Only last week I had my first experience with an internet ‘Troll,’ someone for the first time in my 18 months of blogging wrote a negative comment about my personal journey and I feel that I handled it a whole lot better than when I first started sharing our journey in March 2016.
I noticed that a relevant article to my journey to adult assessment for Autistic Spectrum Condition (ASC,) was shared via a support group I belong to called ‘Mums on the Spectrum,’ which is a group of just over 1,800 mothers who are on the autistic spectrum. This was the article shared:
This post was shared from a Facebook page about ‘Vegetable gardening,’ which didn’t matter to me, but when read the comments a lot of the posters were complaining about why a post about recognising autism later on in life, in women was shared on a vegetable gardening page. So, I wrote a summary about my journey with misdiagnoses and how each one could be seen as traits from someone on the autistic spectrum and I also wrote how it didn’t matter where this post is shared as it is very good for awareness and understanding. A poster was complaining about individuals who “just seek a label,” and I realised that because I belong to so many supportive networks such as my SEND bloggers group, that I forget that there are still so many people out there that just don’t understand about autism, or even want to try to understand, even in today’s society and wonderful nationwide awareness campaigns from the National Autistic Society (NAS.)
The worst comment I had written back to me was:
“You have been diagnosed with all these mental health issues and still decided to have a child? Are you sure you are fit to be a mother?”
My immediate response was to justify myself and referred to the ‘Heads Together,’ campaign that is being promoted via the Royal Family members, I wanted to get across the message that in 2017, it’s ok to talk about our mental health, not like in the 90s or early 2000’s when I just felt too ashamed to talk to anyone or admit that I had such issues, even to a GP or any other professional. Therefore, I didn’t receive the appropriate help and support. I gave this individual a reason for every one of my misdiagnoses, or in the case of anxiety and depression – a co-morbid condition that had resulted from spending years and years of ‘masking’ my difficulties in desperation to appear ‘normal’ in public. I explained that:
• In 1996, at the age of 14, I was diagnosed with Anxiety and Depression – the reason I believe that I was aware more that I was ‘different’ to my peers, I felt different and I thought differently, also reminded through constantly bullying every day at school.
• In 1999, at the age of 17, I was diagnosed with OCD (Obsessive, Compulsive Disorder,) and an eating disorder which my mum has described to me that this was in fact Anorexia, although I wasn’t aware of this at the time. As a teenager there was a pressure to be thin, but my eating issues were more down to texture, which I believe was a sensory processing issue and I’ve learnt over time that this is why I prefer dry and crunchy foods, rather than soft, sticky or soft textures of food. My 2 girls are also the same. I can remember gagging on a home-made stew because I didn’t like the texture. The OCD was down to a desire to keep things in order to have control over some aspect of my life as I felt so out of control at school, in that I felt I was being watched and picked on at every opportunity through people that didn’t understand me and would highlight my differences as if I should be ashamed of myself. At 17 I liked straight lines and absolutely every single item in my bedroom would have a specific place and if these items got moved I would know and move them straight back into place. I have also been specific since the age of 17 where my personal items are, and I will check every so often if I have my keys, purse and phone in my handbag as I have a fear of losing them. When completing my online course on ‘Understanding Autism,’ I learnt that OCD can be a co-morbid condition alongside Autism, also that I love to keep things in a routine, and if that routine changes It causes a lot of anxiety. The National Autistic Society (NAS) states that: “Obsessions, repetitive behaviour and routines can be a source of enjoyment for autistic people and a way of coping with everyday life.” Source: www.autism.org.uk
• In 2008, at the age of 26, I suffered a Psychotic Episode, one of the scariest experiences of my whole life. Mind – states that: “Psychosis (also called a psychotic episode) is when you perceive or interpret reality in a very different way from people around you. You might be said to ‘lose touch with reality.” The one thing that was very noticeable from this episode was my very high level of paranoia. This happened just after I got married, a huge event to plan, where everyone’s focus for that 1 day was on me, I was working at a high level at work, full time and living away from my parents – a 4 hour drive away. On reflection planning a wedding, on the wedding day and my level of work at that time all required a great deal of ‘masking,’ appearing on the surface as ‘Neurotypical,’ and my brain just one day said, “I’ve had enough,” cue sleepless nights and my body not agreeing with Fluoxetine and the GPs in that area not knowing my background, and not enough awareness of how females on the autistic spectrum present, another missed opportunity to be properly diagnosed. This Psychotic episode lead to the eventual diagnosis of Bi Polar disorder, which the Psychiatrist I saw back in Worcestershire when I returned home, said that it was in fact a ‘severe episode of depression,’ and not in fact Bi Polar, but to this day I still have this ‘label,’ on my medical file. When I ‘mask’ as a female on the autistic spectrum, this is very taxing on my brain and I will suddenly break down and can no longer cope or see things rationally.
