Discovering my autism and ADHD

Where to begin?

Back in 2022, I started noticing some ADHD traits. I shared it with a handful of people in some way (I ran a project for ADHD writers online at the time), and I kept getting a “me too” back from them. It was as if the Universe was trying to give me a sign.

One of the people I connected with, someone who I had met through online “creator” circles, confided in me that she had been diagnosed with autism. When I met up with her, she told me that she had been diagnosed with both ADHD and autism. At that point, I didn’t ever think I could be autistic. My sense of what autism was and how autistic people seemed, didn’t match with me.

I started reading and understanding ADHD. I wasn’t keen on the idea of going on medication, as I didn’t want to lose a sense of “me”, nor did I want my creativity to be affected as a writer.

I eventually mustered up the courage to tell my parents, on a video call whilst I was abroad. I was initially dismissed by one of them; we decided to go down the NHS route, and I had forms waiting for when I got back.

Only… I scored SO low on them. It just didn’t seem to be present in my childhood at all. Both parents filled out their sections and, again, I scored low. I felt embarrassed. As if they would think I was just looking for excuses.

I would later learn that ADHD needs to be present in childhood to be diagnosed, even if there is now a school-of-thought to say it can develop in adulthood. In any case, I didn’t want to be medicated, so I didn’t feel any follow-up was needed.

Later in 2022, I went abroad again. I was in Spain, living in 3 different places in the space of 10 weeks, for what was a particularly intense and chaotic trip. I went away again in the Spring of 2023 (a self-employed career, whilst not so financially-stable, gave me the opportunity to enjoy some stints of travel), this time house-sitting a place to myself having, apparently, outgrown living with strangers as I’d done in Spain.

I had space to myself; this time, though, it was a struggle to make friends and try to build the online business I was working on. Like in Spain, I seemed to struggle with boundaries; knowing which social invitations to say yes to, not succumbing to peer pressure (that trip was the last time I had alcohol), and struggling to put myself and my business “out there” whilst trying to stay blissfully anonymous in the small neighbourhood.

Burned out, I started writing about all of these travel experiences when I got back. A month spent doing an in-person course that Autumn and my autistic traits suddenly hit me in the face. I hadn’t ever thought I could be autistic.

So, this time, I had to muster up the courage to share with my parents that I now thought I had ADHD and autism.

I put myself down for an assessment (after cancelling another a few months before), even though no one seemed very keen on me taking it.

A few months before I’d bumped into someone from my gym on the local high street, and he shared with me that’d he’d been diagnosed with autism and ADHD the year previously, and that he, like me, seemed to resonate more with the female experience, than the “traditional” autism-in-boys stereotypes.

Finally, the date for my assessment arrived. The result wasn’t quite as I’d expected. I was told I had traits of both autism and ADHD, stronger on the autism side, though not meeting the threshold for an official diagnosis of either.

I was told I should consider myself and my phenotype “neurodivergent”, and my assessor went on to explain there were a growing group of people who seemed to have ND traits, though didn’t necessarily meet the threshold for any diagnosis.

Or, to quote my final report:

That was just over a month ago.

Now I’m trying to make sense of it all.