Imagine having one doctor for every five people in a community.
Imagine living in a community
Imagine having to wait minutes to hours, maximum, to get check ups, medication or just some professional medical advice or reassurance.
Imagine having a ‘black dog’ day, but having someone check up on you hourly, someone else cook your meals or provide you with vitamins when you simply can’t face eating.
Imagine getting something to ‘take the edge off’ while you lay catatonic.
Now imagine losing it all in one go.
Imagine the loneliness.
Psychiatric wards can be noisy places. The other patients can be scary; you spend thirty years trying to learn what ‘normal’ is then all of a sudden you’re not in Kansas anymore.
I’ve been in Oz for five months now, and I’ve no intention of clicking my heels. Just the thought of going back to my home sends me into a panic attack.
My flat is quieter, full of comforts, my collection of ‘special interest paraphernalia . But I can’t go back there. I prefer it here, with the slamming and shouting. Here I feel safer.
Once upon a time I was a teacher. I taught autistic children. I didn’t know I was autistic until then.
For some people the realisation is empowering. For me, it made me feel like that sense I always had, that I was special, was really just me refusing to face the fact I had special needs… so I had a breakdown. I couldn’t accept myself the way I accepted everyone else with autism. My autism wasn’t a difference; in my mind it was a failure.
Five years on from my diagnosis, which I had to struggle two years to obtain, here I am in a mental health ward, trying to differentiate between what is neurological difference, and acceptable, and what is mental illness developed (I believe) due to late diagnosis.
Diagnosis empowered me legally but it disabled me emotionally. My anxiety became perpetual. Every interaction with a person is social and my social brain doesn’t work like most people’s. It’s not ‘normal’.
I’m terrified of being discharged.
I dream of a world where doctors and nurses make up ninety percent of the work force and healthcare is valued over stoicism; keep calm if you can but get help when you need it.
I’m one of the lucky ones too.
Diagnosis helped me get support, helped me get a home and the chance to go to a rehabilitation centre where I hope to learn how to function socially, something I missed out on at school, where I knew I was different and, like so many others, I spent as much of my time bunking off, sleeping through lessons or just taking drugs to get by.
Surviving my ward experience has been a battle I never thought I could face. It has been hard. I have become overloaded so many times; I’ve beaten my face to a pulp and split my head open over and over again. But I don’t want to go. The security of being surrounded by healthcare experts is too comforting.
We NEED more.
We have some many people and so few doctors and nurses by comparison. They should be lauded as heroes but instead the government keeps cutting their funding and making it so other people won’t get as lucky as me. They are effectively euthanizing autistic people through ineffective diagnosis.
There is no harm in assessing someone , and parents need go realise this too, if your kid isn’t autistic they won’t get diagnosed; if they are they need to be.
I have no solutions to offer, just this ramble of thoughts but, hopefully, in the future, once I have been rehabilitated, and deinstitutionalised, I will.
For now all I can say is if you think you’re autistic, you probably are, and fight for your right to be diagnosed.
And then become a doctor.