I recently celebrated my 10-year autism diagnosis anniversary. So I just wanted to talk to you about how my life has changed during the ten years since my diagnosis. I’d also like to cover what has not changed.
How I got my autism and ADHD diagnoses
I was 28 when I got my autism and ADHD diagnoses, so I was an adult, and I lived undiagnosed for a long time.
I had to go to private health care to get evaluated because I wasn’t taken seriously in public health care. Nobody believed I was autistic. They just told me that the autism traits have to be very strong to get diagnosed.
When I finally got evaluated, it turned out that my autism traits were very strong, and I got a very clear Asperger’s diagnosis. 10 years ago there still was the Asperger’s diagnosis. Now the diagnosis is called autism spectrum disorder.
I also got an ADHD diagnosis, or ADD because I’m not really hyperactive. I got the ADD diagnosis a few months after my autism diagnosis.
I didn’t instantly get the ADHD diagnosis. They didn’t believe I had ADHD because I was able to sit still. I’m mostly an inattentive ADHD so I didn’t fit the stereotype.
Yes, even healthcare professionals rely on stereotypes when it comes to diagnosing autism and ADHD. But eventually, I got both autism and ADHD diagnoses.
The one thing that has not changed since my autism diagnosis
The one thing that has NOT changed since my autism diagnosis is support.
Before my diagnosis, I thought that if I would get the diagnosis, I would get lots of support. I thought people would be like, “Hey, you’re autistic, you’re gonna need lots of support and we’re gonna give it to you”. But it didn’t work out like that.
Autistic adults are mostly ignored, diagnosed or not. At least here in Finland, that’s the case. So when it comes to support, I’m still on my own.
What has changed since my autism diagnosis?
Otherwise, many things in my life have changed since my autism diagnosis.
Autism symptoms have gotten worse
By worse, I don’t mean that everything about autism is negative. But the traits that do affect my life negatively have gotten worse.
My sensory issues have gotten way worse. It’s hard to go to places like grocery stores. I don’t really go to grocery stores anymore, and use a grocery pickup service instead.
Unmasking and creating a neurodivergent-friendly life
Of course, I had been masking for a long time, for my whole life. And I didn’t just instantly stop masking when I got my autism diagnosis. I still masked a lot for years after I got diagnosed.
I also continued pushing myself to do things that were just too much for me. For example, I went to Japan to study in a language school. I had to wake up early every morning, which is something I’ve never been able to do.
Even in elementary school, I was always late because I couldn’t get up in the morning. Also, because of ADHD, I’m basically time blind.
So the language school in Japan was a disaster. I was not able to get up every morning. I was absent a lot, and I didn’t finish my courses. I also had some really bad health issues due to severe stress.
In recent years, I’ve gradually learned to accommodate my life to my needs. I’ve learned to accept that there are things I just can’t do, even though I did those things in the past.
I’ve also started to unmask. That’s partly because I had to. I just can’t do it anymore because of autistic burnout.
I just don’t care as much what people think of me anymore. I’m not saying I don’t care at all, but I’ve reduced my people-pleasing tendencies, which I’ve always had.
I’ve started to build my life around my autism and ADHD. I’m constantly finding new ways to make my life more autism and ADHD-friendly. Before my diagnosis and also after my diagnosis my life was not autism or ADHD friendly!
My successes after getting my autism and ADHD diagnoses
Since I got my autism and ADHD diagnoses, I’ve also had some successes in my life. I probably wouldn’t have had these successes if I hadn’t been diagnosed.
First of all, I found a partner who is also autistic, and we got married.
I graduated from the university and got my Master’s degree. I was able to finally write my Master’s thesis.
I also accepted that I’m basically unemployable in traditional jobs and started my own business.
I also got a driver’s license at the age of 34.
But the biggest success has been that I’m accepting myself more and I’m much happier.
So was getting the autism diagnosis worth it?
Definitely. It saved my life.