Once I was attending a grammar school for secondary school everything became immensely more challenging. The pressure to perform well academically, as well as my anxiety surrounding it increased exponentially as I continued to attend the school.
Meeting a good friend who had similar (near identical) differences and anxieties to myself began to make me think about the autism diagnosis, as my friend had an Asperger’s diagnosis.
This all came to a head when I had to have weekly meetings with a member of the mental health team at the school due to other things. She very soon phoned my mum, adamantly telling her that even though she had only known me for a short period of time my autism was blatantly obvious. Unfortunately, my mum completely recoiled at the possibility of this and just said ‘no’ even to the basic suggestion.
This event sent me into a year that was perpetually more difficult than any other I had faced up to that point. I was completely stuck without my diagnosis and I didn’t believe that I could talk to my family about it. My friend from the previous years had left to attend university and so I felt completely stranded with nowhere to turn. The number of panic attacks, sensory overloads and times I had to leave class grew with every passing week.
Eventually however I found two friends, who also had autism diagnoses. They helped me immensely whilst I was struggling that year, talking to me often and helping me to deal with some of my problems. One of the main things that we discussed was my inability to discuss my diagnosis with my parents, as this would prevent me from going to see a doctor. If I asked to go to a doctor on my own it would undoubtedly be met with immediate scrutiny and interrogation, and my parents were my only mode of transport to the doctors at the time.
Luckily one of my friends lived very nearby the school, and we agreed that a few of our friends would go round to her house on Wednesdays after school to have ‘Board Game Night’. However, the first Board Game Night was not in fact spent playing board games, it was an excuse for me to stay with my friends after school when a councillor came.
During that first session I was so scared that I sat cross legged on a filing cabinet, slightly away from the other three in the room, my two friends and their councillor (Mrs L). We talked for over an hour that evening about most of the things that I was struggling with. It was a wonderful feeling after so many months of internal torment that I was able to speak my mind so clearly to her.
I will never forget what my brother said when I came home from that evening. He told me that he had not seen me properly smile in a long time and that he was happy to see me so happy.
Next time: Teachers weren’t surprised when I said I was transgender