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Now what?

I always knew what to do, until now! says Andreia (not her real name). Not that I haven't had difficulties, I have had many! she continues. But I managed to overcome them, although in my own way! she says. But now I confess that I don't know, and I have never found myself in this situation and it is very difficult for me! concludes.


Andreia, who is 31 years old, found out last week that she had been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Actually, it wasn't just last week, because for a long time she had suspected that something was wrong with her. That you were different from the vast majority of people you met and had around you in your life. When she was a teenager she had even filled in some online questionnaires, which she recently discovered are the same ones used to track autism spectrum behaviours.


But Andreia moved on. School was always a challenging process, even if some people thought otherwise. This is because Andreia was not giving trouble at school. At least, not in the way they typically seem to happen. But they were always there, albeit steeped in Andreia's silence. She was not a bright student. She was what might be considered an average student, even though one might believe that she has many more skills than she shows. She always did what she was told to do, for better or for worse. This is because some classmates throughout the school years used this against Andreia and massacred her, in what she later found out was called bullying. Andreia simply did not understand why people were like that to her. Besides she didn't believe that what she did would make any difference or change. She never felt that anything coming out of her had caused any change. And so, the effort that he thought he could make and that would not have any kind of return for him, meant that he never did anything, either in relation to this or to a whole other set of important things in his life.


After all these years, he cannot believe how someone could so easily tell him that he has a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder. No one had ever said anything to him before, let alone anything like that. She had been told that she was shy, very shy, strangely shy and that she rarely talked to people, let alone about herself. But she was never told anything more than that. There were doctors and psychologists who told the parents that this would pass with the transition to adolescence and later that it would pass with the exit from adolescence. But nothing happened, neither with one change nor the other, and Andreia is an adult woman, even if she does not consider herself as such. Although the explanations she was given and others she heard and picked up from here and there did not make much sense to her. What is certain is that the repetition of many of these explanations led her to believe that there was some truth in them and as such she also began to believe some of them or at least she did not even try to contradict them.


And the same happened to the fact that she had difficulty in knowing how to choose what she would like to do. Or spending most of her time in detention doing her own thing in her room or in a place she considered appropriate to be. Not that Andreia wasn't interacting with other people, because she was. Mainly when they told her to come with them. That is, if any colleague for some reason understood that she could or wanted to invite Andreia to come and do something, she did not refuse. This seemed to be a strong and consistent characteristic of her, not to deny herself, which caused her a lot of problems.


Or what about her eating peculiarities. What was always called Andreia's weirdness and was systematically referred to as having taken after her father and paternal grandfather, both already deceased. But as she always managed to eat something, even if only at a cost and with the insistence of her mother and later the teacher, they never insisted on exploring what it could be. And later on Andreia managed to find a way of continuing to eat a diet that met her needs and conformed to a specific diet, something that did not arouse any further suspicion.


The more you ask Andreia, because she did not have the habit of talking about herself spontaneously, because she did not see much interest in it and did not believe that others felt the same, it was necessary to ask her. But Andreia answered, she didn't deny herself, as was her habit.


And now she was told that all this is called Autism Spectrum Disorder. It was as if a new world had opened in front of her. And if on the one hand it was a relief, on the other hand it was also a flood.


Andreia's story is the story of many other women, but also of men who discover their diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder as adults. And that after twenty-five years, thirty-two years, forty-six years or more, they feel they need to relearn how to live, how to understand themselves, how to understand others and the world. But they also learn how angry they can get about the fact that no one has ever told them anything, even though they have asked the questions a lot. And how important it is now also to accept, and especially to accept themselves.



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