Has your diagnosis helped you or freaked you out?

At the age of thirteen I was diagnosed with ADHD ( Attention, Deficit, Hyperactivity, Disorder) and ASD ( Autism Spectrum Disorder ).

In April 2021 I was diagnosed with ADHD, this was after a particular difficult time in my life. I was struggling with my mental health and I had a lot of issues around school. My diagnosis triggered mixed emotions. Relief, because I had an explanation for why I found things challenging and frustration because I was angry that I didn’t know much earlier on. There were many signs that weren’t picked up whilst I was in primary school. At the same time, I do realise that ADHD presents very differently in girls. I was well-behaved in school and sat quietly at my desk. Mentally I was somewhere else. Thoughts were whizzing around my head and I did not have a clue what was going on.

Later on in the year, a week before my birthday I was diagnosed with Autism – it was a lovely early birthday present from *CAHMS. This one took a while to process. I had really mixed emotions.

I felt guilty. I remember speaking to someone at the hairdresser’s. She shared that a family member had suspected for years that their child had Autism. They were only just going through the formality of a diagnosis and their child was now older than me. On the one hand, I feel really, really lucky to have been diagnosed fairly early in my life – at 13 years old. I realise how fortunate I am to have that privilege and that other people don’t have that. It plays on my mind from time to time.

The flip side was I was struggling to get my head around the label ‘Autism’. How could I be autistic ? Weirdly, whilst one half of my brain was filled with gratitude that I had been diagnosed relatively early the other part was angry that it hadn’t been picked up on before. ‘Why wasn’t I diagnosed earlier ?’

There was no doubt, I was freaked out. Little did I know, at that point, that a lot of girls with ADHD and ASD are missed because girls are incredible ‘maskers’. Boys can be too but it is more common in girls.

Masking is when a person copies anther person’s behaviour to ‘blend in’ with the rest of the neurotypical world. They ‘minimise’ their Autistic and ADHD traits. It’s very common for people not to realise they are camouflaging which is why people go undiagnosed.

In Reception class, I used to have a sticker chart in school which was on display so everyone could see it. If I came into school smiling that day, I was given a sticker. I know I was very young but I remember it so vividly. I wasn’t unhappy I just didn’t want to smile – that felt artificial. When I was 6years old I saw an Educational Psychologist. In the report, it highlighted that I suffered from anxiety in a classroom environment. From then, I started to see a therapist in school ; it was someone to talk to. She was like a friend. Why did she never pick up on any of the signs?

In secondary school I saw a different therapist. Why she didn’t pick up on anything either?

It took me time to accept my diagnoses; not be freaked out and to come to terms with the fact that professionals don’t always pick up on things.

I would like people to know its okay to feel scared, angry, confused. It’s a part of the process, I guess. One of the things that really helped to get to this point was reading up on everything; to read stories from other people that had been in the same boat I was in. I found it really inspiring. New information is scary but some is worthwhile. I can finally accept myself for who I am and that’s one of the things I like about my life now.

* Child And Mental Healths Services