You’re too lazy. You’re not motivated enough. You’re not intelligent enough. You’re not pretty enough. You’re not fashionable enough. You’re not funny enough. You’re not laid-back enough. You’re not cool enough. You’re not nice enough.
When was I ever enough?
And to be frank, enough was enough.
“Hannah, have you ever considered that you have Asperger’s?”
No. Of all the things I had considered, Asperger’s wasn’t one of them. Without meaning to sound unfortunate, I always knew there was something wrong with me. Other people didn’t make sense to me. I didn’t make sense to other people. It was a daily struggle to understand how people thought and felt. And it turned out, they felt the same way about me.
I’d considered that I had OCD. No, I didn’t have enough traits. I’d considered that I had ADD. No, I didn’t have enough traits for that either. People joked I had autistic traits, but I was too high functioning for that.
I was a teenager. What was worse, I was a girl. You get all the dismissive things that people say to teenage girls. “It’s a phase.” “It’s your hormones.” “You’ll grow out of it.” I was still waiting to grow out of it. In the meantime, my behaviour and life was becoming worse and progressively more restrictive. Time was ticking by and nobody knew what was wrong with me. Nothing was wrong and everything was wrong.
It was my counsellor that first suggested it. It’d been bothering me for a long time about the way people felt differently to me. I’d had a mental breakdown a year before and I thought it was the result of that. Then she asked me if I’d always felt that way. The answer was yes. For as long as I could remember. That’s when she asked me.
My example had been when I went with my friends to Alton Towers. At the end of the trip, they’d all said they’d had a great day. Most people would probably say the same. Did I have a great day? I don’t know. Was the weather nice? Yes. Did I have lunch at the right time and did it fill me up? Yes. Did I get a thrill from the rides? Yes. Did anything or anyone upset me? No. So I had a good day. That’s how I know I had a good day. But did I feel anything about it? No, I didn’t feel anything.
I don’t ever remember having good days. I have good moments and they are very far and few. The only time I consider having a good day is when I am completely overcome with excitement. Examples include: meeting Mary Poppins at Disneyland, getting new books and films for Christmas, and seeing Julie Andrews and Danny Elfman. Those are some of the only memories I have of having a good day. But that was only because my excitement was extremely palpable.
How many bad days did I have? How about the day my orange juice leaked over my new Les Miserables book? I cried on the way home, I cried whilst at home and I kept on crying till mom came home with a new one. How about the time all of my friends used my colours without permission and put them back in the wrong order? Or when my parents said we were going out for the morning and came back in the afternoon? I can’t even begin to count my bad days. Or my okay days.
“Go home and think about it.”
I did. This was my chance to finally see if there was something wrong with me. A new lead. As soon as I got home, I read all about Asperger’s, from professional to personal perspective. And all of a sudden, everything seemed to make sense. It’s like having a jigsaw for 17 years and knowing there’s one piece missing. Then someone hands you that piece and it fits perfectly. Then you suddenly wonder how you didn’t see the full picture before.
Issues with social skills. Well, that’s always been a problem. Eccentric or repetitive behaviour. I did think I had OCD, didn’t I? Unusual preoccupations or rituals. Well, some things make sense in a certain order, don’t they? Communication difficulties. I’m just shy (sort of). Limited range of interests. I like what I like and that’s not an issue. Coordination issues. I’m just a very awkward person, that’s what being a teen is all about. Skilled or talented. I wouldn’t rate myself in this but I have been complimented occasionally on certain things so I’ll say yes.
Then it was a case of: where do I go from here? Am I serious enough to want a diagnosis? If so, how do I get one?
So I did a whole Google page of Asperger tests just to be sure. After scoring high on all of them, after I retook them all at least three times, I decided that I should probably seek professional advice. Of course, with my mother’s advice first.
“Are you sure you have Asperger’s?” “Do you really need to know?” “You need to think carefully about this.” “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with you.”
I hated these kind of questions, ranging from professionals, family and friends. Yes, I am sure I have Asperger’s, else I would never have bothered to go through a lengthy process, would I? Yes, I do need to know. This is something someone should probably know about themselves. I have thought carefully about it and discussed it at length with my mother, my counsellor, and my educational psychologist. And it doesn’t matter what you think.
It was a very straightforward process really… Go to the GP. No, you can’t do that. You have to take the AQ50 test. I’ve already done it…. Well, we need evidence. Go home, take the test again. Screenshot it. Book another appointment with the GP. Great but we’re going to do it again with you. Take the test again. Get the same score again. Ask me extra questions just to be sure. Recommend me for diagnosis. Get rejected by CAHMS. I’m seventeen, nearly an adult. By the time they get round to it, I’ll be too old. Get rejected by adult services. I’m not eighteen yet. This goes on and on until my mom starts phoning people. Now, she doesn’t get named the family bull dog for nothing. She manages to speed up the process and I get an appointment shortly after my 18th birthday.
It was in Birmingham. Mom took the day off to make a day of it. We were meant to see them at 2. We stopped for lunch where mom didn’t realise we’d pulled up at a Harvester. I mean, it’s easy to not notice the big sign on the side of the building, the board by the front door and the logo printed on the menus as we come in, but hey, we all get confused in our old age.
Then it was off to the assessment centre. We were told to sit in a small waiting area and were offered drinks. The lighting was really bright and the whole space was nearly all white. They were fourteen minutes late. I thought they’d be more punctual, considering they were fixed appointments and they are talking to people with Asperger’s.
When I went in, I struggled to walk a little. I’d burnt my foot the day before on the exhaust of my bike so I was trying hard not to limp. Dr Man was the kind of observant psychologist that sits and watches you. He was watching me walk and to be quite honest, I was just trying not to drag my dead foot behind me (I’d been stupid enough to wear Dc Martins). The other psychologist, Dr Woman, was more the talkative psychologist. She wanted to hear me speak.
They sat us down. They’d asked us to do a 100-question online questionnaire before we went and for me and mom to separately fill in a booklet about me. Our answers had a positive correlation of over 90%. So we talked for three hours, about my childhood, about my views, about my time at high school. My mom made a point of how she had never seen anything wrong with me while I was younger. I was just different. Let’s not think about the time I screamed the place down because a boy had not put my crayons back in colour order, or that I’d always been advanced in reading and writing, or that I never participated in imaginary play or spoke to anyone for the first two years of being at primary. Apart from that, there wasn’t much sign that I struggled with issues related to Asperger’s.
After three hours of extensive talking, they sent us back to the waiting room for ten minutes. The two doctors were discussing whether they should give me a diagnosis or not. They called us back in shortly after and we sat back in the meeting room.
“Sometimes we bring people back because we’re not sure whether they do have it or not. It’s not always entirely obvious. Normally, we discuss it for a while but we didn’t think there was any need.”
Basically, you’re very autistic and it wasn’t really a discussion. I was given a piece of paper with it all written on, given two books to read and plenty of advice. I know they were trying to help but Dr Woman was all for the positive outlook. Plenty of people with Asperger’s live fulfilled lives. Most of them are at the top of their career early. It doesn’t change who you are. You will always be you.
That’s fantastic. I already know these are all true but I had to remind myself that she was trying to be nice. I thanked them, smiled at them and left. I have Asperger’s.
Now, all of my issues made sense. All of those things that I thought wrong with me wasn’t actually something that was wrong; it was a part of me. The expectations shifted and I could finally flourish in a capacity where I was aware of me and the situation I was in. Suddenly I was enough.