Case Study: Jane
Growing up I had always felt different to my peers. I was a ‘swot’ who loved reading and learning but my questions and way of thinking raised the eyebrows of my teachers. It got me bullied in Primary School and that in turn made me stop asking questions so much in Secondary School. I struggled to fit in but found a small group of people to call friends, people that also didn’t really fit in either. That was ok though as we had no desire to. Towards my GCSE years I became depressed and anxious…. and it didn’t go away when the exams were over.
Fast forward a few years and I had just turned 36… still a ‘swot’, still depressed and anxious. I had had some academic and professional success and I was single mother. My son had been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) a few years previously at the age of 6 and quite frankly it had changed our lives. Battles with schools for provision, exclusions, a statement and professionals getting to know us as a family. A familiar theme was beginning to creep into professionals' conversations with me about women presenting differently with ASD but I thought nothing of it. I had my own troubles as I was under the mental health team, the psychiatrist kept changing and they wanted to diagnosis Borderline Personality Disorder. Not an issue except I didn’t really identify with any of the symptoms or presentations. It was a tricky time that made me examine myself…. And one Sunday afternoon I looked at ASD and it’s presentation in women…. I felt hot and panicky as it seemed familiar and then there was all those conversations with professionals. I couldn’t be could I? Perhaps it was Borderline Personality Disorder?
From then I was on a mission – to be assessed once and for all. Friends and professionals seemed bemused but were very supportive. I discovered the waiting list in the NHS was 18 months so having a bit of savings I went for a private assessment. I found an accredited psychologist, highly recommended and who also worked in the NHS. I told her I was a tricky customer as I had a trauma history and I might have Borderline Personality Disorder…. She told me that she couldn’t make any promises. I spent many hours with that psychologist – she interviewed my friends and a professional. She concluded that I have ASD – I stared at her open mouthed and then cried for a very long time. I hadn’t believed I had ASD, I had just wanted to rule it out.
Then came telling people – no one was going to believe me surely… they all did. And the NHS – they were never going to accept my diagnosis – they did, I fact they did some follow up support to my diagnosis. It seemed that the only person who needed to accept it was me…
Five years on I am there. I know change and transitions are tricky for me. I know why I am anxious and understand overwhelm. I know that noisy environments are difficult. I know I have to decompress after being with people. I forgive myself much more and crucially I understand myself. I embrace the fact that I think neurologically diversely and acknowledge that it is that which gave me the academic successes I have had. I came so close to being misdiagnosed that it brings me out in a hot sweat as I would have been left confused and distant from myself. I needed to know my diagnosis so that I could learn who I was, without it I would simply be floundering
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