I'm new here, and came to this website because I've got some questions.
In September last year my depression relapsed again for the third time in three years. I went to my GP and she referred me for psychological assessment. At the assessment the psychologist referred me for therapy for my depression and anxiety but also referred me for an adult autism assessment. I thought nothing of the latter until the letter came through offering an appointment.
I attended the autism assessment this morning, and won't learn the outcome for a couple of weeks. But I don't know what a diagnosis (or non-diagnosis) is going to mean, and how it can help. I know I think differently to other people and struggle with some aspects of social interaction, but I work full time, I've got a mortgage on my own house, and I've learned to cope with being social. I'm 43, I'm just not sure how it's going to help make a difference either way.
It’s fascinating that you used to be a social worker/mental health practitioner. I am a social worker now, working with looked after children. I like working with the smaller children because I find communicating with them much easier and it causes me less anxiety. This in turn has been recognised by my current line manager who has agreed to give me more cases with younger children. This generally means adoption work, which involves a lot more paperwork than other cases but I don’t mind that, paperwork doesn’t seem to bother me like it does other people.
I have worked in the social sector since 1998 though it has taken a long time to get to the point I am at today. A long time involving being in capabilities or disciplinary three times, being made redundant from three posts (in the public sector they only really sack you for gross misconduct, you get made redundant for performance issues) and going through burnout at least once. All this has meant that I am wiser now to not repeat the mistakes of the past, and a diagnosis is only going to help more.
I decided to disclose that I was seeking a diagnosis to my line manager because if she reacted negatively then this wasn’t going to be the right job for me. Luckily for me she didn’t. However I am conscious that the only constant in the public sector is change (something that also raises my anxiety levels) and I won’t always have the same line manager, so will just have to see how it goes.
I have thought about setting up my own business, but have no idea what I would do. Nothing I can think of would pay enough to keep me on top of my debts (mortgage, loan, credit card etc.) How did you decide your line of work for setting up your own business?
Getting a diagnosis may help you more than you think. You have clearly been trying to get a handle on your problems with anxiety and depression, but without knowing the root cause that is always going to be a challenge. Speaking personally, I have found that since my (recent, at the grand old age of 46) diagnosis, it really helps to be able to tackle the things that are a problem, from a standpoint of understanding why it's a problem in the first place.
I also suffer from anxiety and get very tired, but knowing why has helped me already to reduce time spent in the kinds of situations that just make it worse. I also told my boss at work and it was agreed straight away that I could do another day a week from home. Since my very long commute is the most anxiety inducing thing in my life, this has made me feel better already. I think he also appreciated having a better understanding of the way I think vs the way everyone else does, and why that makes me great at some things, less suited to others (I am a programmer, so some aspie traits are undoubtedly a benefit rather than a curse!)
All the best and I hope that the assessment will be a help to you. The way I look at it, we are getting a pretty good explanation for our lives to date, which give us a better chance of self-awareness/understanding than the average 'normally-wired' person will ever get, so we're lucky in a way!
How did I decide on my line of work for setting up my own business?
I have an obsession, for getting to the root cause of anything and everything and I have a special interest in the human mind. I enjoyed my work as a social worker and I particularly enjoyed working as a mental health practitioner. I was basically doing the job of a CPN (community psychiatric nurse), apart from giving injections, and it became apparent, very quickly, that not only did I work differently to everyone else, I was also getting good results, in that I was actually helping people. However, it was so draining and I couldn’t keep it up. That contract was for 6 months only and although they tried to get the funding to keep me on, I knew I couldn’t do it for any longer, it was too exhausting.
Around that time, I was so exhausted one day that I just took myself to bed and decided to do nothing but read and sleep. In my reading I came upon the word ‘metaphysics’, and within about 15 minutes of reading that word, I had googled it and found a course teaching it.
I felt like I had found what I was looking for. I have previously studied Ayurveda, an ancient system of health and well being, originating in India. And although I love Ayurveda, and live by many of the principles, I knew I was more interested in the ‘mind’ side of things, and Metaphysics filled that gap.
I soon realised that the way I had been working with my clients, and with myself, was through a metaphysical approach, so I knew it worked. So I qualified as a metaphysician/spiritual type counsellor with the intent of setting up my own practice.
