Being diagnosed with autism at age 33

I always knew that I was a quiet girl, a shy girl, a girl who was pretty much invisible. Not a lot of people noticed me. I felt most comfortable on the background. A lot of situations didn’t feel comfortable to me, like being in high school. Trying to make friends, keeping those friends, I didn’t really know how to. I had never been a girl with a lot of friends. I also felt misunderstood a lot of times and different, not average. I had so many different thoughts but I was never able to share them with anyone. How would anyone ever understand what was going on in my mind? Was I willing to try and explain it to someone? 

School was very difficult to me. I never really understood how other kids could be smiling and could seem happy at school. It was a miracle to me. So unfamiliar to me. All I experienced was having learning disabilities, social limitations, a lot of sadness, anger and frustration. If you would look at me, you would see an unhappy, wallflower girl with a lot of struggles. My mom told me that I never played along with other kids in primary school. I just observed other kids playing. That could have already been a sign of Autism but no one ever noticed how important that sign was. It was noticed but missed at the same time. 

I somehow always knew there was ‘something’ going on with me, but I never knew what it was. I often thought people thought I was exaggerating. I felt so alone in this world. Life was never easy for me. Never. “How on earth would I begin to explain the stuff I was dealing with on a daily basis? Would people even take me seriously? What was the point?” I dealt with most of my struggles alone. I didn’t share them with anyone. I didn’t even know how to. I was afraid of the reactions. I was afraid to even feel more misunderstood. There was so much going on inside my head, every single day. School was a matter of surviving. Dragging myself through every day. I was existing, not living. 

When on May 15, I heard that I have Autism, a lot of things went through my mind. First of all: “This is a pretty satisfying answer’’, it wasn’t like: “we still don’t know what you have”. Thank God… Second thing I thought was: “You see? I knew I had something, I knew I wasn’t that crazy!’’ And third: “Why didn’t anyone discover this sooner?? You’re going to tell me that my life could have maybe been a bit easier??” I had already seen so many psychologists and no one ever thought about it? Really? I even had a psychological test in 2009 and yet they still didn’t think about Autism even though my youngest brother had already been diagnosed with it at age 11? It’s for sure that it’s usually discovered in boys sooner. It’s different in girls. New research suggests the disorder often looks different in females, many of whom are being misdiagnosed and missing out on the support they need. People often think of the classical form of Autism, a socially awkward person who isn’t verbally strong. But the thing is, I am verbally very strong. I’m not that socially awkward, maybe in new situations with new people but not with people I have known a longer time. At school I also copied behavior from other girls. I was smart enough to do that. As a result no one noticed my severe level of struggling on a daily basis. I can communicate very well and I’m very good at languages like English. No one really had to teach me how to become good at English, I already had it in me I guess. My weaknesses are calculating, math, economics, spatial awareness. Those subjects made it so hard for me during high school. 

I also know that I have the ability to place myself in someone else’s shoes. I can have a lot of empathy so when I thought about someone with Autism, I always thought that would be someone with a lack of empathy so that made me think I couldn’t have it. I was always groping in the dark. I saw my first psychologist at age 12. What did come out was a disharmonic intelligence profile, showing that I am verbally much stronger than I am non-verbally. That already explained my learning disabilities at school. 

At May 15, 2019, I finally discovered what was going on with me. Being diagnosed with Autism at age 33. It’s a late diagnosis, but better late than still not knowing I guess. No one ever had my manual, nor did I have it myself. Now I do. Now I finally do. I finally feel I’m being taken seriously a bit more. Therapy hasn’t started yet, coaching hasn’t started yet but it must be going better from now on, will it? My new beginnings tattoo on my wrist got an extra meaning. I hope this will also be a lesson for teachers, for psychologists and psychiatrists. Anyone who’s dealing with young females who might behave a bit strange.

My future is a bit more hopeful now. Slowly more and more puzzle pieces will fall into place. I’m at peace with my diagnosis. 

Love, 
Emma

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