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My name is Tiernan and I was diagnosed as autistic at 4. I’m 20 now and live with my mum. She’d never even heard of autism before I was diagnosed and when she went to look, there seemed to be a lot of information that didn’t make sense to her. She was pointed in the direction of the National Autistic Society and got the support she needed. That’s 16 years ago! Amazing people like you have been supporting us over the years and helped change my life. It hasn’t been easy.

8 in 10 autistic adults will have mental health problems in their lifetime, such as depression, anxiety or obsessive compulsive disorder.*

Growing up was difficult. Even before my diagnosis, I needed a lot of support with my behaviour. Being autistic can be very isolating. I’ve never been very good at verbally communicating and have a tendency to withdraw into myself which probably makes it worse. This made it harder to see the other things which were going on. I was later diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Seasonal Affective Disorder. I’m lucky my mum was there for me and got me seen by doctors.

Now I go to college and I really enjoy it. I’m studying animation and I hope to go on to study at university. But it takes a lot of effort to get me there. Everything from getting ready in the morning to unpredictable changes to my journey can throw me off and cause extreme anxiety. It’s so frustrating that I depend on so many people but I couldn’t do it without them.

The anxiety can sometimes get the better of me. And when it goes wrong, it can go really wrong.

I’m prone to have thoughts of self-harm and when that happens, my autism means I can’t always explain myself very well. I tend to go quiet or simply not speak. The doctors can’t help me because they don’t understand me and I can’t help them because I can’t find the words. It doesn’t help that I don’t get to see the same doctor twice. The frustration can just build and build.

My Mum’s always there for me, at appointments, when I travel, and when I need her. I couldn’t do any of it without her. My dream of working in animation and gaming wouldn’t be possible without her, without the doctors and without the National Autistic Society.

They’ve helped my mum take care of me. They’ve given my mum parental training courses and advice that she needed to look after me. Things like, checking in on me regularly and getting in to see the doctor before appointments to tell them what’s been going on, knowing that I’m not great at giving them the full picture. Because of the support she’s had, she can support me. She can look out for the signs and prevent things from happening.

I know she’s had many sleepless nights worrying about me. But I know she looks to the National Autistic Society first when she needs help. They’ve been with us every step of the way. Things like parent courses and local branches have been such a great source of information for us. Anything that helps us understand autism better and to build a more autism-friendly world is brilliant.

I'm so pleased that the helpline is there for families like us.

The National Autistic Society has been part of my life in one way or another for most my life. They’ve given me encouraging words when I’ve needed them and kind of been a constant for me. Something that provides stability and purpose which, in retrospect, gave me a really good base to build upon. Through the National Autistic Society, we’ve found a local community who support and understand our needs. They’ve got me working together with people I had otherwise never have worked with and helped set me up with skills that have sort of become second nature to me now. Things that were very difficult beforehand. Things like taking up Tae Kwon-Do which is helping me keep strong mentally and physically. None of this would have happened without the National Autistic Society.

Find out more about anxiety in autistic adults

*Lever A & Geurts H (2016) Psychiatric Co-occurring Symptoms and Disorders in Young, Middle-Aged, and Older Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders 46(6), 1916-1930