My journey of discovery
I started to struggle from a young age
I was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome but not given the right support
At school, the pressures of everyday life became too much for me and I got very depressed. I self-harmed and overdosed several times. I was formally diagnosed with depression, then a year later with Asperger’s.
Although the diagnosis helped me understand myself a bit better, it seemed to be disregarded at school. The support I was given was completely inappropriate, but when I raised this, nothing changed.
I felt completely lost during my teenage years
Things got even harder during my early teens. I felt a lot of pressure to meet people’s expectations. Socially I was really starting to struggle too. I felt lost and didn’t know who I was.
That’s when I decided to lose weight. I’d already been labelled anorexic when I was younger and although I didn’t feel anorexic, I felt I wanted to be. I wanted an identity. I wanted to belong.
Between the ages of 14 and 21 I had eight inpatient admissions, as well as countless hospitalisations. But my autism was never taken into account, which made it difficult for the treatment to help me.
I liked the routine of hospital but in the long run my autism worsened
I longed to be in the units; the routine and predictability was much easier to cope with than the outside world. I was protected from the scariness of having to grow up and even had friends there.
It also gave me a sense of achievement and made me feel like I was doing something good. I actually love food and in hospital I could eat lots. I was praised for making such great progress and I felt a great sense of fulfilment.
But in the long run, my issues ended up getting worse. I became obsessed with routine and lost touch with the real world, I was also falling further and further behind my peers.
I realised something needed to change. I needed to focus on myself and learn more about my autism and how it presented. It was then that I got involved with Ambitious about Autism. It changed my life completely.
With support from Ambitious about Autism, I finally see a future for myself
Through Ambitious, I’ve been able to meet other autistic people and share experiences. I’ve learnt so much about my condition and can now see the positives in my abilities. I’ve even been able to create awareness about autism: I helped produce a series of webinars around improving mental health services for people with the condition.
I’m going to be starting work soon and facing real adult life. I never thought this would be possible, but with the support of Ambitious I now feel like I’ve got an identity and future.
About the author
Saffron is a member of the Ambitious Youth Network.
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