Sunday, 21 May 2017

Getting Diagnosed

This year will mark 10 years since I was first diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder/Aspergers Syndrome. I was 18 years, 8 months, 1 week, 1 day, 6 hours and 20 minutes old when I was told I was on the spectrum after months of speculation.

A little background: at my first proper job (which I only lasted 3 months in) when I was 17, one of the ladies I worked with (Flora, one of the most gorgeous souls I have ever met) asked if I had Aspergers Syndrome.

"What's that?" I asked.

"Mild Autism. My grandson has it and you remind me a lot of him." Was the reply.

Eh, I brushed it off. In the culture of the Toowoomba Region, things like Autism and other neurodiverse conditions were considered disabilities no matter how they impacted your life, and a label like that wasn't something you wanted stuck to you.

Later on, when I was working at "the Warehouse", the boss's son came to work with us during the school holidays. He also had Aspergers Syndrome. I can still recall people laughing at us one lunch hour, and not knowing why until someone pointed out that during our whole conversation, we hadn't looked at each other once.

So off to the GP to get a referral I went, and soon I was diagnosed.

"You definitely have Aspergers Syndrome." Said the psych.

"You are broken." I heard. It didn't help that at the time I was dating a guy whose family had that exact notion - that I was broken and I needed to be fixed. In fact, a lot of people that I had known for a long time were like "Oh, that explains a lot. So you're getting fixed then?"

Now I know better, of course, but back in 2007 the attitude still was that ASD was a disability and an affliction and I needed to be cured. Probably explains how I got stuck on that terrible sodium valproate, which definitely wiped out my anxiety and sensory sensitivities along with just about all of my other emotions and every single one of my imaginary friends (who I am happy to say are all back alive and well now).

Yes, there are some aspects of ASD that for me are akin to a disability. It's taken me a long time to get up to speed on my social skills (which are still on the lower end of the spectrum, but at least my embarrassing incident quotient is going down), and my anxiety will always be a bugbear, along with my knack for sensory overload. Still, I think even with my ASD label, I'm a pretty nifty young lady. My sensory issues also come with positives, including a love of music/dancing and I'm always down for a hug (definitely a hugger, not a handshaker). My brain might run at a million miles an hour making it hard for me to focus and contributing to my anxiety, but without it I wouldn't have my imaginary friends nor would I have the likes of my books "Ink on the Wind", "Chuckles and Giggles", "Experiment 24-42" or "The Children of Wellsworth School".

Aspergers is not something that needs to be fixed. Neurodiversity is not a curse. It is something to be embraced, for with it comes new ideas and ways of thinking. Celebrate our differences, cherish our similarities and let's all work together for the betterment of humanity!