I have had an awful few years with my health, and on 8th January I was my heaviest ever weight and ran my slowest ever solo parkrun – 76kg and 39:19 respectively.
The weight and the time is irrelevant as I know neither is anything to be ashamed of, but together with how I have been feeling and where I used to be, it is not where I want to be.
However, having finally got to the bottom of why I’ve been struggling so much, I am hopeful I can start reversing the effects of it all.
Step One – My Autism Diagnosis
The psychiatrist doing my assessment was brilliant and she concluded there is no doubt that I am autistic.
Both of my parents were there too, so at the end of the assessment, the psychiatrist asked if we wanted to know what autism meant in different areas of development, what I would have found so difficult in certain aspects of my life, and why it has been left undiagnosed for so long.
Although I have done a LOT of research over the last 18 months, I suggested she explained it for my parents’ benefit and to save me having to say it all to them myself.
After all the heartache and battle to get to this point, I can 100% say it was worth it as the relief of hearing someone else saying it all was immense. The more she explained what I have struggled with my whole adult life and how it has impacted me, the more I felt validated that I hadn’t been making it all up!
As I say, I have researched autism and, specifically what that looks like for adult females so this wasn’t an unexpected diagnosis.
In fact, over the previous few years, as I have worked on my self awareness and personal development, I have inadvertently implemented many adjustments to make my life more manageable for me, so I already have in place many of the recommendations given to newly diagnosed autistic people, which is a huge bonus!
The additional benefit of my diagnosis is largely that I can finally stop trying to fix myself.
I can stop trying all the recommended wellbeing and coping strategies that are not designed for my brain, although I do acknowledge that these have and can be helpful to a degree.
I can stop waiting for myself to feel better through antidepressants that I don’t need (and are probably making things worse).
I can stop pushing myself through life for fear of falling into into greater depression if I stop completely.
I can start giving myself permission to listen to my body – what I know it needs rather than what other people say is best for me.
I feel so empowered to now use my diagnosis it as an explanation. A reason why I love being alone, a reason why I don’t want to go to that party, a reason why I am who I am.
I am not broken and I don’t need to be fixed, I’m just me!
I can now start recharging my energy to slowly emerge from years of trauma, abuse and burnouts.
I am also hopeful that I will be able to achieve the life goals I’ve had to temporarily let go of and fulfil the dreams I once had.
If you would like to learn more about autism, and particularly how it presents in women and girls (which can be very different to boys), I would highly recommend the following resources:
- Girls and Women and Autism: What’s the difference, by Sarah Hendrickx
- Aspergirls, by Rudy Simone (available in paperback and audiobook)
- Following hashtags on Instagram, such as #actuallyautistic #autisticadult and #autismawareness
- Following accounts on Instagram, such as @autistictherapist, @autieselfcare, @theexpertally and @squarepeg.community (which is also a great podcast)
- My own Instagram account, @autisticrunner, where I plan to share my own story and experiences. I have also shared other people’s posts to my story that I think are helpful and interesting, which are also saved on my profile highlights.
Step Two – Perimenopause Power!
At around the same time I received my autism diagnosis, I discovered that I was five years into my perimenopause.
Not only did my GP not diagnose this, they dismissed and misdiagnosed my symptoms to the point that I was chronically fatigued on a good day, unable to function on a bad day, and at one point was suicidal.
Unfortunately, it seems my experience is fairly common, yet very few people know how debilitating undiagnosed and untreated perimenopause can be.
Furthermore, the information reported by the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) in 2002 on the dangers of HRT was, at best, misguided and has left many women’s health compromised as a result.
My short story is that my mental and physical health started declining in 2016 and, despite several trips to my GP, I was repeatedly told I ‘just had depression’ and given more antidepressants.
In October 2021, I stumbled across some information on the perimenopause and battled with my GP (again) over being prescribed HRT, which I finally started taking in January 2022.
Follow my blog to discover my longer story on the perimenopause and how receiving the right medication literally saved my life.