I’ve been secluding myself from my friends and family and have been unusually internet quiet.
I haven’t really been texting back, I haven’t gone anywhere. I see my friends once every couple of months, I don’t really talk to anyone at work (save for a funny comment every hour or so), I haven’t posted on Facebook, my twitter feed is basically retweets, and my Instagram has been stagnant (save for a recent post where my husband and I suggested we were going to steal a child).
I haven’t really written too much, and I haven’t painted anything since that apple in August.
I’ve basically disappeared.
My husband has been worried about me, and I’ve decided to say something about my silence.
I’ve been depressed.
I haven’t had the will to reply or create. My thoughts are a carousel of self-doubt, panic and anxiety, and every time I would get an idea, I would tell myself that I don’t have anything to say on the subject.
Except that I’ve had loads to say about a lot of topics and I’ve been oppressing myself.
I’ve been silent because I don’t like myself. I crave the self-acceptance I had when I started this venture, and although feelings are a choice, I haven’t been able to jump out of this spinning wheel of madness.
I tell myself that I can make a difference with what I have to say, only to reply to myself that my viewpoint doesn’t matter.
I’ve been struggling with thoughts that I don’t matter.
Social situations have been making me extra nervous, and I hesitate to engage. I don’t necessarily wish to be sought out, as I feel like my feelings are contagious, and I would hate to spread my negativity.
My period of artistic solitude has turned into a maddeningly depressive isolation.
Shaking myself out of it isn’t doing any good, but I wanted to tell everyone who feels this way that you’re not alone.
It’s dangerous to act on the feelings that self-imposed isolation brings with it. If I acted on the thoughts that I don’t matter, my actions would surely lead to my suicide.
For me, pushing myself out of my comfort zone is writing about why I haven’t been writing and pushing myself to do the things that need to be done. The more productive I am, the better I feel about myself and the less likely I am to fall into old patterns of seclusion.
Well, according to pediatricians across the country, the primary reason for low diagnosis rates in Hispanics is due to the confusion of the questions on the screening questionnaire.
The solution presented to this is a verbal Q&A between the doctors and the parents of these children. Yippie for future kids on the spectrum!!
But wait, what exactly does that mean?
It means the answer is to why Hispanics don’t have higher diagnosis numbers is because of language barriers and semantics. As great as this new research is, it does open the doors for a whole mess of questions, especially for teens and adults on the spectrum.
Right now, the statistic is 1 in 68 kids has autism, up from 1 in 100. That doesn’t mean there isn’t an epidemic, though. We’re just getting better at recognizing it. Low Latino diagnosis isn’t limited to the United States, though. Currently, diagnosis numbers range about 1 in 115 children in Mexico. Compared to 1 in 68, this is quite a gap.
Undiagnosed kids still grow up to be autistic adults, and a lot of them get married and have babies. In fact, many adults learn about autism when they’re raising their children, and their children are diagnosed.
The autistic adult world statistics are somber and scary, with 1 in 63 newly diagnosed adults having suicidal thoughts. Finding out about autism as an adult makes for a complicated life story, filled with sometimes horrifying revelations about one’s own childhood experiences way later in life and catastrophic misunderstandings.
If there are verbal misunderstandings in autistic patients and cultural barriers in regards to language and semantics preventing a diagnosis of autism, what about the undiagnosed autistic Hispanic teens and adults who are past the age for a verbal screening for autism? What happens when autistic Hispanics who don’t know they have autism… go to the doctor?
How Does it Feel to be Undiagnosed?
As a teen and young adult, I lost many friendships because my responses were taken the wrong way, or I said something too stupid for them to think it wasn’t on purpose. I got better at catching offense on my feet. Still, I hated living with the anxiety of knowing that I might say something offensive at any given moment and having to be socially prepared for my own “stupidity.” I wanted so desperately for people to think I was a nice person, but I was just known as bitchy and bossy, and you could only see my “care” if you knew what it looked like. I will say this about myself, though: I hate being misunderstood. Even if it took a fight for you to understand me, I made people understand me because I wasn’t coming from the wrong place, and to me, people HAD to know that.
I was a Hispanic child with no diagnosis and a whole mess of weird issues. I knew I was different from the kids at school because I was always lost in social situations. But I was book smart, and I would read six fiction books or so a week. I learned so many different words for so many mixed feelings I always had. Still, I didn’t understand social nuance in a way that allowed me to communicate anything unless I was upset or frustrated. Once I got mad enough, the words would flow, and I didn’t have the emotional maturity to tailor myself or sometimes even feel apologetic. Once I got out how I felt, the anxiety of trying to get all my words together went away, and I felt ten times better. Most of the time, I wasn’t even mad anymore. I didn’t know anything about mental health disorders.
How do Hispanic People on the Spectrum Fall Through the Cracks?
My parents never took me to a psychologist. I was too much like other family members, so I was given coping mechanisms, not medicine. I appreciated this so much because it made me stronger, but I can’t help but wonder what would’ve happened to me if I got my diagnosis sooner instead of later. Would I have realized my talents sooner in life, accepted myself sooner, loved myself sooner, instead of wasting so much time trying to fit into a world that wasn’t made for me?
