This week’s story comes from Kate, a young woman in the U.K. who loves living in London. One day you might see her name in the credits of a documentary!
I am so grateful for the diagnosis. It has given me so much clarity and I am now able to look back and forgive myself for my perceived shortcomings.
My name is Kate and I am 23 years old. I am Scottish born and bred but moved to London aged 21 to study at Kings College London. I LOVE London – there is a place for everyone to fit in here. The truth is I don’t have as many hobbies as I should have – as I find socialising during university hours drains most of my energy but I am an avid reader and I enjoy watching documentaries. It is on my bucket list to one day create a documentary.
I never foresaw a diagnosis of autism. For me, I always felt a little odd and I assumed that was because I was depressed. It was through this route that I actually ended up being told by a consultant she thought I was on the spectrum. I sought mental health support after despairingly reflecting on my 23 years on the planet and realizing that there was an invisible force that seemed to be jeopardizing my potential and happiness. I didn’t really understand why (as I have always considered myself a kind person) that I just couldn’t make friends at school and despite working hard I could never prove myself to employers.
It was really disappointing to feel that my best wasn’t good enough and I decided to seek help as I was desperate to finally start progressing in my life. It was then that I was introduced to a consultant who sat down with me for three hours and talked through my personal history after which she suggested I was on the spectrum. I was quite perplexed by the suggestion. I feel empathy for people and I have an interest in other people. It actually felt like my identity was being attacked. If I am being perceived by others completely different to who I imagine myself to be then who am I and will anyone ever understand me?
She wasn’t a specialist so she couldn’t diagnose me. Instead, she referred me for an assessment. In true NHS style this was going to be another 3 months down the line. This gave me lots of time to do personal research. The more I learned the more astonished I felt at how perfect all the symptoms aligned with my experiences. I realized that the stereotypes of Aspergers (E.g. not feeling empathy) weren’t reflective of the reality.
In life, there are things you can openly talk to others about (E.g. Sometimes I feel down or like others don’t understand me). But there are also a lot of things about yourself you never acknowledge because it doesn’t seem like it happens to anyone else and so you never have conversations about it. For me- I am a compulsive pacer. I must spend at least 90 minutes a day pacing up and down. I never had a name for it before and when I forced myself to reflect on it I was utterly perplexed by my compulsion. It was embarrassing when people “caught” me doing it.
Through the internet I learnt that this kind of behaviour is called stimming and its actually very normal in the ASD community. It is so nice to be validated. By the time my assessment came around I was able to be very open and I expressed that I did feel I was autistic. The specialist agreed and I was diagnosed. It’s pretty strange that it took 23 years as now it seems so obvious.
I am so grateful for the diagnosis. It has given me so much clarity and I am now able to look back and forgive myself for my perceived shortcomings. I now can truly appreciate that I am not less capable, I just have different capabilities. I am actually quite proud of my autism. The ability to see things from a different perspective (when channelled correctly) will be a fantastic asset to businesses, politics, the arts. That’s actually why I started a YouTube channel – I wanted to finally give my autism the opportunity to be harnessed.
My advice for people on the spectrum would be that if you feel out of place remember that society is so much more flexible than it has ever been before. Back in the day if you were born in a small town and your dad was a farmer, chances are you’d die in that same town having worked as a farmer all your life. Now we can live anywhere and any job you can conceive of exists. This means we can create a life that genuinely reflects us as individuals. We can also negotiate to work from home or we can start our own businesses.
I’ve felt very unhappy for a lot of my life and it would be naive of me to not appreciate I will experience great unhappiness in the future. However, I feel more in control now and that’s a decent start.