Autism is a neurotype, not an illness. It doesn’t cause mental illness either. What causes mental illness in autistic people is having to contort ourselves to fit into a neurotypical world.
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It was pretty anticlimactic in the end… a letter in the post summarising the doctor’s observations and concluding with the words “I feel that a diagnosis of an Autism Spectrum Disorder, on the milder end of the spectrum, is justified”.
It does feel slightly ridiculous. Though I did enjoy the moment when I told my wife about the school reports and she said, hilariously, “Was the fact that you still have all your school reports, and know where they are, part of the assessment?” (she may be onto something there).
Two conversations I had last weekend have made me wonder how my life might have been different had I been diagnosed with Asperger’s as a child. A good friend told me how much respect she had for the things I’ve achieved in my life, despite the challenges ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) brings; and my parents wanted to know how a diagnosis might help someone – child or adult – with ASD.
So what’s it like being assessed by a mental health team? A bit like being in one of my psychotherapy sessions, but with two counsellors instead of one. And they’re both complete strangers to me. Oh, and this time, it’s, like, a test…
According to all the reading I’ve done, it’s increasingly being recognised that the condition presents differently in females than in males, too (which probably partly explains why it took me so long to work out that I had it). So I’m going to start by telling you the bit I really know about: what Asperger’s means for me.
And there have been some who have challenged my decision to pursue a diagnosis. (I am still the same person; I’m a lovely person with lots of great qualities; we all have our differences, our quirks and eccentricities; what’s the use of labelling myself? It won’t change anything at this stage. And if I fail to get a diagnosis won’t I just feel even worse?)
So, this is it: I have Asperger’s. This may come as a great surprise to you, or it may be one of those “Oh, so that’s why… [insert weird/ill-mannered/inexplicable thing I once did/said here]” moments.