(Content Warning – talking about mental health and self diagnosis, specifically mentioning ADHD, ASD, CPTSD, Depression also referencing suicide ideation)
I keep seeing pro-self-diagnosis and vehemently anti self diagnosis things up on Facebook, Twitter and TikTok, hell The Comic Satyr even referenced me in their tweet about it.
Originally I was very pro-self-diagnosis because there’s a lot of people in the Autistic community who have struggled to get official diagnosis because they didn’t fit the stereotype and couldn’t afford to go private. The thing about self-diagnosis in the autistic community is it gives you a reason why you don’t do things “properly” and you struggle with the usual trajectories of life. It often gives you insight into where you can find more people like you – loneliness is something that autistic people frequently struggle with. It gives you a start point.
I am still pro that type of self diagnosis where you put the research in, where you identify and try to figure out how to manage life long conditions.
But lately, and maybe this is my autistic lack of humour (please assume sarcasm), I keep seeing things along the lines of “I can’t do x, y or z” because of my ADHD. Now sure, if it’s “I can’t sleep because of my ADHD” then that makes sense, you can try to get into a good medication schedule and it’ll often help with sleep – honestly you can self medicate with a caffeinated drink before bed and that might help. But the key word there is might. However, when it’s more complex things – things you can strategise around, then… well you know it’s the ADHD at root of this so that’s when you look for the strategies to enable you to, oh I don’t know, get to appointments on time, retain information, that kind of thing. It’s like you decide a symptom is ADHD and then stop.
The thing is, that’s like deciding an elderly relative has dementia without getting a GP to check they don’t have a UTI. I have a lot of overlapping symptoms. And I have the bad habit of trusting professionals over my own gut. Which I know is ridiculous to say given that this is the part of my argument against self-diagnosis. But the thing is, if you decide that your lack of executive function is down to ASD but you’re ignoring when it gets worse and better then maybe you’re forgetting that it could be down to CPTSD and could potentially be treated.
Front line medical care is so fucking focused on quick fixes – it’s a lot easier to shove someone on sertraline and tell them they have Anxiety and Depression rather than get them referred to a psychiatrist to check out any complex issues they might be having. This is the case even if the person is actively suicidal because then you’re shoved hurriedly into one size fits all CBT and if you’ve got ASD the likelihood is that this won’t work for you.
So if you’re like me you try to apply all the things and assume that it’s probably my fault that the strategies aren’t working. Or at least that tends to be my first guess rather than trying to tease out what is and isn’t working and why that might be. And it’s hard and there’s a lot of getting it totally wrong as you apply the solution for one thing to something that is actually to do with something else. I guess my point is that self diagnosis is the first step and there comes a point when if it’s complicated you’ve got to get yourself beyond the frontline of the NHS. That’s not set up for anything other than Depression and Anxiety, once you’ve got trauma in there and neurological conditions then everything they’re telling you lacks nuance and you feel like you’re wrong to be doing what works or a failure when you’re doing what they tell you works but it doesn’t on you.
I guess it would be easier to decide that such and such a symptom is ADHD and sit back and go “well I have an explanation,” rather than try to work with it. I just, I want my life back rather than for everything to explode into nothingness.