The Other Autism

EP35: Helena, Diagnosed As Autistic and Schizophrenic

June 08, 2024 Kristen Hovet Episode 35
EP35: Helena, Diagnosed As Autistic and Schizophrenic
The Other Autism
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The Other Autism
EP35: Helena, Diagnosed As Autistic and Schizophrenic
Jun 08, 2024 Episode 35
Kristen Hovet

Today, I'm speaking with Helena, a retail worker and soon-to-be college student and fiction author. Helena came to Canada as a child, but wasn't assessed for autism or schizophrenia until her 20s. She talks about who the biggest bullies were in school and shares some activities that have helped her.

Watch this episode on YouTube.

Check out Helena's Instagram.

Send us a Text Message.

Theme music: "Everything Feels New" by Evgeny Bardyuzha.

All episodes written and produced by Kristen Hovet.

Send in your questions or thoughts via audio recording for a chance to be featured on the show! Email your audio clips to otherautism@gmail.com through WeTransfer.

Become a patron on Patreon!

Buy me a coffee!

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Today, I'm speaking with Helena, a retail worker and soon-to-be college student and fiction author. Helena came to Canada as a child, but wasn't assessed for autism or schizophrenia until her 20s. She talks about who the biggest bullies were in school and shares some activities that have helped her.

Watch this episode on YouTube.

Check out Helena's Instagram.

Send us a Text Message.

Theme music: "Everything Feels New" by Evgeny Bardyuzha.

All episodes written and produced by Kristen Hovet.

Send in your questions or thoughts via audio recording for a chance to be featured on the show! Email your audio clips to otherautism@gmail.com through WeTransfer.

Become a patron on Patreon!

Buy me a coffee!

Kristen Hovet:

Today I'm speaking with Helena, a late-diagnosed autistic and schizophrenic individual. I'd like to thank David for your one-time show of support to T the Other Autism podcast. David used the Buy Me a Coffee link not once but twice to send in a donation. Thank you so much, D david. If you'd like to do the same, please check out the link in the show notes that says Buy Me a Coffee. I'd also like to thank the patrons over on Patreon who sponsor the show and, in return, get some bonus content. I really appreciate their ongoing support and interest in the show. If you're curious to see what's going on over there, head on over to patreon. com/ T heO therA utism all one word. For a few dollars a month, you can become a patron of T the Other Autism as well. And with that, please say hello to my guest for today, H helena.

Helena Habtu:

Hello, my name is Helena, I'm 26 years old and I'm a late diagnosed autistic and schizophrenic. I'm going to college to study massage therapy and I'm currently writing a book about my autism and my schizophrenia, but it's more of a fiction book. My book is about an autistic Black girl who was experimented on and has superhuman abilities, and it's a world where humans and aliens are working together and there are some evil groups that are part of the government and there are the good groups, which are the rebellion.

Kristen Hovet:

Were you inspired by any particular books or anything like shows or anything like that?

Helena Habtu:

I was a big fan of Marvel.

Kristen Hovet:

Do you know when you're going to be finished or when you're going to put it out?

Helena Habtu:

I'm going to be putting it out around September. I just have to finish the editing and stuff.

Kristen Hovet:

Were you born in Canada?

Helena Habtu:

I was born in Sudan.

Kristen Hovet:

So how old were you when you came to Canada?

Helena Habtu:

I was seven years old.

Kristen Hovet:

I'd like to talk about, if you're comfortable, talking more about your autism and schizophrenia diagnosis. How old were you when you got those diagnoses?

Helena Habtu:

I got diagnosed with autism around 23. It was supposed to be for schizophrenia but then again they were just like oh actually we think you have autism because the questions were similar to autistic questions. I started embracing that because it actually makes sense about how my life turned out.

Kristen Hovet:

That must have been challenging growing up without knowing that about yourself.

Helena Habtu:

Well, since I was a kid, I've been excluded and bullied by teachers, especially with my schizophrenia, like I didn't know what it was but I kept on seeing and feeling things. Then, like the hallucinations are bullying me, and sometimes the hallucinations are based on what I went through. That really triggers me, so I sometimes yell at a locker or yell at a wall.

Kristen Hovet:

That's really hard because you expect a teacher to be the one protecting you and the one who knows better. That's really hard. I'm sorry you went through that. What about other kids?

Helena Habtu:

The other kids they seemed friendly. But as I grew older it was easier to manage when I was really little at first, but as I grew older it started to get worse, because I was still bullied, because I still had autism. Well, I still have autism.

