AS A nurse in the Maryborough (Queensland) Hospital Rehabilitation ward, I looked after people recovering from strokes. One sunny day I was attending a patient when another nurse pulled me aside and asked if I had autism.
Looking at her with a strange, bewildered look on my face I replied NO and then asked her why she thought that. She said that some of my behaviour seemed to represent symptoms of autism.
At home that afternoon after work I had a chat with Mum. The next day I started looking for a psychologist and found one who had experience with autism/Asperger’s. Chatting with her on several occasions felt like chatting with an old friend.
The impact autism has had on my life and mental health was confronting but it all made sense, especially about how, even now, I struggle with listening to conversation in a room full of people and noise. Hell, I jump at plates being put away into the cupboard in the kitchen or sirens on the street or even my mum sneezing.
It took me years to be able to talk about autism without shaking or crying.
The biggest impact was on my family who struggled to understand my odd behaviour or sayings. I tend to blurt out something during conversations which has nothing to do with what is being said. Now my family know I’m not just weird.
'Reading about autism was like reading my life story.'
I knew what autism was and having an official diagnosis enabled me to modify my behaviour to fit into society. This included looking people in the eyes, controlling my meltdowns, which can be like a volcano exploding, and driving long distances (to Castlemaine) without having panic attacks.
I still have contact with my psychologist here in Wonthaggi which has helped me a lot and it also helps to have a very understanding family. Family! Their strong support has been vital to me growing and developing into the woman I am today.
I got my first car in 2013. Before then I rode motorbikes. Motorbikes were my freedom and, in some ways, my mental health outlet. When I couldn’t get to sleep or I was tossing and turning in bed I would jump onto my bike at two in the morning and go for a ride and that was enough to relax my mind and body so I could sleep.
I no longer ride due to medical issues. Now I have an art corner in my shed where I paint (acrylic, spray paint, charcoal) and have surprised myself when I create an amazing painting.
I’ve recently taken a shine to photography and have joined the photography and friendship group ‘Thru the Lens’ at Bass Coast Adult Learning. I must admit I’m starting to make a name for myself with paid assignments and entering an exhibition at the Goods Shed. This has been quite a surprise. I absolutely enjoy going to this group.
The other thing that’s helping me become an active member of society is music, which soothes my soul. These days I concentrate on the alto saxophone and clarinet but at one stage I was playing six instruments: violin, flute, baritone horn, cornet, alto saxophone and clarinet.
So this is my brief story about how diagnosis and knowledge have changed and improved my life and me as an adult living with autism.
Sometimes knowledge is power.