“I was diagnosed with autism at the age of 60”: The experience of a BBC journalist

“I was diagnosed with autism at the age of 60”: The experience of a BBC journalist

Sue Nelson was diagnosed with a life-threatening condition after covering up a coronavirus pandemic and becoming infected.

The diagnosis changed the journalist's life.
The diagnosis changed the journalist’s life.

The advent of the corovirus pandemic caused great damage to journalist Su Nelson. Exhausted after covering the crisis, he received a diagnosis that changed his life at the age of 60: he was autistic. Here is his story:

In January, while recovering from Covid, I was given another diagnosis.

Symptoms first appeared in childhood. They just no one knew. There is also no medical equivalent to a rapid test for this condition. It requires a Expert evaluation Combine behavioral puzzles, using pieces from separate puzzles, to suddenly create a new image.

This explains why I was not asked a Chronic developmental failure Up to 60 years.

I’m autistic.

Not surprisingly, too much to cultivate. It means, in common parlance, that I’m on the spectrum“. Or that I am a neurodiver. A “different” thinker.

I’m the woman without voice control who probably interrupted your conversation because the thought exploded in my head and immediately fell out of my mouth. A woman is so cruelly honest that she can be remembered rudely. One who was overly fascinated by space stamps or wildflowers and went on to tell stories of occult women. Who neither kept silent nor missed anything.

The doctor said I was the oldest person to be diagnosed. But while many adults say they feel empowered after a late diagnosis of autism, I am not among them. At least not yet. My initial response was a mixture of shock and embarrassment.

Delayed diagnosis can mean revisiting life from a new perspective.
Delayed diagnosis can mean revisiting life from a new perspective.

I felt broken.

After being diagnosed, I have been slowly shaping six decades of relationships, actions, and behaviors through this new and alternative lens. Just as a prism scatter light in a rainbow expands my understanding of how and why I behave the way I behave. It is both revealing and disturbing.

As a science journalist, I naturally conducted my own research and found that I am far from the only one. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 1% of the world’s population is in the autism spectrum.

So I’m one in 74 million.

Most people are diagnosed in childhood. And most of them will be children. According to the National Autism Society of the United Kingdom (NAS), the ratio of men to women with autism is about 3: 1, but the number of women diagnosed with autism is increasing.

Autism experts have recently realized that some girls “represent” differently from boys, and this may be the cause of diagnostic deficits in the past. Girls were evaluated based on observations of the opposite sex behavior. They did not always check the “correct” fields.

As the word spectrum suggests, autism encompasses a variety of conditions. The World Health Organization defines them as conditions that “characterize Social interaction and communication of some complexity“And other different forms of behavior” such as difficulty in moving from one activity to another, a Focus on details And unusual reactions Feelings“.

Ah, yes, the sensations …

I spend most of my time outside in sunglasses because my eyes are sensitive to bright light. Then it’s mine Strong aversion to certain textures and sounds. I once refused to go to school because the students ate too much. When I was 20, I gave up my first Japanese meal, even though I was very hungry because I drowned at the sight of the horror.

I am also not completely comfortable if someone is physically too close or “invades my body space”. I offer to disguise this awkwardness with a handshake or a smile when I meet someone new. But they can catch me. Once, when a French scientist came to kiss me on the cheek, I panicked and said quite firmly: “Step back.”

Sue Nelson says she has been observing topics such as wildflowers and space exploration.
Sue Nelson says she has been observing topics such as wildflowers and space exploration.

Then there are my oddities about colors. Do not ask why but I can not eat orange and yellow food together.

But we all have oddities, right?

In fact, in addition to almost insulting the scientist who received my hasty explanation “I am British” after failing to receive three kisses on the cheek (yes, three tormentors), None of these oddities have hindered a fairly successful career in communicationAlthough he has limited communication.

That’s because I’m sociable and talkative, I host podcasts and I can give public speeches. Unlike many autistic people, I also have no problem making eye contact.

However, behind the scenes there is pain and difficulty with autism. has It’s hard to fake an interest in a topic that I’m not interested in And I’m awful at small talk, often an important part of meeting people. This sometimes led to isolation and a strong sense of loneliness and rejection.

