Last year I was diagnosed with High Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder. By the time I was I knew it about myself and had done for 6 months. The other 43 years of my life had been lived with no clue of it!
Aged 40 I had a breakdown. At this point I had a successful career as a Detective Sergeant on the murder squad. I had a great marriage and two cats and a rabbit. But a complaint pushed me over the edge and I was off sick with stress for a few months before I resigned because I could not see a way back to it. I never understood the complaints about my rudeness, to me it was just truth telling.
A few months after I left I tackled my unacceptable relationship with alcohol, a spiral that I was in that I hated, and I quit drinking.
Turns out drinking was what held the Autism at bay! Helped me socialise. Helped my brain switch off for a few hours. So a year later when I was sober at my brother in laws wedding, my first social expedition since going teetotal, I found myself in a right state. Unable to connect with anyone, unable to hear anyone speak over the music, generally having a dreadful time. When an acceptable time came to leave the party I returned to my room and had what I would now call a meltdown. I threw a box of chocolates across the room in frustration. What was it? In my head I could hear a colleague of mine telling me I had Aspergers. Years ago I had supervised him whilst his sons were being diagnosed and he had told me he thought I was. I laughed and never looked back.
Until this moment. I googled that night, took tests, had light-bulb moments, cried. This was me. I wasn’t just quirky, there was a real reason why I didn’t ever fit in, why I didn’t have any friends, why I couldn’t do small talk, why I couldn’t hear at parties, why people complained I was rude and I had no idea what they were talking about. Where I thought I was just single minded in giving up smoking years ago and drinking recently was a trait.
It was weird realising that I wasn’t just me and that the things I did were all on a tick list. But it was a relief as well. It’s made it a little easier to cope with life, to stop trying to achieve, to stop feeling like a failure. It turns out its pretty usual for a 40 year old autistic woman to have a breakdown after years of trying to mask, years of unsuccessfully trying to fit in with everyone around her.
I’ve learned so much about myself in the last year and generally been able to improve my experience of life. Autism is just about how my brain is wired. Different, not worse.
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