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  • Writer's pictureJulie Terry-Jenner

My late diagnosis

Updated: Apr 18, 2023

Throughout my life I felt a little out of sync with most people around me. I was often told I am different from most, a little bit weird at times and questioned about my responses, which many saw as wrong. I struggled to know how to act, what to say, be ok with the way I think. I found relationships and friendships difficult and painful, and ended up in several abusive relationships as I did not see the truth of situations and gave people too much credit, even though part of me knew I didn’t deserve all the mistreatment. I continually doubted what I saw and experienced and told myself I must have misunderstood them.

Without knowing I was doing it, I found lots of ways to try and fit into my own life, and to be what I thought others wanted. I gave others way too much of myself, became someone other than me, and in my earlier life resorted to alcohol to facilitate this. Drinking allowed me to become a version of myself that I thought was more acceptable to others and brought a kind of false confidence. I was very lucky to have had a life changing moment in my early 20s which helped me to stop this particular behaviour.

I developed many unhealthy coping strategies to help me survive in all kinds of situations. Of course, I now see how many ways I masked who I really was, and I wish I had understood myself better. One of the things that hurt me repeatedly, was to hide how I was feeling, to not let others see me as vulnerable, and to never ask for help. This made life far harder than it needed to be and created a false expectation for others. I was the strong one, the one who could do anything and would be there to give others whatever they needed. This stopped me forming good friendships and relationships and left my own needs unmet time and time again. Learning to let others see my truth was terrifying and difficult, and brought me to a much better place in life. I now have my tribe who love and support me regardless of how I am on the day, and that I feel safe to be myself with and to ask for help when needed.

I was 51 when I was diagnosed with autism and social anxiety, and when I look back it is shocking and sad that this was never noticed before then. I am also waiting for an ADHD assessment, as these traits are very obvious in me too – well, they are now that I know what I am looking for.

When I started to suspect that I was autistic, I went through such a spectrum of emotions (no pun intended). There was relief that I might finally have answers, shock that nobody, including me, had ever suspected this before, fear of what it might mean, sadness that I had struggled more than I needed to, imposter syndrome that I was just trying to find an excuse for areas of my life and being, and so much more. For a while I fell into the rabbit hole and sought out as much information I could find, and the more I looked the more I identified with. I don’t fit into all the traits and behaviours, as no autistic does, but there were so many that I recognised in myself. At this point, relief hit me as I finally had answers.

I began to give myself a lot of forgiveness for having got so much wrong in my life, and compassion to allow me to do things my way. My masks started to slip and a bit more of me began to emerge into my everyday life. I have told some of the people in my life about my new discovery and diagnosis, and have had such varied reactions to it. Some were surprised I didn’t already know, some were accepting and curious while happy for me, some others used it as a stick to beat me with and I got a lot of judgement and criticism from them. Whatever reaction I got showed me a great deal about the people in my life, and this has helped me see who my tribe is and who will support me no matter what. Others have walked away, or I have detached from. What I won’t do is try to educate others on autism.

In finally unmasking, I now find that my old strategies no longer work for me. This can be hard at times as it means I can’t, or won’t, hide what I am feeling now. If I am overwhelmed or overly anxious, I listen to what I need and do my best to ask for it. I can now see the elements which feed into this, and solutions I can use to avoid the build-up – sometimes. The best thing though is how freeing it is to be unapologetically me, especially with my most important people.

What did surprise me was how getting the right diagnosis and support was very much down to luck and being in touch with the right people, especially as I did not know anything about it at the time. My doctor was amazing and really went to bat for me. He referred me to three separate mental health services, all of which let me down and left us both feeling frustrated. He happened to find details for Psychiatry UK, which is who did my assessment and gave me my diagnosis, and we were both shocked at how few GPs were aware of the service. Getting diagnosis through the NHS can still take many years, or privately cost thousands of pounds. However, by using my legal right to choose, a referral was made to them, and 12 weeks later I got my assessment.

Another lucky move on my part, was when I was first looking into the possibility of autism and ADHD, and finding a really helpful website for this. Not only was the test completely free, but they also acted as a third party and supported me through my application for the Access to Work grant. This was a real help as they applied for all kinds of things that would not have occurred to me to ask for.

If I had not been as lucky as I was in speaking to a doctor willing to go the extra mile, and finding the website which offered the support they did, the whole process could have been a lot harder and I could have been waiting far longer for the answers I needed.

I am so glad I went through this process, as it has given me the tools and knowledge to support others who go through it. Being able to offer this in my role as a counsellor has been amazing, and I am very happy to be in a position to offer this.

If you are questioning yourself about any of this, and wondering if there is a chance you are Autistic, or have ADHD, or any other kind of neurodiversity, I encourage you to reach out and get some support and guidance with it all. The process does not need to be over complicated and the right person could help you with the diagnosis process and in coming to terms with your new awareness of yourself.

Sometimes taking the easy option is absolutely the right thing to do as life can be complicated enough without making things harder than they need to be.

*** If you would like support or help to talk about anything in this blog, please get in touch. I know things can be confusing at times, and that's why I am here. I offer a non-judgmental safe space to ensure you get the best possible outcome from your sessions. I offer both online and in-person treatments. My therapy room is based in Alton, Hampshire. I'm on the Hampshire/Surrey Boarder and just 15 minutes from Basingstoke and Farnham. Talk Helps is at the end of a direct line from London, Waterloo. ***

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1 Comment

Feb 10, 2023

Nicely written and you have my support always .

R x

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