Before I attend or broadcast most of the event, I experience it Nervous stomach crampsI experience panic attacks and, at worst, Minor crises That there are few Witnesses beyond my husband.

As a person who makes multiple lists on a daily basis, I am also constantly worried that things may not go according to plan. I over-prepare and try to recall everything from the book I read for a three-minute interview.

Sue Nelson says many women have to "mask" autism to please the public.
Sue Nelson says many women have to “mask” autism to please the public.

Then, when the presentation relief is gone, I am inclined to retreat at the first opportunity To relax and lie down. Too much social interaction leaves you physically. This loud and talkative woman retired to greet loneliness.

But that’s obvious This is something that many women with autism usually do. We “mask” it or falsify it. Hide the inconvenience under a stunning cover And learned social behavior.

Then came the coronavirus...

I started producing a new weekly radio documentary for the BBC World Service with the station OS (external source) team. When everyone was trying to understand the new horrifying reality, the show gathered people from all over the world to share deep meaningful conversations.

Not surprisingly, many of these conversations were crude and emotional. The job requires listening to them over and over and then editing them. In the morning I repeated them in a constant loop in my head: a doctor at an Indian hospital who could not save his father from Covid. Loneliness shared by those isolated in the Canadian prairies or on the outskirts of Australia. Their unbearable grief and pain, whose loved ones died alone.

I had insomnia for almost a year. Most days I worked crying and listening to the fascinating, exciting, but often unbearable humanity of these people.

The pandemic, like many others, has caused small cracks to deepen in my psyche.. These cracks widened the gap between enhanced and uncontrollable sensitivities and emotions. I was depressed for a few days. In others he could not stop painting, usually planets or moons, or forcibly recognizing wildflowers. Then came the obsession with mushrooms, crawling for hours to find concrete. My sensory idiosyncrasies are broken. The hum of the bathroom fan in the bedroom wall was physically and mentally disturbing.

Something was wrong. The doctor agreed and referred me to a mental health group, but since everyone else had a mental health crisis, it took months before I even received a phone call in advance.

A NAS survey in 2019 noted that Anxiety and depression are the most common mental health problems for people with autism And that three out of four adults needed help with mental health in the previous five years. I’m afraid to think about what those figures will be now.

Unlike many people with autism, Sue Nelson has no difficulty keeping her eyes peeled.
Unlike many people with autism, Sue Nelson has no difficulty keeping her eyes peeled.

Fortunately, in 2021 there was an accident. She produced “Smart Women, Genius Men,” which explored sexism in the science of intelligence.

Autistic conditions range from speech, language, and cognitive problems that require lifelong attention to mild social problems.. Conditions include different IQs. While researching intelligence, I found that despite the proven link, genius was often associated with a form of autism known as Asperger syndrome. This falsely contributes to the idea that most geniuses are male because more men are diagnosed with Asperger syndrome.

Named after an Austrian pediatrician, Hans Asperger, who conducted significant research on autism in children, most professionals avoid his name because history has shown that he collaborated with the Third Reich in the murder of children. The American Psychiatric Association even removed the term from the fifth edition of the Asperger’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual in 2013.

The predominant term for all types of autism right now is Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). But ASD is not for everyone a cup of tea because the word “disorder” can have negative connotations, so you will often find ASD, also known as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASC).

I invited biochemist Camilla Pang to the show. He was diagnosed with Asperger’s childhood and wrote a book, Explaining People, about his condition. While reading it seemed to start turning on the lights. After our previous interview, I told her how much of her experience matched mine and told her that they made me think about assessing autism. She thought it was a wonderful idea.

In my country there is a two-year waiting list for diagnosing children with autism. For seniors it’s a lot longer, so I found a reputable company and I paid for the personal evaluation. It included several lengthy questionnaires and consultations with psychologists. One of my mothers spent hours questioning my childhood behavior.

As I waited for the results, I realized that if autism did not explain my behavior, frequent misunderstandings, and other unintentional annoyances, my family was right and I was out loud.

