Carrie Kearns always knew she was different. From personal friendships to colleagues, the mum-of-two struggled to fit in throughout her life and she considered herself a loner.
But that all changed earlier this year when she received a life-changing diagnosis of autism. Now the 40-year-old, from Bolton has revealed how “relieved” she felt following the discovery – and the difficulties she has faced along the way.
“Ever since I was a child, I noticed I was different,” she told the Manchester Evening News. “I didn’t seem to be able to fit in with other children of my age and I was always a bit of a loner playing out on my own; I was more interested in nature and playing with plants and bugs than the games my friends were playing.
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“I was bullied a lot because I came across as weird. I never seemed to get them, the games they played or the way they spoke. There were a lot of misunderstandings because I would take things too deeply and miss the point.
“The way I would dress wasn’t in line with the fashion at the time and I wasn’t dressing the same as other people. As I got older, I found work was difficult because I would get in trouble for speaking my mind. I was quite passionate and it would come out as me being aggressive.
“I was so tired when I got back home from work. When I got diagnosed, I was told it was because I had been masking all day trying to fit in.”
Autism is a complex, lifelong developmental disability that typically appears during early childhood and can impact a person’s social skills, communication, relationships, and self-regulation.
Autistic people may find some aspects of communication and social interaction challenging. They may have difficulty relating to people and understanding their emotions. Autistic adults may also have inflexible thought patterns and behavior and may carry out repetitive actions.
Carrie started to read up on autism after her young son was diagnosed. She noticed similar traits within herself – especially from when she was growing up.
Carrie got the ball rolling with her GP and was officially diagnosed around six months later. “I read into autism and it was the only thing that fit and made a lot of sense,” she continued.
“You can’t tell if someone is autistic but you can tell there’s something different about someone. My therapist said I was high-functioning because I have a husband and children.
“But when people say you’re high-functioning, the reason the labels are so misleading are because it takes something away from the individual but doesn’t speak for their troubles.
“I thought I was grumpy and snappy as a kid but those moments were meltdowns when everything got a bit too much and I was overwhelmed and over stimulated. That’s why I found social interactions so exhausting.
“I was really lucky with the diagnosis because it didn’t take that long. I was only waiting around six months which is absolutely amazing.
“It is a relief finding out you’re autistic because you realize there’s nothing wrong with me, I understand the way I think and the way I act and I do things is normal for me and it’s okay to do those things and be that way .”
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.