I was really struggling with my mental health and nothing was appearing to help. I was therefore referred to my local Community Mental Health Team (CMHT). It was during my assessment with them that they realised I was potentially autistic, so I referred myself to the diagnostic service.
I was already very anxious about the process having never gone through it before and I did not know anyone who had gone through it as an adult. I tried to gather as much information as I could before my first appointment. Little did I know then that I would be going through this process in the middle of a global pandemic!
My first appointment came on 24th March, the first day of the national lockdown. Rather than being in person as I had researched, the pandemic meant that the appointment was done over the phone. This came with its own benefits and challenges.
I struggle with going to places I do not know on public transport so being at home was easier for me.
Being at home meant that I was in my safe space.
I find talking on the phone difficult, so my anxiety levels were high.
It meant I could not see the person assessing me which always puts a barrier in the way for me.
The assessment itself lasted between 2-2.5 hours and covered my experiences of change, school, special interests, sensory difficulties and friendships. A week later my mum had her appointment over the phone covering my early childhood.
What followed next was definitely the most difficult part of the whole process for me. I was told that they could not go any further with the assessment until they could see me face to face.
After eight months of waiting and trying to find out what was happening, I had my next appointment booked for 16th November, this time over Zoom. At the start of the appointment it was explained that the session would include:
· further questions,
· a break,
· a series of activities,
· another break,
· the decision over whether I was or was not autistic.
However, after the first break the diagnostic team came back and gave me their decision that I was autistic. I’m still not sure if it was the change in the schedule or the relief of finally getting the answers I needed, but I burst into tears.
Whilst it may not have been the experience that I spent so long researching at the start of 2020, I am so relieved to have some well needed answers for events throughout my life. I finally felt like I could begin to understand myself.