"As a person who often makes lists, I
“Como alguien que hace listas a menudo, me preocu[pa cuando las cosas no salen como estaban planeadas”

Aún así, el diagnóstico positivo de ASC me dejó anonadada. Quedó dolorosamente claro en el informe, por ejemplo, que, durante la evaluación, tuve poca conciencia de cómo se percibía mi comportamiento. Después de leer cómo había “monologueado” (mi palabra no la de ellos) sobre algunos de mis temas favoritos, me sentí muy avergonzada. En algunos de los ejercicios sociales simples, hubo una disparidad casi irrisoria entre lo bien que pensé que me había ido y su juicio clínico. Mi contacto visual tampoco siempre fue bueno.

El examen descubrió cosas que ya sabía: no hablé sino hasta los 18 meses y lo primero fue la frase entera “mira las luces” en Navidad. También descubrió cosas que no sabía, o quizás me negaba a recordar: la pérdida de cabello por estrés entre los 11 y 12 años.

Seis de los nueve libros que se recomendaban al final de la evaluación detallada de 30 páginas trataban sobre el síndrome de Asperger.

La activista climática Greta Thunberg, quien también tiene Asperger, describió las diferencias en su pensamiento como resultado del autismo como un “superpoder”. Todavía no estoy en esta etapa. Pero mis rasgos de autismo “ocultos a simple vista” están informando tanto mi pasado como mi presente.

La evaluación nos está ayudando a mí y a mi esposo a comprender mi comportamiento y mis ansiedades. Él cree que es por eso que encontré que ser una corresponsal científica era insoportablemente estresante.

Las noticias, por definición, tienen que ver con el cambio. Pero a diferencia de la mayoría de los periodistas de noticias (incluido él), odiaba las actualizaciones o las noticias de última hora porque alteraban mis planes. Básicamente, estaba en el peor trabajo posible para alguien que se pone ansioso por los cambios inesperados.

También explica por qué gravité más hacia los documentales de formato largo. Estas actividades son mucho menos estresantes, satisfacen mis obsesiones y recompensan mi atención a los detalles, ya que me concentro en las minucias. Esta es una buena cualidad para la edición, pero a veces puede ser a expensas del panorama mayor.

Una vez, después de regresar del aeropuerto de Heathrow con una empresa de taxis local, no lograba recordar el nombre del conductor, pero sí pude describir en gran detalle el tatuaje grande e intrincado en el brazo izquierdo del hombre. Mi marido estaba asombrado. “Ese es el conductor con un brazo”.

La ambientalista Greta Thunberg es una de las personas con más alto perfil con un diagnóstico de autismo
La ambientalista Greta Thunberg es una de las personas con más alto perfil con un diagnóstico de autismo

Honestamente no me había dado cuenta.

Así que, estos son tiempos extraños (en más de un sentido), pero puedo imaginar un día en el que las partes fragmentadas de mi vida, esos episodios desconcertantes que no tenían sentido, tomen forma con más claridad y comprensión.

Durante la entrevista a la salida de la evaluación, el psicólogo dijo que muchos de sus clientes con autismo habían reportado un empeoramiento de los síntomas durante la pandemia, por lo que la acción más importante en este momento era controlar mi ansiedad.

Mi familia y amigos han sido un apoyo increíble. Nadie estaba demasiado sorprendido. Resulta que varios miembros de la familia tienen autismo, muchos más de lo que pensaba. Más importante aún, incluso con las limitadas conversaciones personales que he tenido hasta el momento, he alentado a una mujer joven, cuyos síntomas son similares a los míos, a comenzar su propio camino de diagnóstico. Otra amiga finalmente está evaluando a su hija después de darse cuenta de que era como yo.

Es por eso que he hecho público que tengo autismo. Esta nueva comprensión de la vida es un gran regalo. Ojalá hubiera tenido un diagnóstico antes. Es cierto que todavía lo estoy procesando todo, pero ya no me veo rota. Simplemente estoy programada de manera diferente. Y eso está bien.

BBC Mundo

Source: La Nacion