• In 2015, at the age of 33, I was diagnosed with Postnatal Depression which a health visitor had failed to spot and this wasn’t picked up until 5 months after the birth of my second child when I took myself along to the GP as I knew something wasn’t right. And later, in 2016 at the age of 34, I still have a diagnosis of anxiety and depression, but more anxiety on my file. To date I honestly believe that this current diagnosis is a result of ‘masking’ my difficulties for so long and not being listened to or believed in terms of my own daughter’s autistic traits in the home environment, having 2 children with additional needs, fighting for support, attending all the appointments, etc all takes its toll on me.
With all of this swimming in my head, I hope that my upcoming adult assessment for Autistic Spectrum Condition (ASC,) will show that a diagnosis of ASC would be the answer to the struggles I’ve had from childhood, and especially from the teenage years and realisation of being ‘different.’
I therefore wanted to justify my ‘choice’ for having children and I wanted to tell the original poster that asked if I “should really be a mother?” I thought about the 1,800+ group of mothers on the autistic spectrum group where I am a member, I thought about how all of these mothers would also feel offended by this negative comment. We cannot help the way our brains are wired, and I started to think that just because Autism is often seen as an ‘Invisible’ disability, would the poster also think that people who use a wheelchair for mobility shouldn’t be parents? Would they also be in the belief that parents who are blind or deaf shouldn’t be parents? I’ve also heard of instances where friends who have children with more severe additional needs have also been told that they “shouldn’t be parents.” Who is to tell us if we are or aren’t fit to be parents? The midwife during my ‘booking in’ appointment? The first person I saw regarding the pregnancy, I was honest about my previous ‘diagnoses’ and I was monitored throughout the pregnancy but not once was I told that I “shouldn’t have this baby.” I didn’t require a specialist appointment with a psychiatrist all throughout the pregnancy. Mother’s on the autistic spectrum are very good mother’s we have the same right as ‘Neurotypicals’ people to become a parent. Not once have I had a ‘meltdown’ in front of my children, I hold it in until they are asleep. I eat well, I do order certain items but becoming a parent has helped with the OCD more as I simply don’t have the time to keep things in the same order as they once were! I don’t stim in front of my children, (stimming or self-regulatory behaviours,) I rub my hands together once they are in bed if I need to. But even if I did stim or meltdown, it wouldn’t make me a bad parent, I shouldn’t feel ashamed by being the person I am. I have had 13 years of working with early years children and why shouldn’t I have my own children? In terms of my own social anxieties, I have always been aware that I want my children to interact with others, even if I struggle socially I have still taken my daughters to toddler/stay and play groups and it’s helped me to mix with other parents.
When I found out I was going to have a child, I had no idea at that point that I could even be on the autistic spectrum and therefore my partner and I didn’t have the discussion on any implications this may have, however, I have always maintained that my children have only improved the way I am and helped me with self-realisation and accepting myself. The main aspect that I’ve learnt is how to care for others before that of myself, I had practice in this area when working in childcare, but I was very much thinking about myself before I had the children. I have learnt that their needs come before mine, I still have to look after myself in order to care for them in the best way I can, but I will now think about their needs before my own, which is a huge step for me.
Thanks for reading 🙂