A Life with Autism by Rebekah Gillian
This week we have a guest feature by Rebekah Gillian. Rebekah is a blogger who writes about her experiences with autism, her interests, and hobbies. We asked Rebekah some questions, to give us an insight to what her life with autism is like.
At what age were you diagnosed with autism and how did you find out?
I found out I was autistic at 17-years-old. This was after going through the same assessment process any child or teenager in my local authority has to go through. It was suggested as something I might have from around 12-years-old. Though I didn’t allow myself to believe it until I was sat in the room. The woman who told me actually said I showed ‘classic traits’, which surprised me considering my age at the time of diagnosis.
Since your diagnosis, is autism what you ever thought it was?
No. I think my views of autism prior to my own diagnosis were very stereotypical. This was based on the limited experience I had of the condition. After my diagnosis, however, I was committed to researching it. And I’ve since discovered that it’s a lot more complex than I once thought. I also thought it was a very negative disability. But I’ve since learnt that’s not the case, even if at times, it can be frustrating.
Do you feel that you received the right support?
There’s such an emphasis on getting people the diagnosis they need. Especially in my local area, as there isn’t much support. While I feel that services have tried their best to help, there simply aren’t the resources needed to give the right help to everyone who needs it. I hope that as awareness about autism continues, provisions to support those of us on the other side of the diagnosis are improved.
Does autism ever control anything in your life?
Autism describes everything I am. So it’s inevitable that it controls my life. The sensory issues associated with it can be frustrating and control what I can and can’t do at times, especially when it comes to eating out and the time it takes me to complete certain tasks. I’m also very ritualistic, which can mean I’m unable to complete certain tasks or may take longer to do them than neurotical people might.
Do you communicate with many other autistic people and share your experiences?
Yes, to both—and I think it’s so helpful. If I have a question or annoyance about something, I can share this with people who understand where I’m coming from and I know they’ll get it, instead of saying it to a stranger and receiving unwanted pity or sympathy. However, I must admit I do this more online than in real life. I also share my experiences of autism over at rebekahgillian.co.uk. I’ve used this platform to raise awareness and understanding in the last couple of years.
Does anyone in your family have autism?
Yes. My older brother is autistic. My younger brother has traits, and I have another sibling currently going through the diagnostic process. My parents would also agree that they present with traits. Although neither have seen the need to seek a full diagnosis.
What advice would you give to someone who’s recently been diagnosed with autism?
Breathe. It’s likely you’ll have a whole host of stereotypical ideas floating around in your head following a diagnosis. But the reality of autism is different.
A diagnosis doesn’t change who you are. In a lot of cases, it answers questions you’ve probably had about yourself for a while. It’s tempting to go straight into researching autism. But be careful. It isn’t difficult to overdo it and become overwhelmed with information that may never apply to your situation.
Another piece of advice I have is to get involved in the autism community online, who often use the #actuallyautistic tag on social media. This is a safe space exclusively for autistic people to ask questions, share concerns and successes with one another. I’m sure there are similar tags for parents and carers of newly diagnosed autistic people, too.
Thank you to Rebekah for giving us an insight to her life with autism. You can visit her blog here.