Thirteen Years

I offered to do a speech the other day at Russell’s Hall Hospital for medical professionals and students. The whole premise was that my mother and I stood there and talked about our lives as carers. A few topics were covered, including general statistics, my brothers, our family, mental health, hospital and local services, and our finances.

Now that I look back on it, I realised, perhaps, that I should write about it also. People tell me it’s enlightening and that I “did so well; you should be proud”- all the usual praise that people feel the need to give you, but that is not why I’m doing this. It’s for my own satisfaction and for the understanding of others. In a way, it’s a very cheap, public therapy session.

So, we started with the usual national statistics of carers across the UK. However, in this case, national statistics aren’t of interest to anybody but I’m going to list them anyway for your own education.

There are over seven million carers in the UK alone, which would equate to one in ten. Three in five people will be carers at some point in their lives in any capacity, even if they do not realise they are. 42% are men and 55% are female. In 2010, the BBC found there was an average of 700,000 young carers in the UK. Around 68% of them had been bullied at some point in their lives. Only half of them feel that another person or adult understands their home life. Moreover, an average of 48 days of school will be missed a year to care for someone at home. This comes from a lack of services that fund young carers, especially part the age of eighteen, shown in 79% of carers who will not leave home due to a lack of support for the person they care for.

In these points alone, I can already understand and relate to all of these points. There were times when I felt I could have been bullied but luckily, I’m not easy to bully. I tend to argue back or just outright ignore what someone is saying to me. So, I’d say bullying was not something I encountered frequently but they tried. As for days missed at school, well, it was never that great once I got to sixth form but that was due to my mental health rather than my caring role. But I’m one of the lucky ones. I can leave home and live my own life. To a certain extent.

In life, there is generally one pivotal moment that changed your life. For some people my age, I suppose they still have a lifetime to have that moment. I had mine when I was six.

That day I was sitting in school and I was told my mother went into labour. That moment changed my life in dramatic proportions that only those who have been in that situation can understand. From the moment they were born to the end of their/my life, my whole existence will always revolve around them.

It was like having children when I never had one nor agreed to care for one.

That one pivotal moment comes with two names- Harry and Thomas. When people say the whole world doesn’t revolve around one person, that’s how it feels when it comes to my younger brothers. My world will always revolve around them, as long as they’re on this earth.

If my mother hasn’t already told you the story ten times, my brothers were born at 25 weeks old and as she puts it, only one week after the abortion limit. They could fit each of them in the palm of your hand, they were so small. But I don’t remember any of this. Perhaps it was my age and my inability to process the situation, or I just didn’t care, but almost a year’s worth of hospital visits didn’t stick in my memory.

I remember my grandparents taking me to see them, making me scrub my hands before going to see my brothers. I remember a girl at school whose brother had been born at the same time. He went home straight away and he was fine. I had to stand and look at my brothers in a plastic box. If I wanted to touch them- I couldn’t hold them- I had to put my hand through the holes in the incubator with the severe supervision of my parents.

Whenever I went to the hospital, I hardly spent time with my brothers. There was no connection there. I was left to talk to the nurses, colour books quietly in the hallway, or read the next instalment of the Narnia Chronicles. No playing, no talking, no holding my own two brothers.

Once they were home, I was allowed to hold them but they had oxygen tanks, which meant I could only hold them a certain way and certainly no carrying. There were wires everywhere and tanks nearly the same size as me. Imagine hauling them with you wherever we went. We didn’t go anywhere. People took their kids and babies to the park, or family days out, or baby groups. We kept my brothers in moulded blue chairs to hold them still, while they stared at you over their oxygen wires, their tanks always behind them.

But somehow that never daunted me. I was an only child for years so I guess I thought this was a new normality of life. I hadn’t known any different. Then one day, the reality of what other people thought became obvious. You know how primary school goes. I had an argument with someone about something petty, as kids do, and as I turned to leave, he said something about my brothers being retarded. Safe to say, he was on the floor in the next few seconds.

