For more on this series, go back and read part 1: who I am.
It has been quite some time since my wife first suggested to me that a lot of how I am reminds her a lot of how my son with autism is. It was one of those things that I would dwell on for a while and would come up between the two of us from time to time.
After a while, I decided that wondering was serving very little purpose. It answered some questions but raised a much bigger question and it did very little good in how I would talk to others about autism because I had this big piece of information to share but couldn’t… simply because I wasn’t sure.
So I finally decided to put my questions to rest and talk to my doctor.
A very unpleasant visit with my doctor marked the beginning of the process. Don’t get me wrong, she was very pleasant. It was the part where I had to find the words to answer “So what brings you here today?” that made the situation unpleasant.
No matter how many times to run it through your head ahead of time, when you’re sitting there and someone actually asks you… you go “uhhmm…. well… uhhh…”
So I find my way through suggesting that I need an assessment for myself and then need to explain why.
Let me explain. People who don’t read this blog, even my doctor, don’t know that I know anything about autism. I could just see her, in her mind, thinking “oh great, another one who thinks that just because he has google, he can diagnosis himself with anything that it tells him too.”
But it would seem that she did not think that, she understood the reasons and said she would put in the request.
I get called into the local hospital, which is where the psychiatrists, psychologists and others of those fields all are.
I get to sit with a young lady who informs me that she has a questionnaire to run me through before they can determine if I qualify for an assessment.
I laugh and say “so this is an assessment to see if I need an assessment?”
About an hour into it, still not done, she’s already suggesting that there are some great councilors at the hospital that I could do sessions with or group therapies. There are even marriage councilors that she could recommend… just in case our marriage needs it.
So we continue on and finish somewhere near the 1.5 hour mark.
She basically asked me a lot about my state of mind… if I’ve ever considered suicide, if I would describe myself as being happy, if I get excited about stuff… and on and on and on.
It was clear that I needed an assessment.
A doctor comes in from out of town (because there are none here) and gives me some tests.
Over 3 hours of tests!
On top of all of that was the regular observational stuff. He noted that I was able to make eye contact, was quite fidgety and some other things like that.
One thing that I noticed though, that I thought I should mention… some of the tests actually offended me a bit.
I found that, in some tests, alcohol and drug abuse accounted for at least one third of the questions.
Questions such as “has your alcohol abuse affected your relationship with your family?” and the answers would be “rarely, sometimes, occasionally, often, all the time” or choices to that effect.
Where was the option for never? Or… I don’t drink?
Questions such as “has your drug use ever interfered with your job?” seem very one sided when there is no option to say no… only that it has to be to some various degree.
And they were repetitive… as though they were trying to see if you’d answer the same question differently later in the test if it was worded just differently enough for you to not recognize it.
The thing is… when you are answering 300-400 questions and 1/3 of them are about alcohol or drugs… you start to feel like you’ve been judged before the fact.
Is this really how they think it is for autistics? That they’re all alcoholic drug abusers?
Most of the time, I would just scratch it out and actually write “I don’t drink” or “I’ve never done drugs” and just let them figure it out or I would just not answer.
A part of me sat there wondering… if I’ve never been a drunk or a stoner… will I still qualify for an autism diagnosis? Is that how it works with them?
Still though, I just tried to brush it off and say “they know what they’re doing” and did my best to get through.
After 3 hours, I was exhausted.
The doctor told me he’d be back in town in 2 months.
Doctor didn’t show up.
He did say he’d call me in month 7 if he wasn’t able to come back in month 6.
I call the hospital and they tell me to call my doctor’s office.
My doctor’s office is all shut down for the holidays.
My doctor’s office tells me that they have nothing, know nothing and I have to talk to the hospital or the doctor that did the diagnosis.
The hospital tells me that the results should be at the doctor’s office.
I sign a paper at the doctor’s office giving them the legal capacity to track down this doctor and get my results.
My doctor’s office gets the results and tells me that they will not give me the results until we can meet face to face…. in month 12!
One full year.
However, I ask to be put on the cancellation list and by some miracle, I’m called in… in month 11.
I talk to my doctor and then talk to a councilor that same day and I am told that it is official.
I am diagnosed with Aspergers and Mood Disorder too.
A long year
It’s been a long year… a long several years if you take into account the time that I’ve suspected it before hand.
But worth it. Because now I know.
The process is obviously not the same for everyone, I would imagine most people don’t lose their doctor somewhere along the way.
But still, I am glad that I waited until after I got my diagnosis to tell anyone… and this is why.
After going through over an hour of questions just to be assessed for an assessment, then another 3+ hours of doing test upon test upon test plus observation plus what ever paperwork he had to do once back at his own office… I feel very justified in not assuming that I could diagnose myself.
I mean, it turned out that my suspicions were right. But still. I am not qualified. That much is so obvious to me now.
If the experts, who attend years and years of school, have read libraries worth of books and go through assessments just like that one on a regular basis are still able to make a misdiagnosis from time to time…. then who am I to think that I could ever get it right just by going on a feeling?
When my son was diagnosed at 2, the doctor made the diagnosis much in the same way I did… I watched his behavior. I could tell that his milestones were delayed and so could the doctor.
But it’s not like that for adults. It’s not that simple.
If you suspect that you have autism, I will take your word for it. Still, I suggest finding out for sure.
No, it won’t change your life and they won’t throw you into services that you don’t need, since there really are none… but believe me when I say that I am very very glad that I didn’t tell anyone until I was sure.
I wasn’t confident of the decision to stay quiet before but after having gone through it all, I am now.
I now have a real answer. And even though I’m still me and nothing much in my life has changed, it is a huge question answered and as strange as it sounds… it’s a big weight off my shoulders.