Three months ago, at the age of 40, I was diagnosed with autism. Initially I was classified as having visual stress syndrome and auditory processing disorder. In other words, too much stimulation like bright lights and lots of different noises can cause my brain to shut down – there’s no filter and I can’t process all the information. These symptoms, as well as a difficulty in social situations, led to a diagnosis of autism.
What does autism feel like? It’s often described as ‘like waking up in a foreign country every day’. Every day my brain has to re-process all of the information coming in and make sense of it. Every change in environment, every new room or change in lighting can have a big impact. In extreme environments like noisy pubs my mind just switches off and it can take days to recover.
The response to my diagnosis from CGL has been really positive, supportive and respectful. Autism is a foundation of my identity now – I think it’s brilliant! This diagnosis is an opportunity to restart my life in a very different place.
I’m promoting World Autism Awareness Week on behalf of all our staff and service users that are diagnosed or undiagnosed. This is an opportunity to look at your colleagues and peers with a fresh eye, become more aware of the people around you and acknowledge that we’re all different, and we’re all unique.
Jean is CGL's National Programme Manager - she has been working at the charity for 14 years.
Find out more about World Autism Awareness Week here.