Originally posted on 3rd December 2016.
I’ve now been to two different pre assessments, before a full ASD assessment. The first was an hour long NHS mental health assessment. This was a simple chat with a specialist mental health nurse. She asked what brought me to them, why I thought I might have ASD, so we went through some of the traits I seem to have. She then spent some time asking questions to check that I’m not depressed, other than still a bit in shock and struggling with identity which has obviously meant I’m pretty low at the moment. There were questions to check if I felt safe, if I had ever not felt safe, had there ever been abuse of any sort in my life, have I ever self harmed, or wanted to. Then she said that yes, she thought I should be referred on for full ASD assessment. The NHS waiting list is 18 to 24 months long for adults. Now I do understand that early intervention is desirable for children, so I’m not unhappy that they may be seen sooner, and that as an adult there is less help they can offer me, after all, I made it this far by myself, but up to 2 years? That’s a long time, during which I could get into more conflicts and also lose my job due to another outburst.
So I also attended a private initial assessment because that’s much faster. This appointment was a little different to the NHS. I went to a specialist Autism and ADHD centre. They work with both NHS and private patients and I saw a psychologist there. Again I was asked to just start by saying why I thought I wanted this assessment, which I’m guessing is a way to get started. This time, she directed me somewhat more by asking questions about certain things as I spoke about various parts of my life Story. She wanted to know about my school experience, how I get on at work, friendships and so on. I also expressed my distress at discovering I’m not quite like the majority of people. And my confusion about the term autism, my perception of what that means, and how can that possibly relate to me. I mean, Me?? It’s not logical, as Mr Spock would say. There were also the expected questions about self harming, have I ever felt not safe, wanted to harm myself (by that they usually mean are you suicidal), and so on. I can’t say that I’m totally happy at the moment, but I’m not in a depression, any more than you might expect as a reaction to recent events. I did experience some “I wish I didn’t have to wake up in the morning” moments, but I think that was a reaction to the psychological shock of discovering that the person I thought I was, was just a fiction in my mind, I’m are actually a very different person.
The next stage in the private process is a videoed ADOS assessment next week. It’ll be around 90 minutes or so long, and the video will be reviewed by an MDT (multi-discipline team), so that there is plenty of input from people with various areas of speciality. After that, in January my parents, who are in their 80’s, will be attending a 3 hour interview about my childhood. I’m told the person doing the interview is experienced at teasing out the details of things that happened a very long time ago.
I’m not sure how I feel after these pre-assessment appointments. Relieved, because I’m now on a definite path to self discovery. Scared because although I want to learn how to be a more fully rounded/functioning person, I’m not sure if I want a definite diagnosis of ASD. I still can’t quite compute the term autism as being part of me. I’m 56, over half way through my life, how could I not have known about this. I have always felt as if I’m on the periphery, just outside the circle, not belonging to the bigger group, not quite fitting into anything bigger than my own immediate family unit. I’ve even spent most of my life feeling outside of my sibling group, as if my brother and sister were a separate unit that I didn’t quite belong to. I can’t say why I’ve had these feelings, I only know it’s how I’ve seen myself. However, as yet, I can’t quite see myself belonging to planet Asperger or Autism.
Either way, it’s onwards and upwards I go. I need to do this for myself. I need to learn which parts of me I can adapt, which parts I can’t and ways to work around those latter parts if necessary. And I need to discover and acknowledge my own unique strengths. That way I can rebuild myself with forgiveness for some things and pride in others.