In my old town, I felt hopeless and useless, working for the takeaway doing delivery driving part time and suffering out of control depression and exhaustion, I also started working for Neighbourcare, a charity that helps old and infirm people with things, I worked as a gardener for them but felt too shy of the customers, too lacking in confidence and struggling with paperwork that I had to do each time I did a garden. It was a time of complete and utter wretchedness for me. Deep depression and exhaustion.
I was taken to the Maudsley Hospital in London by the Hypochondriac couple, and after a day of tests that exhausted me, I was diagnosed as being on the autistic spectrum and also as suffering from Social phobia and depression, I was put on an anti-depressant called venaflaxine and I think this was suggested to the doctors by the hypochondriacs when they were interviewed about their views on me, as one of them took venaflaxine, but unfortunately it didn’t work for me, it made my blood pressure go wrong and made me feel ill.
I was also referred for psychiatry and it was recommended that I had behavioural therapy, the psychiatry didn’t seem to achieve anything constructive and so it drifted away, behavioural therapy was as impossible to get as anger management, being not available on the NHS and too expensive privately and hardly available privately in Hampshire at all, I tried really really hard to climb these barriers, and failed, I applied for funding, I asked charities, I asked the newspaper, I asked for reduced fees, I asked the Maudsley to help, but to no avail, so I was alone, alone with the shock of being diagnosed and knowing that my problem was not just trauma, but a lifelong condition that meant I would always be alone, misunderstood and struggling. My friendship with the hypochondriac couple was breaking down anyway, which also added to my problems. The maudsley also got me to go back for a brain scan, I went alone and for all that trouble, stress and expense I was never given the results.
I really want to know if the scan showed brain damage, as that is a possibility and if only I knew, I could get more help and get better.
In a way though, the diagnosis allowed me to step into my skin and to stop being just ‘awkward’, ‘troublemaker’ and everything else I was called, I was autistic and living independently and working and looking after myself as best I could. But people never have stopped misunderstanding me and being angry and upset with me, even when I put every ounce of my effort into trying to be ‘normal’ and trying to do the right things. The autistic disorder is a life sentence really.
(Although I have come to realise that what helps keep an even keel is a great deal of solitude)
The relationship with the hypochondriac couple was breaking down, they took me to local mental health services in order to try and help further before they obviously planned to abandon me, and I didn’t know how to sustain or end a friendship then,
But the mental health services said I didn’t appear to meet their criteria at all and autism wasn’t a mental illness and so I should just read a book, I cannot remember what book, I only remember that the woman we spoke to was hiding behind her hair and wouldn’t even look at us, and that the hypochondriac man stayed behind to talk to her without my permission to talk about me, and I wandered off in distress and got lost.
The hypochondriac couple themselves had some sort of mental health problems, the man had had a breakdown at work before retiring, I think he said he was bullied, but I am not positive, but he had been reliant on anti-depressants for years, his wife had some sort of social anxiety disorder and told me at one point that my way of going out and helping in the church and community helped her to have confidence to want to do more, which is nice, but I should have known better to have let this fragile couple get so involved, it hurt them, it hurt me, and here I am condemned for it. I carry all the condemnation for everything, and no one else does.
Anyway, a few stressed wars of words and a few letters ended my relationship with the hypochondriacs, I paid them back some money and I saw them sometimes after that and never wanted to speak to them, at one point they greeted me and this was while I was on the stronger meds and I didn’t recognise them, but they weren’t the only ones I didn’t recognise, my memory for people and faces faded a bit when I was on the meds Jill Lihou had me put on on condition that she would supervise the situation, I didn’t recognise (another couple) either.
JM went on her sabbatical, starting in a quiet cottage somewhere, without FM, just her and the dog, she kept her phone with her and on and gave me her number so I could ring her, which surprised me, and was kind of her. No-one else had her mobile number apart from her family, she didn’t usually use a mobile.
JM took me to New Zealand, but it was a struggle, there were tensions between us because of the unresolved FM issue and JM determinedly telling me it was six of one and half a dozen of the other, New Zealand was a hell of a shock for an autistic person, probably the most drastic change of scene and routine I could have had, and we were stressed with each other, but we had fun and adventures, but I felt guilty all the time that I was so anxious and stressed that it cannot have been much fun for JM, it still hurts my heart that she really meant it well, but I was unsettled as anyone autistic is when they have such a big change of scenery, and to make it worse I had the worst set of flashbacks ever while we were there, I wondered if JM thought I had gone insane.
When we met up with her friends there she obviously told them something unhelpful because they treated me extremely gingerly and I felt unwelcome. JM has always been the master of emphatic concrete and totally incorrect pronouncements about me, which had been alienating me from the minute I first came to the Church of England.