“At age 11 I concluded that despite my best efforts, I was inferior to everyone around me and that I truly hated myself. That self loathing stayed with me for nearly 19 years.
… (after the self-realisation) …
I cured myself of my self hatred and depression overnight. I never would have dreamed that possible unless it happened to me.”
Brad’s Diagnosis Story:
I’m 30, from the UK. My whole life I remember being different in a million subtle ways. I was an only child and would get extremely distressed if I had to play with any of my younger cousins for a prolonged period of time, later on as I grew up and social situations grew more and more complex – I found myself lacking, unable to hold a conversation for more than 10 seconds, unable to make eye contact. Frequently I would be mocked and insulted by my peers, and I wouldn’t realize what was happening, this resulted in me feeling very stupid when I finally realized I’d been happily enabling their attacks on my self esteem. At age 11 I concluded that despite my best efforts, I was inferior to everyone around me and that I truly hated myself. That self loathing stayed with me for nearly 19 years.
I’d been conditioned to conceal my many issues from my peers and family, trying to address them never seemed to end well for me. I was met with confusion, derision and dismissal. Frequently I was told “If you just tried a bit harder you wouldn’t have this problem!” – This was awful advice as it meant I could only blame myself for what I now know were issues associated with the condition.
As I grew into adulthood my old excuse of “I’ll grow out of it!” lost more and more ground, until I fell into a deep depression that lasted about 5 years. My pattern of employment at this time was to get job after job and lose them all in exactly the same way. Ostracized by those in the workplace combined with executive function and sensory issues result in tremendous stress that manifests itself physically in the form of migraines, stomach issues and lowered immune system. So naturally I have sick days building up and am let go before I can pass my probationary period (in the UK you can be let go for any reason during this period).
Eventually I lost so many jobs that I had to seek some form of help to appease my father. I was sent to do CBT for anxiety after describing my issues to my doctor. Nothing the woman said seemed to help, she would suggest I do things that I knew for a fact were not healthy, like “just fake confidence until you actually are!” aka “damage your already low self esteem by lying to the world and conceal your true self some more!”. She also told me I seem to have an intuitive grasp of CBT which I took as a compliment to how much work I’ve had to do on my own psychology over the years.
So realizing this wasn’t adding up – I did some more research. In my last job I worked with two guys on the spectrum, one more high functioning than the other. I realized he was making a huge effort to do simple conversational things like ask me how my evening was, or if I had plans for the weekend. I remember forcing myself to do this in the exact same way in school. This helped me conclude to try an online test.
So I finish the test and score well above the threshold to seek diagnosis. I felt completely shell-shocked. My sense of self had been utterly destroyed. All these years I had been forced to be “normal” for so long that I had internalized this view of myself. I never knew what cognitive dissonance was until this moment. Two conflicting ideas were in my head at once. I’m normal vs I’m never going to be normal. It hit me very hard. I never really felt like I knew myself, but now I absolutely didn’t know who I was anymore.
I walked around like a zombie for 3 days before my dad finally made me say what was bothering me. We had a long cathartic conversation in which I lamented over not getting any of the help and support I needed as a kid, and how I had been mistreated by almost everyone around me at various points. I went to bed that night and realized that every memory I had that used to be evidence for what a pathetic failure I was could now be re-examined under a lens that wasn’t tainted by the bias of my self loathing. Nothing was my fault whereas before everything was. I cured myself of my self hatred and depression overnight. I never would have dreamed that possible unless it happened to me.