Friday, 21 April 2017

30 Days of Autism Acceptance: Day 21


Day 21: 

Talk about comorbid conditions.  Do you have any other disorders commonly related to autism?  Were you misdiagnosed as something else first?

I would like to note right here that this post involves discussion of mental-health issues, which neither of my parents know about or would understand (although Dad's got a Facebook account he doesn't have any idea how to use it and so is rarely on there) but a couple of my extended family members are on Facebook (I'm sharing these posts there) and so Liz, Sarah, if you're reading this, I'd appreciate it if you could maintain that state! They don't know and they really wouldn't understand it anyway.

I have a very long history of depression; I've been battling it since I was about 13 and it was pretty bad for a long time. In more recent years it's been an on-again-off-again thing rather than a constant, which is some relief. The official diagnosis was "reactive depression" - ie. my situation and surroundings causing it, rather than it being some sort of endemic thing. I was a complete social outcast at school and girls can be incredibly bitchy and subtle in their bullying (I went to an all-girls school) and because I was weird, odd, different, etc, I was an easy target. I think the incident that really nailed home just how excluded and outcast I was happened in Year 11 (5th year, in Harry Potter-speak). My birthday is October 22nd; Hayley in my form has her birthday on the 23rd and Isobel the 24th. Some of the popular Queen-Bee-type girls had made a massive sign that they put up in our form room that read "Happy birthday Hayley and Isobel!!!" In the bottom right-hand corner someone (probably Naomi or Claire, though if I recall correctly, I think it was in Naomi's handwriting) had squashed in "and Katherine!"

I had a reprieve for a few years when I went to Exeter - I finally found people who accepted me for my quirky weirdness, among the folkies and the geeks, which makes perfect sense! I've got a really good bunch of friends now and I'm so thankful for them.

In more recent times we think the depression is back, though on a much lower level, mainly because of the constant stress and fear caused by the DWP and their completely unfirt-for-purpose Work Capability Assessments and PIP.

I've never been assessed for or diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, although sometimes I think there's probably a degree of it lurking under the surface.

I definitely have OCD issues, probably from being autistic, although those only flare up when I'm really stressed. I've never been formalyl diagnosed with OCD but in the past I probably would have been. And I'm not doing the "everyone's a bit OCD" because that line REALLY annoys me, same as the people who claim "we're all a little autistic" (no, we are NOT - this will be discussed at another time because it's one I want to investigate and explore in more detail, but the bottom line is that MRIs and so on are demonstrating a clear difference in thinking between autistics and non-autistics).

My biggest OCD issue used to be not stepping on cracks in the pavement. If I did accidentally do so with one foot, I had to step on the very next crack if I was going to rebalance and ensure everything would be OK; if I didn't, indeterminate and unspecified Bad Stuff would happen. The definition of "cracks" included the joins between paving slabs. The really small brick-type paving was (thankfully) excluded from this because it was often perpendicular to the direction my feet were going and because they were too small for my feet to fit within the boundaries (though occasionally when my stress and anxiety levels were really high I had to avoid those cracks as well, which meant going on tiptoes. Not the easiest to do and really awkward to explain! But if I got too stressed and/or stepped on too many cracks, I'd have to hurry back to the beginning (and I had to hurry, to minimise the chances of the Bad Stuff happening; the longer I left it the worse it would be) and start all over again. Multiple times, if necessary. It was pretty horrible. It's something I had a massive mental battle with when I first became a wheelchair user because you cannot avoid the cracks in a chair. It gave me physical shudders at first but I've had to force it down and now it isn't a psychological issue any more. I still pay reasonably close attention to pavement cracks because they sometimes stick up so there's the potential for my front castors to hit them and catapult me out - which would be rather painful and messy!

I like things to be in fives. Two on each side and one down the middle. I have no idea why five; possibly because it was always Mum's number when she played volleyball and basketball. I have to balance things - if I brush the back of my left hand against something, I need to brush the back of my right hand against it ASAP, for example. If I can't and I lose the balance, I get stressed. I've got it much more under control now but it's always lurking.

I wouldn't say I was "misdiagnosed" at any point, just that I wasn't fully diagnosed. I know other autistics have been misdiagnosed with bipolar, schizophrenia and other conditions before someone eventually went, Hang on, they're not bipolar/schizophrenic/etc, they're autistic! That's got to be pretty rough.

I do wish I'd been picked up at a much earlier age than 28, because it would in all likelihood have saved me a lot of confusion, frustration and difficulty. This is all-too-common among female autistics, which is one reason I'm speaking out, particularly through this blog. I don't want others to go through what I went through, to feel odd or different but not know why. I want my autistic sisters to be identified, understood and accepted; I don't want them to have to suffer.

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