My path to a proper formal diagnosis was a long and winding one, which unfortunately seems to be a hallmark for many autistic people. At that time I was exhibiting several unexplained severe symptoms. 3 major ones where:
- Extraordinary sensory challenges; my already abnormally low threshold sensitivity to noises, lights, smells, etc. went up the roof at that time.
- Adrenal insufficiency and weakness.
- Unbearable physical pain in my neck, which radiated down my left shoulder and back, to the point of limping at times of acute stress.
I lived the first 23 years of my life in France, at that time not many people knew about autism. To be honest I still am nowadays very glad that I was not diagnosed as a child as thus I was not put away in an institution, and I was given the opportunity to build an independent life.
It is ironic that it took another 23 years, exactly the same number, for me to be diagnosed in United States! To explain this in a nutshell, I never had much money nor proper health insurance and none of the traditional clinics were equipped for people like me –they often thought I was imagining my discomforts and often dismissed or treated me poorly. They certainly did not guess that I needed to see a neurologist, and I myself was yet ignorant of what autism is. 46 years is an extended period of time and long term damage resulted: around 2010 when I was clearly and obviously becoming quite ill, 4 things precipitated the event:
- I fainted in front of a welfare case worker and they sensed that something was amiss and had me evaluated by their own psychologist and experts.
- After this painful process was over (because by that time, each time I had to go in public the pain was terrible), they figured I should be enrolled in social security disability and they helped me do that.
- After having been on SSD for two years, the recipient is automatically enrolled in Medicare and so then I finally had a health insurance that allowed me to see a specialist.
- By that time I was just too ill to be able to advocate for myself and I was no longer able to go out alone so a Zen priest friend of mine took me to see a good neurologist. He finally diagnosed me and provided proper treatment. And a serious Zen meditation practice unexpectedly brought about a slow and steady revival.
The most apparent is the medication I started to take after being correctly diagnosed, unexpectedly helped me finally be able to sleep. I take it at night in a small dose and it is like an anchor for me the rest of the time.
However, what I really believe to be the underlying cause of all the improvements in my life is my daily intense Zen practice. I started 17 years ago and since then it never ceased to get me back on the proper track. It does not work directly, so it can be easily disregarded, but I know in my deep self how it allows the things that really help to come to me. Continue reading