But you can’t go through life reacting that way to the stares, and the comments, and the evident disgust.

You can’t be embarrassed when your brother smacks his head off the floor in the supermarket when he doesn’t understand what’s going on. Or when they can’t sit still at a meal in a restaurant. You’re not allowed to let people see that you’re tired and embarrassed. Of course, you become resilient to other people’s opinions and that you couldn’t care less. But that takes a few years.

While everyone else is going out with their brothers and sisters, playing games, going on holidays, and whatever else people seem to do, there is no bonding in the same way. I washed my brothers, clothed them, changed their nappies, fed them, put them to bed, and gave them medication. That was how we bonded.

There was no talking or understanding. I sat with them while they stared at the television, since they couldn’t move or communicate. Imagine growing up hearing people spend time with their families.

“My brother is coming back and we’re going to the cinema.”

“My brother is going to prom tonight.”

“I just went camping with my brother.”

Well, I just listened to the Moana soundtrack at home with mine for the umpteenth time. We will never have a normal sibling relationship and thirteen years later, I am beginning to grieve that loss. They most likely will not marry nor have children; I will never be an aunt. I have brothers but I won’t have that relationship- not a normal one.

And then we come back to the mental health aspect. My mother attributes it to my brother’s being born but there is so much more than that. I’m not the only person in our house who has had issues with their mental health. In fact, both of my parents have struggled, especially my dad. Men always struggle more with their mental health and he was the last to be asked for support. Between school, work, caring, my brothers, and my parent’s own issues, I would say it wasn’t as clear-cut as my brother’s being born.

It’s not as simple as our family being ‘strong’, or ‘inspirational’, or ‘amazing’. You get that so often but how can you do anything else other than get on with your life? What were we meant to do? Leave them? Neglect them? Give them to care? Those were not options and it is how it is. It’s not a matter of being strong.

I’ve mentioned my mental health before and I’m not for skirting around the issue. People should discuss it more. Perhaps then, it may become less taboo in everyday conversation. We all have issues. Get over it.

But again, I can always pinpoint the time that I got f***ed over. One night, on the same week that we had returned from our first holiday in America, in the chocolate aisle of Sainsbury’s. I tried to tell my mom and I ended up crying for two hours before going back downstairs to tell her. I spent the next week off.

It took all of my courage to tell my friends and I got nothing in return. How can you be depressed when you just came back from Disney World? So I only ended up discussing it with two of my friends. Years later, I get people telling me about their own mental health now they’re in university and I tend to ignore them. They want me to sympathise and for me to give them advice, but where were they when I needed them? Nowhere. Amazing. And the best one of all- “Why didn’t you talk to me?” Because my own friends made it quite clear they weren’t interested. Nobody wants to invite the downer to the party.

My teachers labelled me as lazy and ‘just not clever enough for A-Level’. It’s okay, they tell me, it happens to a lot of people. Even when I was definitely aware of my depression and anxiety, it was always the same. From a student with impeccable attendance and grades to someone who was hardly ever there and barely scraping a pass, nobody stopped to think there was something wrong. Even when they were told.

Then above all of that, SURPRISE, I found out I had Asperger’s. I got my diagnosis, offered the few support services they had, and told I would always have reactive depression and ongoing anxiety issues. But good luck at university and with life in general.

But I guess my brothers still have something to do with it. Every holiday is a ‘holiday of a lifetime’. Everything they do is ‘the chance of a lifetime’ because we will always be aware that they will not live an expected life span. Every time they are given a great opportunity, I watch their reactions and there is always that thought that they will die.

I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced that feeling. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen your brothers sleeping and checked if their chest is moving, or gone to see if they’re still breathing when they wake up later than usual. I’ve been lying next to my brothers and them not respond. Have you experienced the feeling that your younger brother is lying beside you and you don’t know if they’re alive? Because I have.

I am their favourite person, their best friend, their protector, their guide, and ultimately, I will be the one to bury them.

