Welcome to a weekly feature on my blog – Ben’s Zone. Written by husband… Ben. A foodie, coffee obsessed, ex-smoking, ex-drinking and Ridgeback loving Dad. Who is also seriously into his fitness. You can find him on the blog (mostly) on Sundays. Enjoy!
Getting An Autism Referral In My 40s
I’ve been in two minds as to whether I should write this article. I’m happy to talk about hobbies and cooking but I struggle sharing more personal topics. Last October I applied via my GP to begin an autism diagnosis process. I thought I would share my feelings on the topic in this article.
For a long time, family and friends have been gently suggesting that I may be autistic. I often find social situations taxing. The subtle social cues that people exchange in conversation regularly pass me by. I feel fine talking one to one but in any larger group, things become confusing. I view it like airplanes stacking ready to land at an airport. People in conversation seem to know when it’s their turn to speak as if there’s an air traffic controller. I never know when it’s my turn and when I do speak it seems to be the wrong time or I say the wrong thing.
Humour, in particular, can be tricky and I have learned to be very mindful of what I say, usually, I don’t make jokes as it can mean I say something inappropriate or even offensive.
I’m not a hermit, what I do is called masking. I’ve watched how people react to each other and I do my best to mirror that. Where possible, in a group, I talk to one person at a time and so rather than a conversation with 5 people, I have a series of small interactions. If there is a genuine group discussion I usually stay quiet.
Being outside and having to do this gets really tiring and I find people draining.
That being said, for a long time my view has been, ‘why would I get a diagnosis?’ I enjoy my life, I adore my children and I have a brilliant job that I love. I don’t have many friends but the ones I do have I care deeply about. So I could never see what a diagnosis would really add to my life. If anything an ability to focus intently has served me well and what some might see as an aversion to change I see as an ability to be efficient.
Things changed when we went through an autism diagnosis with my eldest son, Logan. A lot of the questions and topics discussed rang true to me. More than anything else, I came to realise that my key objection wasn’t indifference, it was fear.
Despite saying regularly that I have no interest in what other people think, I realised that a diagnosis of autism, though a near formality, would forever cement me as being different. I’ve been different my whole life and the last thing I wanted was to have a certificate proving it.
Once I saw the fear at play the decision became simple. I’ve never once encountered a life situation where following the path set by fear leads to anywhere good. I see now how that fear blocked me off from learning more about who I am and where I fit in the world. Once this was clear I knew I had to start the process of diagnosis.
So here I am. My GP agreed he thought I might be autistic and I have been referred. It’s going to take a while as the waiting list is about 2 years but that’s ok. I’ve spent the last 11 years facing who I am and learning about myself as a person. I’m actually looking forward to the next stage.
Rather than being concerned that I would lose my friends, family, and career if it became known I was autistic, I understand now that the place I have found in the world is because of who I am, not in spite of it.
If you think you may be autistic in adulthood, the National Autistic Society has a guide on getting a diagnosis.