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09th Apr 2024

‘I’ve started the process of getting an autism diagnosis at 23 and it’s a lot’

Anna Martin


I’ve been on this earth for 23 years and in the last eight years I’ve started to think I may have autism

I can start with the line we’ve all heard half a million times right now, “I always thought I was different,” and yes there will be eye rolls but honestly that’s the best way to think of things.

It always felt like my brain worked in a unique way like we all have the same wires and parts but mine had just been connected differently. Sometimes although myself and my peers were all getting the same message, I’d end up reading another way or sometimes not at all.

I had brought it up with a therapist when I got older and was diagnosed with anxiety and depression but her words were, that I was too friendly to be autistic, no joke.

So, I kind of put the autism question in a box and buried it, I could cope with things, sure I might have to go about them a different way but I always got there in the end.

On top of this, since no alarm bells had sounded at a young age, it was all too expensive to go about getting an assessment done, especially when I was just a student.

College fees were way more important than dishing out over a grand for something I would just continue to live with anyway is how I rationalised it.

Credit: Canva

Plus I even fell victim to the pitfalls of stereotypes, sure I get easily overwhelmed and don’t adjust to change well but I’m a journalist, and I like to talk to people, surely that meant I couldn’t be on the spectrum right?

Yet of course that couldn’t be the end of it because that’s not a conclusive answer and I wasn’t satisfied with the unknowns. Couple that with a close friend who is on the spectrum and didn’t fit the stereotypes telling me she thought I was neurodivergent, and that thought reared its head again.

For a while I had been self-identifying as autistic, something I resisted for ages out of fear of downplaying other people’s struggles, in part due to AsIAm confirming that for many people it was one of the only options as diagnosis when you reach adulthood can be a battle.

Thankfully now I’m at a point where I am financially stable enough to get a solid answer so that’s what I’m doing.

As of this week, I have started the process with The Adult Autism Practice and it will be a process, with so many people looking to get assessed, answers won’t come overnight, in fact, it could be two or three months before I talk to someone.

Yet as someone who has lived like this for 23 years, I don’t think a few more weeks will do me any harm.

Though the process is painless and any of the pre-assessment questions are optional, I decided to just dive head first and do them all which turned out to be a lot.

It made a lot of things I played off as just Anna’s quirks make sense and at other times, made me slightly angry for some reason.

There was a lot of ‘Oh this isn’t just me it could be a stim’. At times there was frustration that I hadn’t said something sooner, leaving me with many questions.

For example, am I actually having panic attacks when a room is too bright or loud or is it a sensory overload thing? It even had me questioning how I learned to speak.

Credit: Canva

I spoke with an English accent for a number of years when I was just a wee tot and we all kind of put it down to me watching too much Cbeebies but was this me learning to speak through mimicking? Was that normal? Is that normal? Is saying normal wrong?

It was like holding up a mirror to my whole life so far and taking things apart bit by bit, making sense of why I struggled to make friends, why people would laugh at me without understanding the reasoning even down to why I was known as the ‘smart’ one until I became too burned out to focus.

Now before I go down that rabbit hole again, I haven’t had the official autism assessment yet so I don’t know if any of this means anything but as someone who hates change, this feels like it would be a big one.

Yet there’s still the possibility that I don’t have autism and these are just the bits of me that make me, well for lack of another word, me.

I could end this article stating something I don’t believe like, “No matter what, I’ll take the answer in my stride,” but I just don’t know that for sure.

It could be an ah-ha moment, it could be a what the hell moment or maybe it’ll just be another patch in the quilt of my life.

Right now I’m playing the waiting game and that’s all I’m going to concern myself with.