After Adult diagnosis

It is never too late !

Reports of older adults finding diagnosis are becoming more frequent.
Many elder adults suddenly discover that they have spent a life time working to understand

WHY they have always struggled socially, Why it seems so hard to do social things that others seem to do naturally and easily. Make friends? Mix and fit into a social group? Be comfortable in social situations from school, meetings at work, group gatherings of family, or for business purposes, or while participating in clubs, societies, organizations, church or worship activities, or simply being around a lot of others.

WHY it seems so difficult to understand the motives of others, explain yourself and your intentions or thoughts, to find “common ground” and to seamlessly without awkwardness negotiate any interaction with anybody at all?

WHY it is so difficult to deal with sounds, scents, sights, the sensory feelings of doing daily things that others never comment on and seem to do with ease and comfort?

Why doing physical things have always been difficult, being called accident prone, clumsy, thoughtless or careless all our lives?

Why we have always struggled with so many things others seem to do with ease, been awkward and difficult and “outsiders”, and being the focus of struggles, blamed in any and seemingly every distressed situation, even among family and those who know us best?

Suddenly so many things begin to make sense! Our neurology is different and makes many things in live much more difficult for us! ( Nobody knew! What a relief! Now what????)

Adjusting to this new insight and the perspective it brings to the past, our present situations, and our ideas about the future can be overwhelming. Sorting out everything we have known and thought we understood from this new perspective can leave us shaken, upset, disoriented, confused, and full of re-lived emotional pain and well as suddenly grieving our old selves and understanding so many things about our expectations and limitations. So much to sort and understand. So much to learn, so much might change!

We can find many ways to help ourselves at this time.
Knowing our diagnosis can help us get in touch with others who may also be autistic. we can seek support of professionals in sorting emotions, finding help or aid for struggles with jobs, housing, food, or medical struggles such as addiction or other health issues. We begin to see how autism had its works in everything all our lives, amazing! Everything was not, after all, “all our fault” but autism had its works going on without anybody knowing or suspecting. Nobody knew!!!!

There are so many support groups available in so many places, either “in person” or on line. It has been a huge relief to understand that I am not alone but that there are many others who understand, and who have lived experience and insights and suggestions that can help me in many ways.

WE can seek insights into our past and learn about the ways we “self adjusted” to cope with our hurts and struggles. Many of us have spent a life time mis understanding what healthy choices and healthy living, both physically and mentally and emotionally can do for us. We may never have considered we could make other choices than those we learned as young people in frequently unhealthy family/group situations.

A therapist, psychologist, counselor, or social worker can be helpful to show us where we have the opportunity to work our lives differently, make healthier choices, have better and healthier communication with others, learn new life skills that will be less painful and more helpful going forward.

Knowing ourselves seems to be one of the best things that come with diagnosis. Self understanding is so important and so many of us have been so busy defending ourselves and avoiding and hiding from our struggles, trying to hide hurt and misunderstanding so much!!!

WE may not have thought ourselves important enough to take the time to do the work of self understanding, we might have tried and given up in despair at finding ways to change anything at all in our lives.

Something that can help tremendously is to know how autism works in us and to be able to see how much it affects us every day in so many ways.

This may take some time to discover, but the more we seek information about autism in general and learn how others arrange their lives in healthier ways around their own autism, the better we can understand ourselves and see how so much information can apply to our own self.

There are an abundance of books, blogs, audio podcasts, videos and memes available.
There are tons of support groups on the internet and in “real life” in many places.

Start with local, county or state associations and ask for referral or information.

You can do this by email, phone, or on line, or in person.

If what you find is not helpful or comfortable, keep trying!

There are so many opportunities to get information and support today. You may have to spend some time in getting experience with “real time” groups and interactions to find something helpful and comfortable for you. Please keep seeking information and asking questions. There are so many ways we can get information and support today. We have choices and alternatives!

“AHA” moments happen frequently as we suddenly see how some of our quirks, struggles, behavior, emotions, joys all fit into the ways autism can work inside of us. Behind “aha” comes self forgiveness and often forgiveness of others. Nobody knew!

First of all learn as much as you can about autism and see how it personally fits patterns of your life.

Second seek others who can help you understand autism and explain and support you in the hardest parts of your emotional homework. It is a lot to sort, and the longer we have lived, the more we have to examine and understand from this new perspective.
Others can offer insights. experience, explanations, and make suggestions sometimes when we are at a loss to figure something out.

Third practice your best self care right now. Life will be upset, emotions a whirlwind and others around you may also be feeling overwhelmed and lost, may have to adjust to this new perspective and the ways you will want to change life from what it has been to what it “can be”.

Make sure you are patient and kind to yourself and others as you all go through it, get enough rest and proper nutrition, etc. You are worthy of finding peace and self forgiveness, forgiveness from and for others, and you are worthy of finding the best ways to go forward as you (all) adjust to the new perspective of diagnosis of autism.

See also “tools we can use” posts elsewhere in these pages.

Happy new year to all, may it be the best and brightest yet!

Autism Diagnosis can be life changing.

Approximately 6 years from my first suspicions about a possible diagnosis of autism, and 3 years from actual professional diagnosis, I am taking inventory.

How life has changed! It is difficult to be specific, since changes have taken place gradually as I learn more about myself, the nature of the neurology I have been given and how it has affected everything in my life from my birth onward.

