I've signed up to learn more about the autistic spectrum since my partner suggested I may have autistic tendencies. I just did a test online and scored 40 out of 50 which is quite high. If you can be hassled to read my not very short bio below then I'd very much like to hear if you think it might be worth getting tested? I'd love to get to the bottom of my life long malaise as I'm 49 and still in the deep end learning how to stay afloat. One difficulty I have is understanding where co-dependency might overlap with ASD. I thank you in advance for any advise.
Absorbed in my own world
As a child I would experience significant distress being pulled out of my fantasy play world by the demands of my single mother. There came a point when I resigned myself to those demands and cut myself off from the world to preserve the inner fantasy life. So I would perform tasks or chores quickly and efficiently in a dazed state of detachment from the task so I could dive back into my private world from where I had left off after running back upstairs to continue in my play.
In my twenties I was self conscious, self absorbed and depressed. I alienated myself from everyone and became extremely isolated, seeking instead the solace of nature alone in the countryside instead of the presence of others. I have always felt a gap between myself and the world at large, a large empty hole where I have shied away from the stress of social expectations and conventions.
I feel acutely the distress of letting people down in taking care of my own needs, so as I have aged I've never fully committed to anyone or anything because of the huge amount of time I need to myself to process everything that goes on in my head and in my relationships.
In recent years my depression has become so severe as to be life threatening - i.e my suicidal ideation has taken a hold of my imagination as the only possible course of action to resolve the suffering I experience on a day to day basis. I find myself incapable of advancement in the world and have become emotionally unstable and vulnerable.
Distress in relating
I find intimacy extremely difficult and fret over social interactions. This has caused significant fractures in my relationships where I pull out of social engagements because of intense and overriding fears of social interactions. No one understands this about me because my mask is so very sophisticated and fluid as I appear to be charming and socially conversant. Relating issues come to the fore when in crowds, such as cinemas, shopping centres or pubs, where irrational fear consumes me to the point of distraction, irritation and anger - I often feel backed against a wall by the loud or noisy environment that crowded places tend to be and become focused on getting from A to B quickly and with minimal disruption. In these situations I cannot relate to another in a rational manner at all.
I find myself repeating back to people what they say to me. When I'm self conscious about it my response can appear to be an unintelligible rambling as I scramble to sound like I have something intelligent to say to maintain my carefully constructed social veneer. I feel pressure to respond but never know what to say. This leads on to:
I experience difficulty finding the right words to express myself and people often interrupt or talk all over me which causes me significant stress. I've always thought of myself as a slow thinker and late developer. I (and almost everyone I know) consider myself a poor communicator as I mull things over and procrastinate for so long that I never respond.
I think in patterns which has enabled me to become a highly proficient musician (but I can't read music) and drummer and I find safety in repetitious activities like number crunching, calculating vectors in navigation and astronomical measurements. I seek to understand the rhythmic nature of patterns and cycles through number and I have a slight OCD that is apparent in my teeth grinding. I like woodworking as it involves planning and careful measuring and I get a sense of satisfaction from creating something real. More than anything I'd like to make and sell my own large format cameras.
I enjoy compiling research into visually useful charts and graphics and prefer to spend time crafting detail. At the moment I work alone at home doing research and compiling data for a friend who earns enough to support me as an employee doing the tedious things he hates doing.
Glossing over things or taking short cuts distresses me. I think of myself as unimaginative and find it hard to see beyond the immediate future - I seek certainties that don't exist and prefer to stay within the confines of my limited self definition. I've never had a long term plan because I can't seem to take care of the present. Hence at 49 I have no security, no home of my own and no savings, just a lot of wasted talent and potential.
For 15 years I was addicted to online gaming as a way of escaping and enjoyed the repetition and reward that has been ultimately destructive. Before the advent of computers I would spend that time absorbed in playing the guitar, often up to 8 hours a day, and reading non-fiction books (mostly self help books of one form or another).
I'm a very good mimic and have learned to respond 'correctly' for the most part but with the resulting loss of an authentic response; I'm a people pleaser because if others are at ease then I am too but I have lost my soul in doing so.
Other strange stuff
Sirens or other loud noises make me emotional unstable - I feel distressed, as do soap operas which I really detest. (But I'm not sure that would be considered a symptom of autism :-))
I've never learned to add or subtract properly. I add things up using set patterns in my head - I count in sixes.
I also edit manuscripts for authors. Without training I appear to be a natural at it. I find myself much much more eloquent in writing than in speech as I have the time to compose my responses. Often when I speak I forget a word and come to a grinding halt. This distresses me considerably and I feel traumatised by it.
I avoid talking on the phone when ever possible. I have an irrational dislike of it.
I can mull things over for so long that people think I have forgotten or am being rude.
Intimate or emotional conversation is very difficult as I often come up with a blank as things take so long to process and then express in a suitable way. This causes significant distress in my relationships where it appears that I don't care - but I truly don't know what to say.
Communicating emotions or feelings never feels right, it's like I never really know what I'm feeling. I am forever conflicted and find it very difficult to access my feelings particularly when under the stress of being forced to respond to someone. I just want to run a mile and although I make every effort to stay with it, nothing changes. The greatest complaint from my partner is that I'm not here.
I can't sleep with synthetic fibre bedding of any sort and I can't wear wool clothing. I find it excruciatingly unbearable.
I've only ever had one or two friends at a time, I can't handle more as I feel overwhelmed.
I was a slow learner when it came to reading as a child.
This forum is supportive and full of knowledgeable people. I can see you've had otehr responses. It is a question that is often asked so you could also search the forum (search tool at the top of page) for posts about ‘obtaining a formal diagnosis’ or ‘adult diagnosis of ASD’.
In the meantime, you might find the following links useful:
NAS All About Diagnosis: http://www.autism.org.uk/about/diagnosis.aspx
Furthermore, it is important the professional you see has experience of autism spectrum disorders. You can find details of diagnostic services on our Autism Services Directory in the Assessment and diagnosis section: http://www.autism.org.uk/directory.aspx
You may like to have a look at the following page which includes personal accounts, which may help: http://www.autism.org.uk/about/adult-life/stories.aspx
It might also be useful to pass on information about autism to health professionals when seeking a diagnosis. The following page includes information for a range of health professionals: http://www.autism.org.uk/Working-with/Health.aspx
If you have further questions, you may like to contact our Autism Helpline team. They can provide you with information and advice about getting a diagnosis. You can call them on 0808 800 4104 (Monday to Thursday 10am to 4pm, Friday 9am to 3pm). Please note that the Helpline is experiencing a high volume of calls and it may take a couple of attempts before you get through to speak to an advisor.
The NHS also has some pages about Autism Diagnosis for Adults: https://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/Autism/Pages/Diagnosisinadults.aspx
The Royal College of General Practitioners' autism page: http://www.rcgp.org.uk/ASD
And ASD Toolkit: http://www.rcgp.org.uk/clinical-and-research/resources/toolkits/asd-toolkit.aspx
Hope this helps,