I’ve had my diagnosis for almost two years now I think, but I spent 21 years of my life going about the world as an autistic person, and not knowing it. I feel like it’s very different being undiagnosed, because I just didn’t understand why things happened how they did, or why I thought the way I did.
One of the main things that affected me while I was undiagnosed, was motivation. Though I know now it wasn’t a lack of motivation at all, it was issues with my executive function, I couldn’t learn to tackle that while not knowing what it was. I’d have dishes in the sink, laundry to do, cat fur all over the floor, and I just couldn’t find it in me to do the dishes or load the washer or hoover.
This also applied to things like getting ready for college, which I think is probably a large part of the reason I dropped out twice, or even doing the things I wanted to do, like art or music. Knowing it’s my autism and executive function, I’m able to deal with things like this much better, hence why I’m able to keep my house clean, and have held down a job for over a year now.
There’s also good old autistic burn out, another huge contributor to me dropping out of college. I’d have two or three months of full effort, then my mental health would drop, I’d be depressed and anxious, and even the most simple things would exhaust me and feel like so much effort.
There was always the thought of ‘well everyone else manages this, what’s wrong with me?’. Turns out, nothing! I’m just autistic and needed to learn how to balance work, fun, and self care, which having a diagnosis has helped me to do.
Socialising was also almost an impossibility for me. Throughout school, I never had more than one or two close friends, and I left most social interaction feeling horrendous, and over thinking absolutely everything. All too often, socialising just left me feeling like crap and wondering ‘why am I like this?’
Because I’m autistic! I’m a bit awkward, I don’t pick up on every cue, but knowing I’m autistic has let me look into specific parts of social interaction, better understanding myself, and how social things work, and I’m just a lot less hard on myself if things are a bit awkward.
For me, getting a diagnosis was a huge, life changing thing, but it’s important to keep in mind that, for a variety of reasons, not everyone can get a diagnosis. If you’re undiagnosed but think you’re autistic, just look into things as though you definitely are, and utilise what you think might help. Not being able to get a diagnosis shouldn’t keep anyone from being able to look after and work on themselves, and it doesn’t make you less valid than anyone with a diagnosis.