Sunday 24 July 2022

What does undiagnosed Autism look like?

As we were going through the little superheroes ASD assessments back in 2016 and 2017, it was like a light bulb going off in my brain. O is my mini me and all of the struggles that O has, I went through the exact same thing as a child, teenager and young adult.

Recently I read a post on social media about one person's experience as an undiagnosed Autistic teenager and I found that I could relate to most of the points on the list.

The post got me thinking ..... what was my experience as an undiagnosed Autistic teenager? It has only been in the last few years that I have publicly said that I am Autistic.

I am proud of who I am, but I so wish that I'd known as a teenager, even as a young adult, that there was nothing wrong with me. That my struggles socially and emotionally were because I was Autistic.

So what did my experience as an undiagnosed Autistic teenager at school look like?

I can tell you what my undiagnosed Autism looked and felt like, but remember that every Autistic individual is just that, an individual. My experience is not going to be the same as the next individual.

• Bullying on a daily basis, from those who didn't know me but also from those in my year level. This bullying, unfortunately, followed me through to tertiary education where I was questioned on a regular basis by people who had heard rumours about me at school or had heard the rumours from people that I went to school with. Now matter how hard I tried, I could not escape from those rumours. It was only when I relocated interstate in my mid twenties, that I started afresh.

• Struggling to understand all social and classroom interactions, every day - I did not understand social interactions at all. They bamboozled me completely. I did understand some interactions with a few of the lads in my classes, but then I was accused as a boyfriend stealer and ostracised.

• Crying myself to sleep every night, because I wasn't like everyone else. I desperately wanted to be like everyone else, to fit in, but didn't know how to be like everyone else.

• Not understanding if people were joking or being nasty when they interacted with me. Was an interaction sincere? Did they feel sorry for me? Was I being set up?

• Feeling like I didn't belong to the school community. All the while I wanted to belong to the school community but I did not know how to make myself belong.

• Knowing that I didn't fit in and thinking that the reason I didn't fit in was because I was just quirky or weird because that is what I was told on a daily basis by other students. Then not wanting to be quirky or weird, but that's who I was.

• Anxiety, very high anxiety all day, every day. I could not escape from the anxiety levels that I was experiencing. 

• Rehearsing potential conversations that may occur during the school day in my head constantly. Then as conversations were occurring, analysing what I thought was being meant during the conversation, which in turn meant that I missed the majority of what was being said, so my sky high anxiety levels rose even further, because I still didn't understand.

• Internalising my anxiety when I had a relief teacher unannounced in any of my classes. This was a huge fear at school. My teachers were my safe people at school as I knew how they taught, their mannerisms in class. A relief teacher was a huge unknown.

• Being friends with my teachers, because I felt like I didn't fit in with my peers. But then you are ostracised by your peers because you're friends with the teachers. It was a double edged sword.

• Meltdowns or shutdowns every afternoon from the exhaustion of unknowingly masking every day. At the time I didn't know that I was masking. I will say that masking was detrimental to my mental health.

• Watching and mimicking everyone around me, but still not fitting in.

• I excelled in a few subjects, I sucked badly in others and I was passively okay in the rest. And even then, I tried to stay under the radar because if I did excel, I was ostracised by my peers for getting good grades, and if I sucked badly I was ostracised.

• Drifting between groups of peers because I couldn't find the group that I fitted into, which in turn meant that I struggled to find my tribe at school. Which then meant that it was difficult to make and maintain friendships, so I sat alone most break times in a dark classroom so that I wouldn't be bullied and because I was emotionally and mentally exhausted.

• Questioning my every being, every inch of my self and my worth because of the constant belittling from other students. My brain began to believe everything that was said to me and about me.

• Finding solace in my intense interests because they were my safe spaces, but then being belittled because others thought I was a nerd.

• I developed trauma and mental health issues, namely severe depression, as a result of my school experience.

• All of the above then followed me into adulthood, as I wasn't aware that I was neurodiverse, as I navigated tertiary study and the workplace. So basically repeat all of the above but as a young adult.

I don't believe that having a diagnosis of Autism as a teenager would have changed how I was treated at high school, however the diagnosis would have given me answers as to how I thought and how I experienced the world around me.

Knowing now that I am Autistic is empowering.

Yes I am quirky, I'm weird, but I'm Autistic. And I'm extremely proud of who I am.

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I would love to hear your thoughts on my blog. I do read all the comments that are posted. Thanks so much for stopping by. Jen xx