This shouldn’t have been too difficult, but no matter what I did, I wasn’t getting any closer to realising that dream. This turned out to be a good thing as it highlighted gaps in my ability to process, understand and connect things together and lead to me getting a diagnosis of autism.
I’ve spent the last 18 months getting to the bottom of things, and I’ve found that there are no real answers regarding autism, it really is mysterious, but now I’m getting a clearer picture of what my difficulties are etc, I am starting to work out a plan of what will work for me, working with the autism traits instead of trying to mask or overcome them. What we resist, persists, and I’ve found that to be true, so now I’m learning to embrace my autism, because treating me like an NT, never worked.
The first thing I realised was, that I absolutely have to have a routine. I’ve known this for a long time, but now I realise how important those routines are to me so my first job, is to re-establish a daily exercise, fresh air, walking, healthy eating regime, coupled with things I like to do. So for example, I’ve joined an art group and I’m also going to join a singing group. I can cope with interaction at this level, as it’s focussed on an activity. While I’m doing this, I’m working on my website, which will form a large part of my business. I’m going to work out, as best I can, or find out as I go, how many days a week I can comfortably manage working, without getting so exhausted that I just lay in my bed all day. A metaphysical counsellor typically charges £65 an hour, but you can charge way more if you’re good at what you do and you deliver more value. I am good at what I do so I figure that if I allow myself to take baby steps, I can build my practice up, over time, at a pace I can manage. I will be working from home, over Skype or something similar, working towards working via email. (I have a friend who has a successful email coaching business which will be better for me as I can express myself better in written words).
I will also have a few other streams of income, so altogether, when it’s all up and running, I will be able to provide for myself financially, in a way that suppprts who I am. I am realising that autism doesn’t go away, it is a life long thing, so I am working with it, to create a life that works for me.
I am no longer able to do whatever it takes to ‘fit in’ and neither do I want to but I have realised that when I’m in my own space, doing my own thing, the anxiety and struggles leave me and I can live a happy stress free life.
I have got a way to go to get from where I am now to where I am going, and that’s ok, because I am prepared to do whatever it takes to get me there, because it will be beneficial to me. Fitting in doesn’t serve me in the least, and I’m not going to do it anymore. I can ‘fit in’ pretty well, but apart from it near on killimg me, it brings me no joy at all.
I’m finding, the more honest I am with other people about my autism and my struggles, the more help and support I get. The old me/the masked me, is dying, and although there are times of grieving around that, what is emerging is an opportunity to actually enjoy a stress free life. And I’ve actually found a community of people, who are doing a similar thing to me. More about that in my reply to Ellie.
I guess I looked at what I enjoy doing, which is helping people solve their problems, then I started to be open to ways I could make that work for me. It’s taken me several years to get to where I am now, and although I have clearly got a way to go, it doesn’t feel like that, probably because I’ve already imagined it, so it feels like it’s already happened, it’s just a matter of putting the pieces together.
When I would think of how I wanted my life to be, I would take the time to imagine it in my mind. It would take a while sometimes, but when I was able to imagine it, I realised that in reality, it wouldn’t work for me. So I was able to let that thought go, and be open again to another possibility, and eventually, I found the one that fits for me.
For example, I’m quite an outgoing person, and more of an extrovert than introvert at times, but the truth is, being around people, particularly NT’s, exhausts me, no matter what the situation. So I realised, I have to make sure that my interactions with people, work for me and I have to make sure I get lots of good quality alone time. I’m figuring out what my fundamental needs are, both as a person and as an independent person needing to earn an income, and what brings me most joy in life and what brings most stress.
I know that we can monitse anything in this day and age, but what I realised was, it has to be set up to meet my needs, otherwise there’s no joy in life, and we’re not here to live a joyless life. It’s taken nearly five years, a lot of intense studying and intense inner work to get to where I am, but it’s all been worth it and probably, what I’ve realised most, is the most important thing in life is to be happy, and for me, finding that happy place was a process of getting rid of all the things that stripped me of happiness. So my life might not look like other people’s, but then they don’t have to live it, and if I’m happy, then that’s all that matters and other people will benefit naturally from that.
Sorry, a bit of a long explanation. I guess I was trying to show you that there is a way to go self employed, if you think that will work better for you. I’ve explored many of them and I’ve found the ones that work best for me. There are tons of other ways to make an income, I think one of the first things to figure out, is what works for us and then be open to the possibility of it happening, and it will happen.