Researching and understanding my ASD diagnosis helped me recognise my triggers and make changes to avoid them.

I’m Savannah Trail, a Psychology student at university, working as a swimming teacher part-time, and I am diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder as well as depression and anxiety. I was diagnosed with ASD when I was 13 years old and it was really confusing for me initially, but after researching and understanding my diagnosis it sparked a deep interest with psychology. I began to realise that I experience things differently from a neurotypical person. I remember showing my parents a video that attempts to simulate sensory overload in a shopping centre, and they were shocked at how overwhelming a simple shopping trip could be. I even recall them asking, ‘is this really what it’s like?’. I used to have huge meltdowns when shopping in the busiest times because I hear trollies wheeling clanging, footsteps, people chattering, music playing, tills beeping, packets rustling, phones pinging, children screaming, and it was painful hearing all these sounds. However, back then, I didn’t realise I was experiencing sensory overload. Now I can recognise when I’m being triggered and go to these places at times where it is quieter. 

During the time of my diagnosis, I had one close friend that had no idea what autism was, and I recall her believing it was a life-threatening condition, but I sent some resources I found online, and I met up with her to see if she had any questions and it has made our friendship stronger. But it was this moment when I realised how important awareness is for neurodivergent conditions, especially for females. Females tend to get diagnosed much later than males as they can hide their autistic quirks more by masking, which is like a chameleon in camouflage, blending in with everyone. I was fortunate to have been diagnosed earlier on and it has made my life easier, and I was able to get the support I needed during college and university.  

Prior to my diagnosis, my parents often got frustrated with me, school was constantly contacting my parents and I was having frequent meltdowns. My diagnosis with autism helped me understand that my brain works differently and that’s okay! I realised how I was very literal when it came to socialising, but I have and still am developing my social skills from my peers. My dad has said that he has learnt so much from me and my diagnosis and has such a great understanding of neurodivergence that he uses in day-to-day life, and with supporting his work colleagues.  

Neurodivergence as a black person is very difficult as there is a huge stigma regarding mental health. I was lucky to have a family that wanted to learn more and are supporting me with my difficulties that I face.  

I am good at swimming, drawing and psychology. I love animals and music and I have recently started rock climbing. I’m terrified of heights, so I am trying my best to get over that fear.  

I hope, that with my degree in psychology, I can help other people with their diagnoses in the future and try to erase the stigma of mental health in ethnic minorities.  

Savannah is part of our National Neurodivergent Associate Team here at Creased Puddle and assists us in delivering learning events in Policing.