#NotAshamedToBeADD ✨

Okay, so here goes..I don’t know why I feel so nervous writing this out, but I’m just gonna persevere…

[This feels scarier than putting my name & face to my previously anonymous blog!]

To give a bit of context, most of you who have been here for a while know that I was professionally identified [my preferred language for “diagnosed”] as autistic in August 2016 at the age of 31.

This came just over a year after having the realisation that I was potentially autistic in the first place (1 year, 1 month and 24 days later, to be exact).

Hearing about the lived experiences of autistic women speaking at The Autism Show in Birmingham in June 2015 completely bowled me over and helped me realise that my perceived failings throughout my life were not as a result of me being lazy or not smart or anything being “wrong” with me, but because of a distinct neurological difference.

In this time, I’ve written about the subject in my own blog, as a contributing writer for Spectrum Women, the National Autistic Society and NeuroClastic, and even having my contributions committed to print in the book Spectrum Women: Walking to the Beat of Autism (I’m still most proud of this).

I’ve obtained a qualification as a Certified Autism Specialist and have helped change the narrative about neurodiversity at my workplace, including changing their Tailored Adjustment Agreement to be geared more towards helping those with invisible disabilities get the reasonable adjustments they need to succeed in the workplace.

Despite all this, I still got horrendous spells of imposter syndrome hit me… feeling like a fake and a phoney. I would end up in deep depressive spirals of rejection, even at the most innocuous slight that most would just brush aside and not spare a second thought about.

Then I learned about the term “Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria”. As defined by ADDitude magazine, it is “the extreme emotional sensitivity and pain triggered by the perception that a person has been rejected or criticized by important people in their life. It may also be triggered by a sense of falling short—failing to meet their own high standards or others’ expectations.”

Now, I already knew I had massive issues around rejection. I wrote about the main aspects of it in the first blog post-dx for me so I won’t rehash them here.

What was new about it to me was how it’s a key feature of ADHD.

I had previously seen & enjoyed videos made by How To ADHD (website here, YouTube here) and noted that there’s a lot of crossover between autism & ADHD. Not only this, but several of my autistic advocate friends have been professionally identified as being ADHD too.

So, I started looking into how ADHD presents in women & girls and how they’re often misdiagnosed or have a missed diagnosis altogether.

The proverbial bells started going off in my head.

The same that happened when I heard the autistic women’s talks at The Autism Show in 2015.

I felt that less research was required on this, mostly because I’ve already had the identification of autism and there is a lot of crossover, so it meant that I could just focus on the elements unique to ADHD.

I then swung between “do I want to be assessed and professionally identified and potentially medicated?” and “do I want to strictly self-identify because the community will accept this?”

When the threat of Coronavirus led to the British government enacting lockdown measures, I figured that perhaps delving into professional identification might make sense, especially if medication was going to factor in… because I’d be home, if I needed to phase off of my existing Duloxetine (which is notorious for leading to significant withdrawal so needs to be reduced very gradually) and get used to a new medication, I’d rather be in the controlled environment of my home instead of having to maintain my previous schedule of going to the office, supermarket, etc.

So I made contact with The ADHD Centre in London, who offer Skype assessments – Perfect! I thought, as I’d be on lockdown anyway and it meant I wouldn’t have to travel to London and contend with the sensory nightmare that accompanies it! I also knew I’d be getting some extra money from my company’s annual reward, so I made the appointment.

Talking to the psychiatrist was a bit challenging, in so much that I struggled to articulate the depth and frequency of my difficulties verbally; yet again, this illustrates that my ability to express myself is stronger in writing!

Fast forward to Wednesday just gone and I received the outcome letter…

“Following a comprehensive assessment, using DIVA (and DSM diagnostic criteria), backed by cogent collateral information from childhood and adulthood, the above mentioned client meets the criteria for Attention Deficit Disorder, with onset in childhood and impacting (interfering) virtually every aspect of their functioning and wellbeing.” ✨

Validation, in print, yet again.

I’m not broken. I’m not lazy. I’m not incompetent.

I’m neurologically different; even more different than initially thought.

So, there you have it! What this means for my blog, Facebook page and Instagram account (because for some weird reason Twitter & Facebook don’t seem to be talking to each other anymore) is that I’ll be broadening my scope to include ADD/ADHD elements, as well as any pertinent mental health aspects. I’ll also be adding “& ADD” to my Facebook page’s title; this is not being exclusionary to those with the H in ADHD, but because my own dx is sans-H. 😄

Thank you for your continued support, and I hope that by adding this aspect to my advocacy scope, I’ll be able to help more people in a similar situation. Certainly for me, validation has been invaluable and I aim to provide it wherever I can. 🌸✨

(n.b. where I’ve used the cherry blossom to denote my autism, I’m going to be utilising the sparkles for my ADD in relation to my “Ohh look! Something shiny!” disposition. 😉✨)

The Trauma of Being an Empathic Autistic Advocate

When you scratch the surface of all autistic advocates, an indelible layer of trauma exists from our early lives, whether we were professionally identified in childhood, adolescence or not until adulthood. Whether the trauma is caused by inadvertent behavioural conditioning from our parents & teachers, abuse in its many varieties (physical, verbal, psychological, etc.), failed friendships, awkward encounters and everything in between, we all have our baggage. I have taken a significant step back from advocacy because I have felt triggered through the actions of autistic activists and from some within the online autistic community.  It’s very hard to keep pushing through when I feel like I’ve been hit right on the nerve that causes me so much upset, heartache and internal “ickiness” that will never go away. I feel the need to state that whilst I hate how certain groups on the political Right have taken the word “triggered” and use it in a derogatory way towards those who they perceive as “special snowflakes”, I cannot think of another word more appropriate word to use.  I hope it’s interpreted in its intended form. I draw a line of differentiation between advocates and activists; both groups aim to have autism and neurodiversity accepted in society (awareness is never enough), but I find that activists can be a bit more “warrior-like” and outwardly angry by actively pointing out what’s wrong with how autistics are treated in a multitude of settings, and advocates tend to take more of a softer approach, sharing personal stories in the hopes of others identifying with their words and helping others speak their truths. Don’t get me wrong – both activists and advocates are essential to changing the world; the problem arises when infighting occurs and one group tells the other what they’re doing is wrong or ineffective. To be transparent, I started writing this post seven months ago – I’ve felt that exhausted by what was happening in the community that I couldn’t bring myself to login to my WordPress account to write anything new, let alone finish this post. Given that I started writing this in April, which is Autism Awareness(/Acceptance) Month, it’s not surprising that I needed to step back.  April turns into a perpetual fight against the blue puzzle piece assault by the Auti$m Organisation That Must Not Be Named, which brings up difficult conversations with friends and strangers alike. You don’t speak for my child – you’re much higher functioning! You don’t know what it’s like – you’re not an Autism Parent! These kinds of conversations never end well and unfortunately perpetuate the divide between the autistic community, parents of autistic children & young adults, and everyone else. Whilst I may not have practised as a social worker since 2013, there is an undying part of me that persists and perseveres for understanding and acceptance – I just don’t have the energy to get as angry as some activists do, and rather do what I can with the energy reserves I have.  I am thankful for those who can get angry about things and continue to function; I just wish that their anger would be directed more appropriately towards those who need to change their attitudes, behaviours and treatment towards the autistic community, not fighting among the ranks of those trying to make a difference for future generations.