When a sibling is born, have you ever wondered when they will die? Have you ever had to pick a career with your siblings in mind, knowing you’ll have to provide for them? To know that if they are still alive when your parents pass on, that you will be that one person to care for them. You have the responsibility and no matter how much I am told I don’t, whose else is it? How could I leave them to fend for themselves if my parents were no longer here? My life isn’t just for me and it never has been since the day they were born. I will always make most of my life choices with them in mind.

And somewhere in the audience at Russell’s Hall, I heard someone start crying. It might be surprising or upsetting to some, but this is what I find so bizarre. My brothers were born to my parents and as my siblings, yet other people seem more traumatised by their disability than we are. We have to comfort friends and family who are more upset by this fact. But we’re the ones who live with them and who care for them. How this works is beyond me.

Where I am going with this post, I don’t know. I guess if you’ve never been in this position, then you should count yourself lucky. If you have, then know there is someone who, at least partially, understands. My life has been good and my parents have made sure I am somewhat cared for. So always be thankful for what you have because you never know when it could end.

I will never know how long my brothers will be alive. Tomorrow, next week, or in ten years time. So I hold their hand, I cuddle them before they go to bed, and I buy them the new Disney toy they want because it may not be the relationship we wanted, but at least we have one. I am a carer and I always will be. At least they are alive and here. That’s all you could ask for.

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Advanced Farewell

Recently, a new diagnosis has come through for Thomas, my younger brother. Since he was born, it was believed he had a form of cerebral palsy, which may turn out to be untrue. We now know he has schizencephaly.

Schizencephaly: this is a rare birth defect that causes a slit or cleft in the cerebral hemispheres of the brain. These can appear on any side of the brain and tends to be filled with cerebrospinal fluid.

Not much is known about it since it is so rare. People who have this condition tend to be life limited. And of course, this is what the post is really about. We were told two weeks ago that Tom has only half of the average life expectancy, not even that much. When my mom asked the exact time period, the doctor said: “Enjoy the time you have left with him.”

Well, first of all, mister doctor man, that is not an answer. And second of all, I’d enjoy the time I have with him anyway. He’s my little brother. He may be a little shit, but he’s my little shit and I will persevere accordingly.

One of the saddest things about it is that my brothers are the only people in this world who see me as I truly am- a God. Who’s going to call me ‘sugarplum’ and ‘honey boo’ when they’re gone? That’s the real question.

A lot of people see it as a shock and tragedy. But really, there is nothing surprising about it. When he was born, we were told that neither he nor Harry would live past the night, and twelve years later, they are still here. So it’s already a miracle that they’ve lived this long. We always knew he wouldn’t have an average life span. It’s a fact we’ve always been aware of.

So when we heard this news, it only confirmed what we already knew. I guess in some ways it makes the realisation more poignant and fresh, but that’s all.

In a natural progression, you expect the parents to go first and then the eldest to youngest of children, in some kind of order. It feels strange to check yourself when you think of the future, to remind yourself that the children may not outlive the parents, and that I could outlive them all. I always imagined I’d be old and the boys would be there but I might be an only child again.

“I’m sorry.”

What are you sorry for? You didn’t put the cyst in Thomas’ brain. He only has two thirds of it left and they’re surprised he’s as well as he is. So be thankful for small miracles, I suppose.

I’m not sorry. I’ve had nearly thirteen years with my brothers, more than some other people have had. He could live into his twenties; he could live until tomorrow. Like anybody else, there isn’t a guarantee. He’s happy and that’s all that matters. Thomas certainly lives life on his own terms. To me, that’s the greatest kind of life he could have. I wouldn’t change a moment.

An Open Letter to my Mother

Dear Mom,

I’ve read numerous great pieces of literature, particularly poetry, about how much the author appreciates their mother. And it really pisses me off. Why? Because I don’t know how to write that kind of stuff. Would it be rhyming or non-rhyming? What metre would it be in? How many syllables in a line? Or would it be free verse? But most of all, how could I possibly explain my appreciation for you in a meaningful way?

