Change can be terrifying. That first step into the unknown can take your breath away and leave you wondering why you ever left the comfort of normalcy in the first place.
If there is anything I’ve learned in 2020, it is that change is necessary to grow. Being a slave to a repetitive routine that doesn’t serve your wellbeing is a sure way to fall victim to inevitable burnout. It’s like keeping your head above water while the fast currents of life drag you along for the ride.
This year, I have made the decision to say, “No more.” I’m learning to find my voice and seek out the change I need to fully become who I was designed to be.
This is the year that I ask for help.
Seeking a Diagnosis
That first step towards change for me was to contact my primary doctor and ask them to be referred to someone who specializes in SPD and autism in adult women. Seeking a potential diagnosis as an adult isn’t an easy task. It is both expensive and nearly impossible to find a doctor who recognizes that women display autism differently than males. You can learn more about those differences here: https://taniaannmarshall.wordpress.com
My primary doctor referred me to a psychiatrist and during this appointment it quickly became apparent that this NP didn’t have a lot of knowledge about autism in females or adults in general. I was told that because I was able to have a conversation and appeared intelligent that it wasn’t worth pursuing a diagnosis.
I became frozen. For what felt like the millionth time in my life, I was once again left with more questions than answers. My emotions flooded over me and it was a struggle to even continue with the appointment. I did what I normally do and shut down, hiding everything and simply went along with the conversation. It’s like being shoved in the backseat of a car that is way too small for an adult while the driver goes where they please, not seeming to notice your discomfort.
Afterwards, I cried. I had spent so much energy into deciding to take this step just to be abruptly shut down and made to feel like I wasn’t even worth someone’s time. I began to wonder why I was putting myself through all this discomfort. Maybe I should just accept the answer that I was just an anxious person and give up.
However, giving up isn’t in my DNA. Not only am I curious, I’m stubborn. I refused to just leave this as it was. I started this year making changes, and I wasn’t about to stop until I had the answers I need.
That is when I discovered Dr. Natalie Engelbrecht from Embrace ASD. Not only did Dr. Engelbrecht offer assessments and diagnosis for adults with autism, but she is autistic herself. It didn’t take me long at all to decide to go forward with the assessment with her.
Less than a week later, I got my report back. The first few lines read: Suspected Diagnosis: Autism Spectrum Disorder.
While I did cry after reading this report, it wasn’t like before. This time, I was heard. This time, someone took the time to read through my struggles and validate that I’m not weird, or crazy, or another forgotten statistic.
For the first time I felt like I could say, “I am autistic and I no longer have to pretend to be anything I’m not.”
The second step I took was to finally speak up at my place of work about something that has been slowly degrading my physical and mental well-being. My current environment isn’t friendly at all to someone who struggles with Sensory Processing Disorder. I suppose I’ve always held this internal fear that I’d be looked down on if I spoke up and asked for anything that could help.
While my request hit a dead-end, I feel proud to have been able to take this step. Companies around the world have a long way to go when it comes to accommodating and including neurodivergent adults. My goal as an entrepreneur is to become an advocate for those just like me who feel unheard in the corporate world.
The third step I will be taking this year is to make a plan to become fully self-employed. In fact, at the time of writing this article, the process has already been put in motion.
I put in my two weeks notice to my current full time-employer and will be starting my new chapter as being self-employed on March 11.
I can’t pretend that this change has been easy. From the moment I was hired for an amazing freelance opportunity, to making the decision to resign from my full-time job, to working my last few days at this job, I’ve been plagued with intense and crippling anxiety. Mornings are usually the worst. I feel like a wave of adrenaline washes through my chest, arms, and legs. My stomach is in knots and my heart feels like it could burst from my chest. At times, I can’t breathe and it is a fight to make myself get out of bed. This anxiety isn’t just your average “general anxiety”, it’s like that feeling you get on a rollercoaster suddenly being dropped multiple feet. Only with this, you just keep dropping and it leaves you too shaken to even function.
I’ve been working in this corporate environment for 8 years. While I’m excited for this change in my career and for what the future could hold, this abrupt change is a complete shock to my system. I’ll miss hearing my co-workers laughs and conversations. I’ll miss the comfort of a steady job and routine. I’ll miss the security of a predictable paycheck. However, I also know this new path offers me freedom. Freedom to set my own schedule. Freedom to explore my talents and special interests. Freedom to control the environment in which I work.
This new journey is going to be an adventure of a lifetime.
TIP: One thing that is helping me plan and stay on top of my goals is by using a planner. While I love using apps for to-do lists, there is something I enjoy even more about using a physical planner. This is the one I have been using: https://amzn.to/2MNiZ2RRecommend0 recommendationsPublished in Neurodiversity