A diagnosis makes life easier for the patient. Still, because of the burden on the family, people of importance are saying they aren’t sure now how beneficial having an early diagnosis is. In other words, having an autistic child makes life harder on the family, because coordinating doctor visits and therapy, along with handling meltdowns and social misunderstandings makes life more difficult for the parent.
My parents didn’t take me to a psychiatrist because life is hard, and they were divorced. They both just corrected my terrible social skills as I messed up. And although they handled that very differently, they loved me for who I was.
Being Undiagnosed as an Adult and Going to the Doctor
I went through summer before I was twenty, where I felt nauseous every time I ate, and a lot of times, I would throw up. I went to the doctor and tried to explain my symptoms to him. He said I had Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a disorder that affects the large intestine, with symptoms including diarrhea, constipation, cramping, bloating, and gas. There is no known cause. I was confused as to why he thought my problem had to do with my large intestine when my primary reason for the visit was vomiting. From my stomach. I did my homework and found out that a diagnosis of Irritable Bowel Syndrome is basically a doctor hack for giving up on why your belly aches because it is actually an imbalance of gut neurotransmitters. Eventually, a nurse practitioner diagnosed me with GERD and a hyper acidic stomach.
Another time, when I was around 24, I went to the doctor was because having trouble eating. Even the thought was making me nauseous, and a few times, I threw up. When he asked me what I ate that day, I answered, “A bag of chips.” For some reason, he thought that meant I was anorexic instead of the host of other things it could’ve been. In talking with a nutritionist, it was uncovered that I was experiencing quite a bit of stress that was exacerbating my previous GERD diagnosis and that I needed to eat smaller and more often. Alexithymia is the worst.
What can Physicians and Latino Patients do to help each other?
My advice to physicians? Talk to your patients andread. So quickly, doctors rush to treat the symptoms and not figure out the cause. Observe your patient’s demeanor, review their medical history, and pull out your textbooks. There are too many specialists in the field, and the generalists don’t know enough. Do your research about cultural preferences.
My advice to patients? Speak up. It doesn’t matter if you’re autistic or not. Everyone is a patient at some point or another, and no one knows your body like you do. If you’re feeling pain or you notice new or weird patterns with your body, it’s up to YOU to tell your doctor. People die unnecessarily every day because this kind of information is not exchanged. Tell your doctor about any weird symptoms you might have during your annual physicals.
Undiagnosed autistic Hispanic patients need to be treated with respect and listened to, just like neurotypical patients. The Latino population needs doctors who will show us that they are on our side. Verbal questionnaires are a great place to start.
America, as a society, is just barely understanding how mental health and medical health are actually hand-in-hand. People are starting to figure out that there is no such thing as normal, and everyday research is getting closer and closer to better treatments for people with autism.
I’m imaging this. I’m imaging conflict. My differences are the root of this. I accept that I have them.
But this is where it stops. I’ve followed all the paths. The reason I’m afraid is that I think I don’t understand because I didn’t know as a child.
I’m not a child anymore. I’m an adult.
I’m an adult capable of telling the truth, writing the truth, and being the truth, and capable of understanding that everyone is different. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, Arianne. You know the answers.
You don’t have any evil motives, and even though yesterday you were wrong doesn’t mean you shouldn’t listen. It means you need to actually apply everything everyone has ever taught you.
Ask yourself first, because you probably have the answer.
Ask myself first because I probably have the answer.
And if I don’t know the answer, I can tell the difference between a correct, honest explanation and a wrong answer, and I know the difference between right and wrong.
I’m in charge of my own choices and actions.
I decide, and I always choose to tell the truth.
Contentment is having all your needs met.
Anxiety makes me question, “what do I need?”, but if all my needs are met, why should I question?
Maybe that’s why some people don’t. Never stop asking questions.
Better yet, if anxiety makes me question, “what do I need?”, and all my needs are met, what’s the answer? A problem.
I wonder if regular people use this energy to talk to each other and help solve each other’s problems.
Christmas 2002 I got the “Back in the USA” Paul McCartney CD. I liked to listen to it on my CD player while I pushed my cat around in a Winnie the Pooh stroller.
I found that the CD sounded like a memory. I heard a song, I don’t remember which one, but it caught my attention with its familiarity. When one of my aunts heard me listening to it, she laughed at me and told me I was too young to know who he was. I was 11.
I was 13 when my mom made me throw away the stroller.
If anxiety is fight or flight, two animal behaviors, the root of the feeling would be the response of the person feeling anxiety. So the match would be closer to a predator response versus flight is the typical prey response.
Both stem from fear. Fear of attack. Don’t be afraid of the fight.
She says I’m trying to give my understanding, but I need to accept intellectually…
She says you can’t describe what rain looks like to someone who’s never seen before… I can tell when it’s raining by the air pressure, the wetness, the smell… but I wish I could understand if it’s going to rain.
I just need to accept that I can’t “see,” and I never will.
I need to stop apologizing for being myself. I need to stop being sorry.