Today’s diagnosis story comes straight from the dark recesses of the internet. The Author has requested to remain anonymous due to the legitimate fear of damage to professional reputation working in the mental health field. Unfortunately, this is a story I’ve heard often. Anecdotally, it seems the types of jobs where it is LEAST safe to disclose are those of health professionals.
Anonymous Diagnosis Story:
You tend to know that you are different from most other people if you are, but you might not necessarily know why. That is why I really stumbled into my diagnosis (or it stumbled into me) rather than seek it.
After scraping through my entire schooling and undergraduate life, the intense demands of Master’s finally outstripped my capacity to compensate and, after seeking help, I was diagnosed with ADHD at 24. However, the extreme ‘social anxiety’ remained and my ADHD medication was not working the way it was supposed to. I was close to failing my course. Desperate for help, I went and saw doctors, psychologists, nutritionists, neurologists and a range of other professionals, each with their own hypothesis and strategies that helped marginally at best. I was fortunate enough to be referred to a great psychologist for executive functioning support, who immediately recognized the Aspie hiding behind the veils of adulthood, strong intellect and the female gender.
Diagnosis was life-changing for me. It provided me with an explanation as to why I am different, that it is not because I am ‘weird’ or ‘stupid’. With new-found self-understanding, I was able to advocate for myself and better meet the needs I did not realize I had (eg. I never realized I toe-walk when barefoot, I did it all my life. Others noticed it, no one wanted to say anything.) Diagnosis also allowed me to finally be okay with who I am, and not feel ashamed when I had to go a different route from everyone else, such as taking a year longer to complete my course. With growing confidence and more Aspie-friendly support (people who cared started communicating with me in more concrete terms), I completed my course, have since published the thesis I had been pitifully struggling with in a prestigious journal, and found very satisfying employment helping others who are still going along the similar path that I was. There was a time when it felt like I would never get there; I am glad I did not stop pursuing. Diagnosis also helped me find others like me, find a ‘tribe’, and finally find a sense of belonging in the world. It helped me realize I am not alone.
Three of the most important things I learned from my diagnosis experience are these: 1) Achievement is not about doing things perfectly, but persisting towards your personal goals in accordance with your values, no matter how slow or bumpy the journey. 2) Don’t feel ashamed about having to do things differently sometimes. 3) Do things differently.