Diagnosis first of all , self understanding of my autism, was a series of “aha” moments, small discoveries that added up to the conclusion that I was/ am indeed autistic began with those descriptions of autistic thought patterns, physical and emotional struggles with misunderstandings, misperceptions, and poor performance. One by one, the light went on. “I do that” “so that’s why” “Oh, that makes so much sense” as the series of autistic diagnostic criteria and discussions with others revealed details about the ways we experience our autism .

At first it was very difficult to understand that each of us experiences our autism quite differently, and that we experience certain aspects of “performance deficit” “problem behavior”
“processing problems” “brilliant and highly above average performance” in varying aspects of our lives. It was hard to figure out what I had in common with so many autistic folks on the websites with autism descriptions, on the blogs I read, on the discussion groups where people talked about autism in so many ways.

One thing that helped a lot was to try to remember all the problems I had in childhood. Misunderstandings, Hurts, discipline for being “bad” even though I never believed I was doing deliberately all the things I was blamed for, Problems at school, being bullied, all went under my mental metaphorical microscope to be examined closely. I came up with loads of struggles and hurts from the past.
This exploded to upsets of my young adulthood and right through my present day more recent problems. It seems certain experiences followed me right through my life, being uncoordinated, being bullied, making people angry without a clue as to why, diligent research and activities directed at specific life long interests (horses, humane issues surrounding domestic animals) super high word skills both in reading and writing, very very poor performance in other areas of life skills.

It started to add up when I was able to compare what other autistic folks described and explained as their autistic experiences. The diagnostic triad, social struggles, communication struggles, and rigid patterns of behavior and thinking added up to my own brand of autism once I was enlightened enough from painful search of my past to see it.

Suddenly I could see how autism was behind so many of the painful experiences of the past. Everything was not, after all, “all my fault” as I had believed in my soul… I had been told and punished for misbehavior, deliberately being bad, causing trouble, having disappointing school interactions and grades, being in general a nuisance and a problem which must be punished repeatedly and still failed to perform or conform. I was a huge disappointment, a behavior problem, a bad person! No longer!!! What a relief to finally understand how autism had its works in the past and nobody knew!

I have less emotional pain, since I learned how to sort old painful experiences that replayed constantly in my mind, causing anxiety and emotional upset over and over. I learned how to file such memories under “finished business” in my mind after sorting them from the new perspective of how autism had worked without anybody knowing or understanding. If there was nothing to be done about the specific painful memory today, it went into that metaphorical mental file. Every time that painful memory came back up after that, I simply stopped it as best I could and said to myself “that is finished business” and sent the memory back to the file. There is a detailed description of this process elsewhere in these blog pages.

I have been able to see how autism worked, file old memories that caused repeated pain (so many of them it actually impaired my life) and best of all I have been able to forgive myself and others for all those events because of course, nobody knew!!! Such a relief!

Knowing my diagnosis finally gave me the perspective/platform to see all those old events and the beliefs and emotions surrounding them in a new way. So healing!

Learning about my autism neurology, and finding my worst struggles, gave me the opportunity to think about how I could do the things that were hardest for me in new ways. I could adjust my activities, my surroundings, my ways of doing things to make things go more smoothly and be less distressing every day. I recommend that we tackle the very hardest and most painful things from every day life first, and as we realize we are stressed and distressed, continue to make adjustments in the way we do things for daily living, for special events in our lives, special projects or holidays, vacations, how we handle anything that is physically or emotionally distressing for us.

Having made many adjustments to my schedule, my activities, my social interactions, etc, I am feeling far less stress and anxiety, and finding more peace and ability to give myself comfort and adjust even small details to make life continually more “doable”. I don’t spend all my time worrying about “what if”. I am learning I can handle almost any situation I choose to put myself into and that my life will go on usually with no permanent damage if I make a mistake. ( that was a huge one! )

We can make so many choices over the way we want to “do life”. First we need to understand we do have that power within us, that we can figure out better ways to do almost anything. We can ask for help if we feel we can not do this part alone.

Others in your life may resist change or cause difficulties for adjustments we may want to make. Things can generally be negotiated and compromised and support can be gained, but it is unfair to make demands on others that everything in their lives must change completely as well.

Find yourself a good support group of older autistic adults, there are many many of them “out there”.
Ask for insights and suggestions about how others have solved problems surrounding their autism.
Ask first, if you need to, for explanations about whether the struggle you are facing is somehow common to other autistic individuals.
Forums are such a great source of so many years actual lived autistic experience and it is great to find out you are not alone, that there are others who actually understand!

I will not name support group forums because there are hundreds and the ones I like may not be helpful for you at all.

There are all sorts of autism support groups from age related, gender related, politics and social justice related, medical basis groups, and more.
I had to try maybe 15 or 20 of them before I found one I consider my autism home on the internet.

Make sure the group you join for support is just that, a social and emotional support group. There are information groups, study groups, news groups and of course thousands of blogs and social media pages. See which sort of group it is in the group’s rules and descriptions for best results!

There are chat groups, in person support groups, and so much more. You don’t have to do this alone, there are so many resources and options available. don’t give up, you will find something just right for you out there.

If you are just getting started, I wish you well on your journey of self discovery. Even after 6 years from my first self understanding of my being autistic, I am still having insights and learning new and better ways to do things. Even at this old age of 71, things keep getting better, less painful and upsetting and healing. I’ll be sorting the first 65 years for the rest of my life, but it has been so helpful to know. Diagnosis can be life changing. May all good things come your way in the impending new year.