Autistic. Or Asperger’s. Or on the spectrum. I usually say autistic because it feels like I have far more in common with classic autism than most people are willing to see. My parents were not surprised when I mentioned Asperger’s. When I started to say “autistic spectrum disorder” instead, they suddenly became dismissive. They might be on the spectrum too, I don’t know but I have my suspicions.
Are you sure you’re autistic? I’ve heard this question a lot of times over the past two months. Ever since I started working towards getting diagnosed, it’s prompted others to do some diagnosing of their own. Sometimes I want to yell at them that if they were armed both with the experience of living this and with the literally THOUSANDS of web pages and articles and books I’ve read, I might take their opinion a wee bit more seriously. However, there is a social rule that says you’re not allowed to yell at your GP or your mental health care provider for being ignorant arses.
Yep. Both my GP and my mental health care provider have questioned the idea that I might be autistic.
Well, actually my GP said, “I don’t think you are autistic at all” and would only give me a referral to get diagnosed after two appointments with him and after mentioning that my mother said she’d always suspected me of having Asperger’s.
And at the mental health clinic where I’ve had two diagnostic interviews, they want to look deeper into depression.
I know exactly why they want to look at depression. There’s a high comorbidity between autism and depression (in fact, a higher percentage of autistic people are depressed than the general population), so there’s that. But it’s not because I’m actually depressed. I’ve looked up every kind of possible symptom list for depression and they all agree on one thing: with depression, your enjoyment of usually pleasurable activities is significantly lessened. The diagnostician even asked me if I felt that way at the moment or had ever felt that way, and I said no. Sometimes I feel really down or overwhelmed or tired, but there’s usually a situational component to that feeling and it stops as soon as you take me out of that situation, including a simple change of scenery or doing something I enjoy.
But on the intake form, I had to say whether I’d ever been to a psychiatrist before, and being the naïve idiot that I am, I truthfully replied that I’d had four sessions with a psychiatrist back in 1998 after a failed suicide attempt. Hold on, you say. Suicide? I thought you said you didn’t have depression? I’ll explain. At that time, I was overloaded with university stuff and an unreciprocated romantic obsession and seriously not a cent to pay my food with, let alone my bills. So, I thought that if I simply ceased to exist, that would actually be a pretty good solution. I tried ceasing to exist and it didn’t work. Not a good solution. It wasn’t suicidal thoughts that drove me to it, but problem-solving thoughts. Being the problem-solver that I am, I’m not going to try something a second time when it didn’t work the first time. So I can honestly say that I have never spent even a single second thinking about suicide since.
But. Apparently at the mental health clinic. They took one look at my intake form. And decided suicide attempt = depression. Which is what “they want to look into further”. After I’ve already told them that I’ve never experienced a moment of diminished enjoyment of usually pleasurable activities. Ever. Even at my worst fail moments. Even when I didn’t think of showering for over two weeks. Even when the collection agency letters were piling up. Even when I knew I was about to become homeless unless I found about 6000 euros somewhere. I could still enjoy a good book or a cup of tea or going to the beach with friends and having a couple of beers. Irresponsible maybe, bad executive function fail definitely, but not depressed. (Also not suicidal by the way. I wasn’t kidding when I said that solution failed for me so I didn’t think about it again).
I’ve been telling myself that I shouldn’t focus solely on autism but keep an open mind about possible other explanations. I’ve done some research into AD(H)D, OCD, social anxiety and phobia, depression (yep), bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, schizophrenia. I have some of the telltale signs for each of those, but I seem to tick the “no” box on more things than I have a “yes” on, and always a “no” on the thing that most people see as the main symptom, like hallucinations for schizophrenia or a need to clean things obsessively for OCD or not being able to keep my attention on something for AD(H)D.
Autism ticks all my boxes. Even stimming, which I was convinced I didn’t do when I read about it first. Until I realised that constantly stroking my own hair was a stim too.
So this idea that we’re going to “look further into depression” only because I stupidly tried to off myself over 15 years ago MAKES ME SO FUCKING ANGRY. There. I said it. Emotion. Angry. Very very angry. FURIOUS.
I’ll go into how I plan to deal with this in another post.
Edited to include some information about the comorbidity of depression and autism.