The answer is I can’t. I hate writing poetry. I suck at it. So we’ll forget about that idea. I’m really good at answering questions though, especially online, because I have the words and time to really think about my answer. One question I can answer is: what’s your relationship like with your mom?

Well, I think we both know the answer to that. Absolutely terrible…

No, I’m joking. It’s not always been the best but puberty and Aspergers does that, so I apologise. But I do know that you’re probably the person I am closest to. It sounds rather sad of me to admit it but I’m past that. You’ve always been pretty honest with me and I try to be honest with you. That’s how it works.

Would I take a bullet for you? Maybe in the arm or leg, somewhere non-fatal, you know. But I would probably punch someone for you so we’re getting somewhere. I wouldn’t do it just because you’re my mom (I know, hold the applause) but because you’re also my best friend and an inspiration. I’ll tell you what does remind me of you- Disney Pixar’s Brave. It’s a little obvious but it’s near the end of the movie when Mor’Du is about to hurt Merida, and Eleanor, who had been struggling to be released from the ties, suddenly gets up and charges at this bear who is obviously much bigger than her. And that’s the bit that reminds me of you.

Everyone always says how nice their mother is, how good they are. Nearly everyone’s mother is an inspiration to them, for those who have one (or two). I’ve never seen someone take on life as you have. You have three disabled children. When the boys were born, you didn’t even think much about it, you just carried on as if nothing were out of sorts, and you raised me pretty well considering I turned out to be disabled all along. Let’s be honest. Who would give up their time and money to help a charity, to help others, and make sure everyone else is okay to the point where it doesn’t matter if you are? It makes me frustrated a lot when you’re on the laptop or on the phone, or not even in the house when you’re supposed to be because you’re helping someone. And that’s the thing. You’re always helping someone. Sometimes I wish you’d be more available for me but then you wouldn’t be you. You always put everyone first. Then I get more frustrated because I feel like people don’t appreciate that enough. And some probably do but some probably don’t.

And the thing is, if I could be anybody, I would be you. I’d like to know what it’d be like to be so selfless, calm and caring. There aren’t many people like you.

You’re so unique and in my opinion, there wouldn’t be a poem written about you anyway. Because there are no words really. You surpass that. Most of all, I want you to know that you are loved. Greatly and deeply. You deserve to be loved and you are. I know you can feel unappreciated but I don’t think there is anyone more appreciated than you. You’ve done a lot in your lifetime and you’re still here, just about. So thank you for being such a great friend and for being a fantastic mother (apart from the time you punched me in the eye). Just thanks for existing really. I wouldn’t be where I am without you.

Love always,

Hannah Teresa

(I found the most cheesiest thing I could find… You’re welcome)

Billie

At the end of last week, I met up with a friend of mine who is also going to university. It was the last time I’d see her until I came back for Christmas. Billie and I have been friends for around two years.

I remember the first time I met her. I’m particularly good with faces. At the time I was in year six and her mother was my teaching assistant. Mama M had always been pretty approachable and I had a sincere question to ask her. There was a certain word I was unfamiliar with, one I needed to know the meaning to. Billie had been with her that day, for whatever reason, so I approached them both unabashed.

“Miss.”

“Yes?”

“What does the word orgasmic mean?”

I could clearly see the amused glances between the two and I wondered what was so funny. Mama M answered with a smile: “It’s when someone gets a happy feeling.”

That was it. I had the answer so I thanked her and left. I didn’t think about it much afterwards and I definitely did not think about Billie again until years later. My mother was running a charity of her own and she asked me if I wanted to work in the café. Mama M’s daughter was looking for a job too. Mother had given it to her.

I wasn’t sure about Billie the first time I met her. She was a few years older, loud, chatty and constantly cheerful. She was too much for me. I don’t like people talking to me too much when we first meet and Billie quickly crossed all the lines. She just wasn’t going to leave me alone.

“We will be friends one day, Hannah,” she’d tell me.

“Not if I can help it.”

