Change to Schedule

Greetings Earthlings! 🙂

Just a quick post to tell you about a temporary change to the blog schedule.

I’m really, really busy at present and can’t dedicate as much time to writing this blog as I would like to. So, for the moment I have to change the schedule to one new blog post a week.

Instead of Mondays and Fridays, I’ll be posting once a week on Friday’s at 8pm.

When my schedule frees up again I’ll reassess the situation and start posting more frequently, but rest assured:

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Until then Earthlings! 🙂

Aoife

Getting Diagnosed

Greetings Earthlings! 🙂

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! 😛 🙂

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! 🙂

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! 🙂

 

Aoife

Introductions

Greetings Earthlings! 🙂

Welcome to my new blog ‘A Is For Aoife Not Autism’- a blog charting my experiences of life on the autistic spectrum.

After much encouragement from my friends and family, I decided to set up this blog to give you an insight into my world- a world that’s not as different as you may think.

As you’ve already guessed, my name is Aoife, and I was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome (a form of high functioning autism) as an adult at the age of 23.

Yep- I was diagnosed that late.

I know it’s hard to believe as most people are diagnosed as children, but adult diagnosis is quite common, especially where women are concerned (I’ll write a post focusing on female diagnosis/presentation at a later stage).

I’m expecting my ‘Best Actress’ Oscar any day now for fooling the world that I was normal for so long! 😛

To say that a gust of wind could have knocked me over when I got the news would be accurate! I’m fairly sure my face looked something like this:

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…with added red cheeks and streaming tears! 😛

Being told that you are on the autistic spectrum is mind blowing. It felt as though my entire identity had changed in an instant. Imagine you had spent your entire life thinking that you were a dog, only for someone to tell you actually no, you’re a cat! A similar, but entirely different species!

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The word ‘autism‘ itself was perhaps the hardest thing to process. Armed only with what I knew from films and books, I struggled to connect the diagnosis to my reality. And so I turned to Google to learn more about about this neuro-developmental disorder, devouring pages of information about abnormal brain pathways, genetic mutations and the plethora of symptoms that exist on the autistic spectrum. Slowly but surely, it all started to make sense, the jigsaw of my life falling into place piece by piece. Scholarly articles read like my own personal biography. They painted the portrait of a black and white thinker, uncoordinated and socially awkward. It depicted my struggles with change, my eating habits and my textural preferences (think Russell Brand and Jonah Hill in ‘Get him to the Greek’-stroke the furry wall!!).

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It clarified everything I had ever wondered about myself, all my little habits and idiosyncrasies explained by one condition. Who knew that my very neurons had been conspiring against me in social situations for decades?!

At the time, I felt like I was no longer Aoife, but the product of the symptoms I was expressing.

It took me an entire year to feel normal again (or at least what constitutes normal for me!), and a further year to stop analyzing everything/explaining every single quirk to those around me.

Autism does not define me- it may influence many areas of my life and personality, but it is not my identity. I am Aoife, a girl who just happens to be on the autistic spectrum!

And so I decided to set up this blog for all you other ‘Aoife’s’ out there- you’re not alone! But more importantly, I’ve set this up to shine a light on the reality of living with an ASD. Too often we are force fed the ‘Rain Man‘ stereotype- a great film, but one that differs hugely from the reality faced by most individuals on the spectrum.

In this blog, I hope to take you on a journey to see the real face of autism (which isn’t Dustin Hoffman’s). I will share with you my own personal experiences of life with Asperger’s syndrome, scientific explanations of the condition, and some of the challenges faced by the community. In this way, I hope that you will better understand my world- a world that, until recently, looked very similar to your own.

So pull up a pew and get comfy-this is going to be fun 🙂

Aoife

 

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