Diagnosed with Asperger's at 50
“Imagine spending half a century wondering why you couldn’t make friends or keep them. Wondering why you never felt at ease in company, why after a day in a busy work environment people chose – chose to congregate in over-bright, crowded pubs and clubs, where they had to shout over blaring music.
Imagine a working life where all your appraisals were great, but you got bullied. And when you were, no-one stood up for you. Imagine what that does to a person. How it affects self-esteem, how depressed and anxious you might become.
Imagine the isolation of living alone, with no friends to talk to, no-one to go on holiday with and only cards from family on your birthday. Imagine not recognising when someone fancied you, or how to send out signals when you were interested, because body language is incomprehensible.
Imagine being me.
So when people wonder what is the point of getting a diagnosis in later life, I say, imagine how it felt when at 50 I was diagnosed with autism. My life changed. I discovered I wasn’t an awful person who no-one liked; I was simply not reading the signals when they liked me. The bullies targeted me because they could see that; and it made me vulnerable. I didn’t even realise I was being bullied until it was way too late to respond – how entertaining for my workmates!
When I was diagnosed with autism I was able to find out about myself through reading the experiences of others. That didn’t cost the NHS a penny. Which was lucky, as I was offered no help or support at all. Now I have the answer to so many “why’s” I have reorganised my life and my routines to accommodate the me that I am, and have said goodbye to the me that always failed. Filling in the gaps has made me feel whole.
But consider the knock-on effect of such a life. The self-medication that numbs reality; visits to the doctor, mental health specialists, dieticians, the anti-depressants that only sedate, etc. Money wasted on “therapies”. How that lifestyle will translate into health and social support costs in later years, support because I have no support network.
Just like you, I am growing older and am still isolated and will inevitably become more reliant on statutory services as you will too. And I know that most service providers have little or no understanding of my needs because my disability is invisible, research is almost non-existent and training is negligible. Imagine how that feels.”
*Maria’s name has been changed.