Welcome to my blog!
My name is Cassandra and I live in the USA. I’m 34 and am autistic. I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome when I was 27, right before they removed that from the DSM and combined it under ASD. There are different ways to refer to someone on the spectrum. I prefer “autistic” and that is how I refer to myself. This is my preference and I thank you for respecting that.
Now, the one thing hard for many to understand is how I ended up with a diagnosis as an adult. I received mine at age twenty-seven, and for many, they questioned how I met all the criteria at such a “late” point in my life, especially as a female.
Well, the answer to that is, I saw psychiatrists and psychologists on and off from age thirteen onward, all with differing opinions about what was “wrong” with me. But I always knew deep down I wasn’t mentally ill; I just wasn’t like other people. However, they never saw that as what they were mostly witnesses to appeared as nothing more than a depressed girl who cried way too easily.
And I was. My home life wasn’t great. I was miserable and unhappy and by trying to kill myself at age fourteen, I just solidified their thoughts on the matter.
There were many diagnosis’s over the years — they went from clinical depression to just situational, then bipolar, then just depression, then bipolar again along with ADHD, and then borderline personality disorder. But it wasn’t right, and eventually I avoided taking medications at all because they made me feel awful as well as numb and tended to make things worse for me.
Anyway, when I met my last clinical counselor, he was able to diagnose and he’s the one who thought at first I had borderline personality disorder. It would fit for someone of my upbringing, but something wasn’t right in that for me. It just… didn’t ring true, I guess that is the way to put it.
So there I sat while up in Canada, my first marriage crumbling around me, all while wondering if I would ever get anything right or if I was doomed to keep messing my life up with my problems, repeatedly.
I tried to make friends and that’s where this question came from, the one that set off a light bulb in my head. Someone asked me if I was autistic, because I reminded them of someone they knew who was autistic, and in that moment, I knew the truth and felt like I finally had the answer.
Of course, like everything else, I researched and read about autism all I could because I had to know. And every book I read about those who were autistic, I nodded along at so many parts, unable to believe there were other people just like me out in the world. I wasn’t weird, I was just wired differently! (Well, okay, I am both!)
Oh, what this did for me, even with only knowing and not having a diagnosis!! My whole life made sense and I swear, when I read the book Aspergirls by Rudy Simone I bawled like a baby, but in happiness and relief at my whole world finally making sense.
I don’t really know what to compare it to, since I’m awful at comparisons, but anyone who has ever felt immense relief at hearing something that puts their soul at ease… that was me the moment I found out.
Then, when I returned to the USA later that year, I saw my clinical counselor again, and brought this up to him. I told him about what I was asked and how I read up on it and he went over the criteria. I was lucky he listened, that he recognized females appeared differently, and that he was willing to trust my insight as well as what he knew of me. Some of this involved asking my mother was I was like as a child, but everything she told me only meant I fit the criteria more and more.
To have it confirmed, I cried even harder than the first time, because my difficulties were finally being recognized by someone other than myself and some of my family. Another aspect is how my poor functioning became more clear as well.
There is this Global Assessment of Functioning scale and I didn’t know much about it until I asked my counselor for a copy of my diagnosis to take to the college for assistance. I took the paper with my diagnosis and on it there was this area that stated my GAF was 44. Curious, I looked up what this meant and discovered it was basically a rating of my “living” functionality based on social, occupational, and psychological aspects.
The scale — or “Code” — goes 100 to 91, 90 to 81, and down, until you reach 10 to 1, with 100 to 91 being “Superior Functioning” and 10 to 1 meaning “Persistent danger of severely hurting self or others (e.g., recurrent violence) OR persistent inability to maintain minimal personal hygiene OR serious suicidal act with clear expectation of death,” while a Code of 0 (zero) means “inadequate information” on the GAF scale.
So I, with a score of 44, was considered to have “Serious symptoms (e.g., suicidal ideation, severe obsessional rituals, frequent shoplifting) or any serious impairment in social, occupational, or school functioning (e.g., no friends, unable to keep a job, cannot work).”
I am considered the second part. I have always had serious impairments in the social and occupational areas, with school becoming an issue when I hit college. It wasn’t my imagination; I had trouble keeping friends or a job or finishing college and my struggles were real.
Considering how I always felt as if I wasn’t doing something right, no matter how hard I tried to succeed, this validated everything I knew about myself in addition to confirming how different from many people I actually was and still am.
Also, at no point do I want to discount the fact that I probably have other issues alongside being autistic. Mainly sensory issues, which do not always necessarily go hand-in-hand with being autistic. It’s quite likely I have a sensory processing disorder due to the sheer level of sensory overload I experience, but I don’t feel the need to get a diagnosis for it because I deal with it on my own. Noise cancelling headphones and/or earbuds playing music help me a lot.
So, this is how I found out about my autism. My diagnosis came within six months of this possibility being pointed out and knowing has helped me out immensely, although not before all my attempts at being “typical” made things a lot harder on me. I will go into more specific areas in future posts, including my traits, but this is my diagnosis story. If you are willing to share, I’d love for you to tell me below when you were diagnosed (officially or self; both are valid because when you know, you know!).
Thanks for reading and talk soon!