Autism and Mental Health
By Lindsey Bridges| Published on March 25, 2021 | 11 Minute Read
Being a mother is all about learning strengths you never knew you had and dealing with fears you didn’t even know existed.
When Lauren was diagnosed with Autism at the age of 17 years old, I have to admit, it didn’t come as a surprise. Lauren was always different. She would much rather play on her own or with an adult in her early years. When she started school she was unable to talk whilst there except for a few special people, so I guess that’s when her selective mutism began. I dislike the title selective autism though, it suggests that being unable to talk is a choice, which it absolutely isn’t. Lauren was physically unable, due to her anxiety being so severe. As the years went on she became very rigid with her thinking and would get extremely upset if things didn’t go to plan or, people turned up at the house unexpectedly.
When Lauren started secondary school she struggled. She didn’t like change and would cry most days going into school. She was always keen to do well and would study so hard in the evenings, mainly because when she was at school she would switch off because her anxiety was so bad. Lauren would come home and study until the early hours of the morning so she can teach herself everything that she missed during lessons.
Unfortunately the stress of school was too much for Lauren, the noise, the hustle and bustle and the desire to achieve her own expectations led Lauren to start self harming. By this time OCD had kicked in and taken over her life. Lauren was unable to go to school or leave the house on her own. Her bedtime routine took 3-4 hours, the checking of switches, the unlocking and locking of doors, lining shoes up, checking for trip hazards, cleaning herself over and over again. It was heartbreaking to watch. Despite Lauren not being able to go to school she excelled in her GCSES scoring top marks for everything. She was accepted into sixth form and had chosen all chemistry, physics and biology and Religious education as her A levels.
"Being a mother is all about learning strengths you never knew you had and dealing with fears you didn’t even know existed."
The beginning of sixth form was when our world fell apart. Lauren couldn’t cope with the huge change and took an overdose which devastated the family. I was so saddened that she felt the need to end her life because she couldn’t live with her anxiety and ocd any longer. She was riddled with it. At the point Lauren went into a Cahms psychiatric unit voluntarily in the hope that they could help her overcome her problems. It was then that she was diagnosed with Autism. Looking back I wonder to myself why I hadn’t noticed this before, especially as my youngest son is autistic. I wonder had I spotted the signs earlier, could I have prevented all of this. Lauren is now 19 years old. She’s been in and out of hospital since she was 17 with little to no help at all. From our perspective, there is very little understanding and acceptance of autism and mental health both in the community and by the professionals in an inpatient setting.
We are lucky that Lauren has a placement in a psychiatric ward where they are able to cater for her autistic needs, but it’s taken us until now to get there. Autism and mental health is real. It’s happening. There should be more support available for our children and young adults in the community so that hospitalisation can be avoided. Early intervention is vital to avoid situations where your child has to be admitted to hospital. If there was more support available when we first asked for it when Lauren was 14 I believe things would never have got so bad. Being an inpatient has robbed me of my daughter, my son of his sister, my parents of their granddaughter and most importantly it has taken away Laurens life. She has picked up behaviours from other patients and is now far worse than she ever was at home. I pray for the day Lauren can come home where she belongs.
About the Author
I’m Lauren's mum, Lindsey