Diagnosis Story 9: I never thought we would see progress like this

Today’s story is from Brad in the U.K. He is in the process of seeking a formal diagnosis but is 99.999% sure due to how much good the self-realisation has already achieved.

“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.”

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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.

I sat down to do the The Ritvo Autism Asperger Diagnostic Scale-Revised test and told myself “OK, lets just answer this honestly so I can rule it out and move on to the next possible cause.” About half way through I’m welling up, almost every question might as well have been “Have you ever felt like you are Brad? Strongly agree/agree/unsure/disagree”.

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.

That was in November, since then my family and I have read up on the condition and have reached a level of understanding I could only dream about before. My mother and I are repairing a relationship that had always been damaged as far back as I can remember. Turns out learning about the condition made me realize she is also on the spectrum, all her previous behavior I deemed emotionally abusive was actually down to her lack of automatic empathy and theory of mind issues. It hasn’t repaired the damage she did to me as a child, but it has allowed me to forgive it. Again never thought we would see progress like this. I plan on getting another job once I have a diagnosis so I finally have a leg to stand on when employers try to make my life harder and get rid of me.
I’m now in the process of getting a formal diagnosis, I was assessed on the 12th of April and I’m awaiting an invitation to get the results. 4-6 weeks away. I’m 99.999% sure this is the missing piece of the puzzle. Too much good has already come of the realization for it to be anything but true IMO. Still, time will tell.
Final message:  If the world knew a bit more about the condition, the stigma wouldn’t exist and maybe someone would have suggested I was autistic years ago so I got the support I need. I think the very worst thing about Autism is how little people generally understand. It’s profoundly damaging to all parties involved. This message is probably directed at the wrong audience, but please continue to advocate for learning as much as possible about Autism. Knowledge is power!

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2 thoughts on “Diagnosis Story 9: I never thought we would see progress like this

  1. This resonated greatly with me. I am currently awaiting assessment, having self-diagnosed in a similar manner. My concern is that with the criteria under DSM 5 being rather more stringent, what if I don’t get that diagnosis? I wonder how Brad would feel if he were not given the diagnosis? I think I would feel very disappointed, and wronged – I am so certain that I am autistic, and it’s the first time in my life I’ve felt comfortable in my own skin (I’m 40), what if….?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I can definitely relate to that. Aspergers is such a core part of my identity that the idea of it being ‘contingent’ on the rubber stamp of a psychologist who hardly knows me doesn’t seem right at all. Fortunately, even if you don’t get an official diagnosis most aspie communities I’ve seen don’t seem to care very much – it’s all about the shared experience.

      Like

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