For months, I avoided Billie’s invitations to meet outside of work and I ignored her when she was telling me all about her family, friends and other jobs. I was not interested in being friends with Billie. All that time I was certain we would remain colleagues and that would be the end of it.

Then I found myself talking to her more, joking with her more and even paying attention to what she was saying. Since we worked together every week, I was becoming used to her presence and when she wasn’t there, I actually missed her constant talking. It wasn’t the same. We weren’t in any ways similar but we managed to find common ground. I would tell her about my problems, she always had something to say and it was like a weekly therapy session by the sink behind the bar. She was an easy person to trust.

I finally agreed to meet up with her outside of work, after extensive texting and we decided to go see a new comedy in the cinema. She wanted something to make her laugh and I wasn’t going to argue. I can’t remember how, but we’d missed the time or we’d got the times mixed up (don’t ask how), so we sat in Costa for an hour or so before. This immediately was a problem for me. I only knew Billie within the confines of work and I wasn’t sure how to interact with her. Would she be any different? What did she expect of me now we were in a personal setting and with each other for a length of time?

Well, it turned out that there were no awkward silences or forced conversation with Billie; she never shut up. She was relentless. And that worked fine for me. Usually I make friends with people who are similar to me but this friendship was working out better than expected. She never judged me for anything I said, took everything I did lightly and chatted so much that I didn’t have to converse as much as I had thought.

We went a few more times and I started to call her a friend. We had known each other for over a year. Over that time we text more, even to the point of every day for a short while. Working together was natural now and we enjoyed seeing each other weekly. We’d sometimes bicker, sometimes gossiped and sometimes spoke about stupid things. We’d watch people mosh in the hall, watch drunk people grind against each other and watched wrestlers throw themselves around. There was one particular wrestler that caught her fancy.

“We should flash him and see if he notices.”

Erm, that didn’t sound good to me. “I can’t do that. I have my comfy bra on. That wouldn’t look good.”

“True. Maybe another time.”

For me, our presents for each other showed how closer we had become since we first met. Her birthday is near Christmas, and being the poor person I am, I get her a birthday and Christmas present all in one. At first I went into Paperchase and bought anything cute that looked like Billie would love it. And she did. I guess I was pretty lucky in my choice. She kept on telling me that she couldn’t believe how great they were and how well I knew her. Awkward. She bought me a few random things too that she thought I might like and I was thankful for how thoughtful she’d been.

Then the next Christmas, I bought her a guinea pig. She’d been going on for ages about how much she wanted one but her dad wouldn’t let her. So naturally, I got her one. I did ask Mama M first. We picked the smallest one. I got it because it looked completely different to the other ones and was ridiculously small. Mother chose it because she thought it was being bullied by the others. Billie obviously loved it and when it came to my eighteenth, she bought me a printed 18 with various words on it that meant something to me. I loved it. It was packed swiftly away for when I went to university. Then she surprised me by getting a leaving present, consisting of a small angel for good luck and a bracelet that was for sisters. Sisters are like stars, you don’t have to see them to know they are there.

And just like that, Billie had outdone herself and she’d done something in just over two years that I never thought possible. She’d become one of my closest friends and was like a sister to me. On the way home from her house, I told my mother: “I’m afraid that my friendship with Billie has gone past the point of no return. I’ll never get rid of her now. We’re friends for life.” She just laughed and told me I was probably right.

Mostly, I realised that I will miss Billie when I’m gone but I know neither of us will be going anywhere. Not really. We’re stuck together now. I’m glad I got to work with her and I’m glad I agreed to see her away from work. This isn’t anything that I would admit out loud, of course. I am a little upset that I couldn’t get her a leaving present too but I’ll just have to do even better at Christmas.

So, good luck, Billie. You deserve every happiness in the world and I hope you achieve everything that you want. I could not ask for a better friend so please don’t ever change. You are a beautiful person, inside and out. Don’t ever forget it.

With love always,

Your little Asian friend

(P.S. I tried to find something nice but I couldn’t decide which one. So I decided on this one because I have to fit a musical song in somewhere)

Enough

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.