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Receiving an Autism Diagnosis as an Adult

I usually do not share personal details about my life online or through social media. I usually do not do this in real life either for that matter. But given this opportunity, I feel compelled to share with all of you some of my struggles of having been diagnosed with autism and generalized anxiety disorder as an adult.

Ever since I was little, I knew something was a little “off.” I always thought of myself as an eccentric person, but there was a lot more to it than that. I have always been told that I seem like a calm person on the outside, but that is actually so far from the truth that I feel on the inside. The wheels were always turning in my head making me on edge all the time.

In school, I struggled a lot with my learning disability. I could always remember in second grade
when we started doing multiplication assignments. All of the other students seemed to be grasping the numbers and concepts, but I just sat there with a blank stare. It wasn’t that I was jealous of them. I just was frustrated with not getting it.

My parents sent me to see a psychologist and physical therapist at that time. They were concerned because of my unusual phobias and sensory issues. I was put off by certain foods, tastes, textures, and sights. I also had an unusual fear of high ceilings and tall buildings. My mom even noticed that when people would talk to me it would take me a while to respond; however, no one diagnosed me as being on the spectrum at the time.

Even as an adult, I went to counselors and made the mistake of never mentioning anything else
besides my fear of high ceilings and tall buildings. I believe it was an obsession, and a symptom of the autism in itself. I never mentioned anything about being socially impaired or being opposed to change.

In the last year or two, I noticed while watching popular television shows such as “Atypical” and “The Big Bang Theory” that there were some similar behaviors between the main characters and myself. Not everyone’s autism is the same, but noticing these similarities motivated me to do a little more research. Pretty much every symptom that I read about autism resonated with me.

I then decided to take the plunge to go to a specialist for an autism screening and unsurprisingly, was diagnosed as being on the spectrum. It has given me a better understanding of myself and the experiences that I have had in my life; however, I often find myself having more questions than answers. I am often in tears because of my mixed feelings about my life.

Recently, I have been having the worst time of my life with my anxiety. The pressures and
irrational thoughts have consumed me and have caused me to experience severe panic attacks
and meltdowns. Having these severe panic attacks in the last few years have been the scariest
moments. A lot of the time, I feel as though I keep going backwards rather than forward in life. I
think the autism fuels the anxiety and vice versa.

I used to have a bitter feeling about my life due to my resentments and limitations; however, I think these recent events have made me more thankful for the things I have in life. I feel even more grateful for my opportunities, friends, and most of all my family. I should be more appreciative of the support and guidance that is given to me. Autism spectrum disorder is not curable but the symptoms can be managed. I remind myself that I have to be strong. I know I can beat this and continuing fighting the good fight. I appreciate the space to share these thoughts with others in the autism community.

James Kirkendall

Biography: James Kirkendall is a Fort Smith resident (USA) and joined the Abandoned Arkansas team in 2014. He owns two dogs, a parrot, and lives with his wife Ashleigh. Although he struggles with a learning disability, his talents and persistence have led him to an array of different achievements. Some of the greatest feats have been receiving a black belt in traditional karate and performing overseas in the Fringe Theatre Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland. His education includes several computer technology certifications and he has attended the New York Film Academy in LA. His interests include video games, roller skating, and martial arts. He also co-authored “Abandoned Arkansas: An Echo From The Past.”

The views expressed in this paper are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the views of the NLM Family Foundation.

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