Hi my name is Beth and I’m a late-diagnosed autistic female with ADHD. I was diagnosed in November 2021. It’s been a long road to diagnosis.
For most of my life, I’ve felt like a square peg in a round hole. Fitting in was difficult and I could never work out why it was so damn hard. I started to realise that maybe this world wasn’t made for someone like me. I felt like everyone else could read the unwritten rules in school, friendships, work and relationships but I never got it. It felt like living in a different country where the pace was fast and I was just a tourist trying to find my way around.
In 2010, after leaving the luxury of university and leaping whole-heartedly into the ‘real world’, my square peg-ness started to really show. I felt like I didn’t fit in at work and couldn’t do the ‘simple’ tasks that other people could – organising information, juggling tasks, being sociable and although it might’ve looked like I was ‘swanning it’ (elegant on top, restless legs on the bottom), I was drowning. It wasn’t long after that I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety and had to navigate the world of anti-depressants, anti-anxiety meds and counselling. As someone who had trouble knowing how they felt and couldn’t put it into words, talking to a counsellor was tough. But it was this counsellor that would change my life.
The struggle through life continued, with a stream of jobs that I just couldn’t seem to stick at or understand, friendships I accidentally neglected and dad-issues re-surfacing every now and again to knock me off my path. My self confidence took a nosedive, as did my self esteem. I put on a mask of confidence and strode ever forwards, playing the part of a force-to-be-reckoned-with.
In October 2017, I suffered a mental breakdown and was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), a mental health condition affecting your moods and how you see and feel about the world. It was a relief to finally have a label to help explain who I really was, because at this point, I had no idea. However, when I told my counsellor, she thought otherwise.
“I have a really strong suspicion that BPD is the wrong diagnosis for you. I think you might be autistic.”
Well, that definitely threw me off course. The four years between 2017 and 2020, were spent trying to get an NHS psychiatrist to review my diagnosis and look into the possibility of whether I was autistic or not. No one would speak to me. The professionals thought I was being ‘difficult’ and ‘dramatic’ and ‘attention-seeking’ so told me to go about my business.
In November 2020, I FINALLY got a second opinion. Within the first 10 minutes of the Zoom call, the psychiatrist said:
“Has anyone ever told you that you might be autistic/have ADHD? I believe you’ve been misdiagnosed with BPD and I’m so sorry.”
And so began the full-on 12-months of self-referring to the local autism service, being accepted onto a waiting list and finding more about myself along the way.
Something I was told from a few autistic people but also medical professionals was that it was OK to ‘self-diagnose‘. Now, it’s not really ‘diagnosing’ (which I think is the bit that causes controversy), it’s more identifying with autistic traits and learning how they apply to you. I started to doing my research and looking into what it was to be autistic and it was a game-changer. There were so many amazing, autistic content creators talking about their experiences and I felt like I’d found my people. I learned so much from them about myself but also the pride that comes with being different.
For most of my life, I was told that being different was ‘bad’ or ‘weird’ or ‘strange’ and that fitting in was the done thing. But suddenly, I found people who thought in similar ways to me and who were bloody PROUD of being different. I then started sharing my self-diagnosis journey on Instagram and the response was incredible.
So many other people like me had remained undiagnosed their whole lives, been misdiagnosed with mental health conditions, or been belittled and shamed for who they were. My mission wasn’t just to talk about myself (I do hate doing that) but to make people feel less alone. I did get a bit of stick for talking about self-diagnosis (from people in privileged positions – I’ll leave it at that) but more often than not, it was messages of ‘I feel seen’ which brought me so much joy.
In November 2021, after months of being told by anonymous Instagrammers that my experiences ‘weren’t valid’, that I’d ‘never had to struggle’ a day in my life and that ‘you’re definitely not autistic, so shut up’, I was diagnosed as autistic and also as having combined-type ADHD.
The sense of validation that came from being told after 34 years that actually, there was nothing ‘wrong’ with me, was elating. What was also amazing was that after identifying as autistic for nearly 12 months, my counsellor and my gut feelings were right. Everything that I’d learned and identified in myself was true. And I am so thankful that I was able to achieve something official.
So this is me and this is my story.
I really hope that this blog brings you hope and information and reassurance that if you’re going through something similar, you are not alone. And you are so valid. Your experiences are valid, your life is important and YOU MATTER.
Thank you so much for reading,
(Please note: What I write about on this blog is based on my experience and mine alone. It should not be taken as medical advice or solid fact (though I do research the shit out of anything factual that I share). I am not a professional by any means but I do have lived experience and hope that readers find this reassuring and helpful.)