”; but still my naivety persisted to the very end of the session. It wasn’t until the psychologist asked me if I would be surprised to learn that I scored highly on a test for Asperger’s syndrome that the penny finally dropped!

Needless to say I was not impressed when I found out that I had been hoodwinked…

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….but ultimately it turned out to be a good thing! πŸ˜› πŸ™‚

My mother had guessed a few years previously that I was on the spectrum, but as it wasn’t impacting my life hugely, she reckoned that ignorance was bliss. It wasn’t until my social anxiety became an issue during my life as a post-grad that my family felt it was finally time to tell me.

Throughout my life, I had always struggled socially. I would drift from group to group, friend to friend, frequently choosing my own company in the schoolyard. Oftentimes I spent my lunchtimes sitting in a bathroom stall waiting for the bell to ring so that people wouldn’t stare at the lone wolf walking around by herself. Knowing that wolves are pack animals I tried to find a group where I belonged, but I always felt like the odd one out, or ended up saying something that alienated myself.

In my head isolation often seemed easier.

During my undergrad in college however, I finally became a socially functional member of society. I had groups of friends, I was involved in art society, I went out several times a week. To an outsider I seemed normal, and for the first time in my life, I suppose I too began to feel like I fit in. Women on the spectrum are known for their ability to socially mimic their peers- the chameleons of the human race. I guess I finally learned how to make my skin change colour.

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But as things must, change came knocking as graduation loomed, and I was thrown off course.

My post-grad plans fell through, I was cut off from my regular social life and I suppose I gradually began to regress. When I finally launched post-grad plan B, I naturally assumed that things would return to normal, but this proved quite difficult. I struggled to connect with my new peers and always seemed to rub them up the wrong way, no matter how hard I tried. It was like being back in school again. On nights out I reverted to being a quiet mouse in the corner, always feeling awkward and out of place.

I remember one night in particular where I almost had a panic attack in a bar. Everyone in the group was dancing and I wanted nothing more than to dance too, get back to my old self. I tried to move my body, but it refused to obey my brain. I managed a single jerk of my arm, nothing more, and it terrified me. Feeling everyone’s eyes on me I ran for the bathroom to try to catch my breath. My social attempts over the next few months produced similar results.

At the same time, the high pressure environment of the lab was taking it’s toll. Exhaustion, hunger, frustration of repeated failed experiments- I found myself frequently bursting into tears at the slightest provocation. A simple loud bang once sent me into meltdown! It was my dexterity however, which ultimately influenced my mother to seek a diagnosis. I was struggling greatly with some of the finer dissection work in my experiments and I was on thin ice.

Blissful ignorance aside- I needed to be diagnosed.

And so led to the grand deception that brought me to a psychologists office for diagnosis, and I’ve never really looked back! πŸ™‚

Since the diagnosis, I’m the happiest I’ve ever been. Never before had I felt this comfortable in my own skin, this content to simply be me. No longer did I berate myself for my social shortcomings, but learned instead to understand and embrace my awkwardness.

As much of a shock as the diagnosis was at the time, it truly was one of the best things to ever happen to me. Cheesy as it is to say- it is always darkest before the dawn! πŸ™‚

 

Aoife

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