The Long Journey
By Emily Elsworth | Published on February 23, 2021 | 9 Minute Read
I have always been an anxious person and have found navigating through daily life to be a challenge.
Going to school was something that I found to be really difficult. I would get extremely upset when my mum dropped me off and in the early days would play on my own with one toy. Whilst I was slowly able to make friends, I still struggled with school life. At playtimes, I would far rather stay inside and help the teacher with jobs than go outside into the loud and busy playground.
The biggest challenge for me was the transition from Infant school to Junior school and Junior school to High school. At the time none of my teachers really understood the reasons why I found this transition as hard as I did. When I started at high school, my Head of Year suggested that the reason why I struggled with school could be because I was having panic attacks.
I was therefore referred to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS). This was the start of a long journey with CAMHS where I tried a variety of therapies that had little to no impact.
At the same time as this, I was becoming very aware that I was different to the other children around but just didn’t understand why. I would often tell my mum that having to get up every morning, put a smile on my face and pretending everything was fine was exhausting but I didn’t know how else to cope at school.
At 19, I started University to train as a Primary School teacher and again my mental health started to decline. This time I started Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), which took place throughout most of my first year. I also had the support of one tutor, who I am still in touch with today. If it wasn’t for her and my mum, I definitely would not have completed my degree.
Throughout my degree, I completed multiple autism awareness courses. During these sessions, I started to see some traits that definitely described my experiences. However, all the examples given were boys which meant I never questioned whether I could be autistic.
Throughout my degree, I completed multiple autism awareness courses. During these sessions, I started to see some traits that definitely described my experiences.
I have worked in museums and schools since leaving University, working within Education departments, delivering school workshops and supporting children with their learning. However, I have been unable to stay for a long time in these jobs due to experiencing what I now know to be burnout. I was unable to cope with last minute changes, struggled when things didn’t go to plan and found social situations with colleagues hard to navigate.
Eventually in December 2019, I had an assessment with my local Community Mental Health Team (CMHT). They realised that there was likely to be another reason for my difficulties and why usual treatment methods had been unsuccessful and suggested autism. Upon doing my own research, I realised that being autistic would explain a lot of the difficulties I have experienced and referred myself to the diagnostic service.
Finally in November 2020, at the age of 27, I was given the diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and potential Dyspraxia. When they gave me the news, I just felt an overwhelming sense of relief, I finally had answers to all the questions that had gone unanswered throughout my whole life.
Since my diagnosis, I am passionate about raising awareness of autism, especially in women and girls, in the hope that others don’t have to wait as long as I did to receive a diagnosis and receive the support they need.
I still have my struggles but I am now receiving help that I am able to access and am finally starting to feel better about myself. I no longer feel like I have to medicate against myself and am positive about the future. I am extremely grateful to my family and friends who have and continue to support me.
About the Author
I was recently diagnosed with ASD and potential Dyspraxia. Receiving my diagnosis has made me realise that more needs to be done to raise awareness of autism in women and girls so that they can receive the support they need earlier.