Autism and me – the trigger to seeking help

Hello, and welcome to the first post of my blog. I love to write and thought it might be a good platform to track my story and recovery and to also receive feedback and suggestions from others.I was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder a few weeks ago as an adult.

I will be starting my story from the near present day as that makes the most sense to me. I do however intend to look back at a later date. Although I’ve been to and fro to the doctor regarding various physical complaints over the years I’d never approached them in respect of my mental health, despite always struggling. At the age of 31 I went to the doctor because it felt like my world was unraveling and I could no longer see a way through. The question I was asked in therapy a number of times was, what do you think triggered it all? I honestly can’t say it was one specific big event, but I do recall the moment I decided I needed to seek help.

I’d been really comfortable in my job for many years (It was one of only 3 jobs I’d ever had and I’d been doing it for 10+ years at the point I decided I needed to make some changes) I was tired of barely earning enough to get by, and felt sad that people kept progressing or moving on, but I was stuck where I was. The most enjoyable part of my job was the period where I could listen to music all day and focus on one specific task. This changed when I took a promotion to go onto a Customer Service Team. Although this was traumatic I found my niche in the role, I could solve problems and I could find solutions where sometimes others couldn’t. I had a good attention to detail which progressed me into auditing calls, and in time leading on the quality side of things. Although I enjoyed working with the data I hated any contact I had to have with people, feeding back to people was painful and never got easier. I coped with it by planning in advance what I needed to say and making sure I had solutions up my sleeve. I thought about how other people had fed back to me in the past and based my approach on that. I did online courses to understand how I needed to behave.

I was given the opportunity to study for a diploma for free, which I jumped at. All the learning was online, hooray, no people! I’d previously dropped out of university, and subsequently a part time law course purely because I couldn’t handle the social side of the learning. I powered through the course and completed it much faster that was expected. I had to go to London to graduate. The terror began at this point. This would require getting to the station on time, navigating through an unfamiliar place, being around unfamiliar people, having to talk to people. I was so scared. Thankfully someone offered to take me to the station, and my colleagues offered to meet me at the other end, which took some of the pressure off. Once there I was very frightened, I could barely speak, I didn’t want to get myself a drink or use the bathroom as I was so overwhelmed. I did get through the presentation, I ducked out of having a photo taken afterwards because I didn’t want to go back into the room. I’d brought my laptop with me so I could work instead of going out for food and drink with my colleagues. I tried to find somewhere to sit in the hot desk area, once I’d finally found somewhere the wifi needed a password, I gained the courage to ask someone, but when they didn’t know and pointed me to the help desk. At that point something snapped, tears came into my eyes and I could no longer mask my fear. I was completely overloaded and needed to escape. I rushed out the building and somehow found my way to the underground, once there I couldn’t figure out the maps at all, it was all jumbled information, my mind started telling me to jump onto the track, I was pathetic, I should be able to do this as an adult. I had to ask 3 different people for help and did finally manage to get myself to the station to get home. I wanted to get out of London as fast as possible so rather than wait for the right time I paid for a new ticket home.

And so, this is where the down hill path began, up to that point I’d felt I was starting to make headway in tackling my difficulties, learning ways of being around people, but this one event felt like a headline failure which had been repeating throughout my life. I began to become very paranoid at work, thinking everyone was talking about me, to the point I was convinced I was hearing people talk about me, all social contact became even more excruciating than it had been before. I’d worry about certain contacts weeks before they took place. I buried myself in my volunteering projects which I did outside of work, to the point of obsession. I sought help from my GP, who gave me a leaflet and told me to call the wellbeing therapy service for my area which is where my story begins…

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