The title of this post is a bit flippant, but I have an update to give. You may recall that my GP is unable to refer me for an Asperger’s Syndrome diagnosis because this service has not been commissioned in North Warwickshire, where I live. This means that this aspect of my life is in limbo until such time that the local NHS Trust decides to get its act together.

Since my last update I have suffered a very nasty shock and severe setback in my depression. I have been subject to a most unpleasant, distressing, powerful suicidal phase. At the same time I have started Cognitive Behavioural Therapy which is helping, and at the time of writing I am actually feeling quite chipper. In a fit of despair, I finally “came out” as a depressive to friends and family via an outburst on Facebook (I know: Very modern). A Lucky thing happened after this. A distant acquaintance from my University days made contact and has proved an absolute life-saver (literally). Peer support is a new experience to me, and I can heartily recommend talking to someone who has first hand experience with crummy mental health. The Samaritans (by email or phone) are a great help too.

If you have found your way to this blog because you are suffering fear, anxiety, depression – take it from me, The Samaritans can help – call them free on 116 123 (UK & RoI)

It seems my friend has been through many of the emotions and mental health situations that I have, including a lot of the stuff that has caused me to think I may have Aspergers Syndrome. She mentioned BPD, which I didn’t recognise. This is Borderline Personality Disorder, and reading through the list of symptoms I could recognise a few overlaps with Aspergers. I don’t think I have BPD, but I do think I may have either Avoidant or Dependant Personality Disorder having read up on the topic. Because there is now more than one possible explanation for the traits that I have previously put down to Aspergers Syndrome, I have been forced to become open minded about what possible diagnosis I may receive – assuming that my belief that my depression is a function of something more fundamental is accurate.

I discussed all this with my GP and he agreed that there probably is something more fundamental going on and that he would refer me to a Psychiatrist to find out what’s what. And here’s the “hack” that I alluded to in the title of this update. I can’t be referred to a Psychiatrist specifically to investigate Aspergers, but I can be referred for any number of other possible diagnoses. The result of that investigation may well be an Aspergers diagnosis, and that’s perfectly acceptable to the NHS system!

Have you had an experience with mental health diagnosis that you’d like to share – comment below!

Today was the day that I visited my GP to ask for a “Formal Diagnostic Assessment” for Asperger Syndrome. This was a big deal for me and took some working up to. I was quite anxious when I went in. Here’s what happened during the appointment.

The usual formalities were done (confirm name etc.) and the doctor asked what I wanted. I said that I believe I have Aspergers and he asked me to explain why I think this. I had written some notes as I find this helps me remember the things I want to say in meetings (I find this very useful at work for maintaining conversational fluidity) and told him that I had discussed the matter with the National Autistic Society who advised me to ask my GP to refer me for a Formal Diagnostic Assessment. I then set about listing the traits that I exhibit that lead me to conclude Aspergers. (I bet this all looked fairly typically Aspergers.)

He then asked how I was during childhood. I told him I was bullied relentlessly and hung out with the other misfits and outcasts. I said I was academically fairly bright, achieving AA in GCSE Science (98% in my Science GCSE mock) but getting a range of results down to an F. I did my degree in Biology.

I also made a point to tell him about a job that I now think I lost because of Aspergers, although I had never heard of the condition at the time. Three years ago I was doing well in a job and then got a new manager who, within a couple of months of appearing on the scene, had managed me out of the business (i.e. I jumped before I was pushed). The results I was achieving in the role (and being paid bonus on) were really pretty good, however this manager thought my relationships with the customer were somewhat lacking. With hindsight, it is now clear to me that had I had a diagnosis at that time, the company should more reasonably have supported me in some specific aspects of the role. With a diagnosis, the protection of the Equality Act 2010 becomes a possibility.

Well, my doctor readily agreed that many Aspergers traits seem to be present and that he would be very happy to refer me to a psychiatrist for assessment. So far, so good, and all of the above really was quite painless.

All this was my “best case scenario”.

Next came something of a glitch. My local NHS area has failed to commission any diagnostic services for adult Aspergers. Children are covered, as are previously diagnosed adolescents moving into adulthood. If you are a new adult Aspergers case in this area, you simply can’t get diagnosed. My GP says that this a know issue that gets some attention at the commissioning meetings he attends and will hopefully be resolved in the near future.

All I can do is simply wait for Adult Aspergers diagnostic services to be commissioned locally and join the backlog. Apparently, under normal circumstances there would be something like a six week wait to see the psychiatrist.

My Aspergers Symptoms

Here are the symptoms I presented to my GP:

  •  Inability to make and sustain relationships. I have made two long-term friends in my adult life, plus a wife.
  • Slow to pick up on social cues. I often don’t realise that a conversation is over until the other person glares at me and realise that I have lingered a little too long.
  • Occasional trouble judging other peoples personal space. This really is the sort of thing that causes people to find you weird and creepy.
  • Supremely bad at chit chat. I answer other peoples questions and then the exchange fizzles out. Later I realise that I should ask the same questions back to constitute a conversation.
  • I have a tendency to over explain things.
  •  A preference for the same topics of conversation time after time.
  • Very much overwhelmed by social situations. Bamboozled by more than come conversation going on at once.
  • Hypersensitive to noise, particularly multiple simultaneous sounds.
  • Hypersensitive to certain types of light. I find some light bulbs to be far too yellow.

 

I have decided I should get a proper diagnosis for Asperger’s Syndrome, but didn’t know how to go about this. I did some basic research and discovered the existence of the National Autistic Society and their pages about Asperger’s. Apparently adults can have trouble being taken seriously by GP’s. After all, we’ve made it this far!

During a lunch break, I took the first step into progressing this venture from something in my own mind to something that I am prepared to talk to other people about. I called the National Autistic Helpline. Here’s what I learnt, most of which I didn’t actually know.

  • The Autism Act (2009) makes a legal requirement for local authorities in England to support autistic adults (children are covered under other arrangements, as are the other UK nations). The existence of this act came as a complete surprise to me.
  • Local authorities must offer a “clear pathway to assessment”.
  • A GP must refer you for a “Formal Diagnostic Assessment”.

What to do at the Initial GP Appointment

It was suggested that I prepare for the doctors appointment in the following way:

  • Make a list of the reasons why you think you have Asperger’s.
  • Relate these reasons to known symptoms of Asperger’s.
  • What difference do you think a diagnosis will make to your life.