Kristen Hovet:

I'm just curious how your life has changed since before and after the diagnoses.

Helena Habtu:

Well, I feel more seen and I feel like I can be more like myself and get to know myself a little bit better and have more self- compassion. In my personal experience it's really hard, but especially in making friends and I do have communication issues. I struggle with social cues and I tend to say inappropriate things at the wrong times, which can make people take me the wrong way. With my schizophrenia diagnosis, I can see, feel, and hear things that aren't there. It's really hard to tell what's real and what isn't, and I do take schizophrenia pills and that helps me a little bit.

Kristen Hovet:

What did your family members say when you were going through the assessment process, or were they helpful and supportive? What was that process like?

Helena Habtu:

To be honest, it was a little frustrating because my parents are immigrants. They're having a hard time understanding where I'm coming from, and I did try to explain to my mom, but all she said was just pray about it and it wi we'll go away. But I know that's not how it works.

Kristen Hovet:

Has it been better, though, since you have that diagnosis?

Helena Habtu:

It's better for me, but I do have my siblings that do help me be more in control of myself.

Kristen Hovet:

Do you have a message for adults who are in the process, or contemplating the process, of going through the assessments for either autism or schizophrenia?

Helena Habtu:

It can be a little bit scary, but once you do that, you'll have a good understanding about yourself later on. Just know that you're not the only one going through this. I've went through it, so you can do it, too.

Kristen Hovet:

What are your hobbies or special interests?

Helena Habtu:

My special interests are superheroes, aliens, and superpowers, and that's what I've been writing about. I like writing, too, because it helps me process my thoughts, and it's easier for me to communicate through writing, because sometimes my speech can be a little bit disorganized and sometimes it takes time to process what I want to say to people, and people sometimes have a hard time understanding that.

Kristen Hovet:

What are autistic traits that you love the most in yourself?

Helena Habtu:

I love how I can be very creative because even at work I can design certain things. I work at Crocs, so a lot of the times the assistant manager asks me to design the Crocs shoes with the charms.

Kristen Hovet:

And what about for schizophrenia? What are your traits there that you love the most?

Helena Habtu:

Sometimes I see certain creatures and I like how I'm able to, like, feel them. It helps me be more relaxed and not bored.

Kristen Hovet:

What are things that you do in the day to kind of keep yourself grounded?

Helena Habtu:

I mostly write and play video games. I like Kingdom Hearts. Kingdom Hearts is my fanatic.

Kristen Hovet:

What are some other pointers or tips you can think of?

Helena Habtu:

It is really hard to have certain people who just don't understand you, but it's best to surround yourself with people who do understand you and want to understand you, so that way you feel like you're not alone. I'd say, write down your thoughts, because that's what helps me, as I'm autistic and schizophrenic. If you can, try to find a community and there is this app called Meetup that helps you find friends, so if you're feeling lonely, maybe you can meet up with other people and get to know other people.

Kristen Hovet:

I know some people have sensory challenges. Do you have those as well?

Helena Habtu:

I'm a very picky eater and it depends on the texture. I love very soft textures or crispy textures, and it's really hard for me to eat healthy because of my texture issues.

Kristen Hovet:

Have you been able to figure out any tricks there for eating healthy?

Helena Habtu:

I mostly just figure it out online. I'm trying to make iron-filled mashed potatoes because I got this metal lucky iron leaf from Amazon and I heard that it helps with your iron and I have anemia and it's hard for me to eat healthy.

Kristen Hovet:

What are some ways or how do you balance your personal and work life?

Helena Habtu:

So I balance it by, well, I rest a lot because I do have burnout from always masking my autism and I do my very best to do it, but it's just really tough.

Kristen Hovet:

Do you consciously try to unmask, or is that something you haven't really started doing yet? I know it's challenging.

Helena Habtu:

Well, I unmask at home and I do get exhausted from constant communication from people.

Kristen Hovet:

For you what's the difference between masking and unmasking?

Helena Habtu:

Masking is when you take away your " flaws that people don't want to see, and unmasking is just being yourself without fearing the consequences, like sometimes I do these dances and I like to stim because it helps me relieve stress, especially when I listen to music. E ven at work, like, I do sway a lot.

Kristen Hovet:

It's hard because, like, there's this huge drive in the autistic community to unmask, but then that's not necessarily safe. I think it could even be less safe for those people of color and women especially. So I think there's like arguments to be made for keeping our mask on sometimes, as hard as that is.

Helena Habtu:

Yeah, I totally agree with you.

Kristen Hovet:

What's it been like for you to live with racism and ableism at the same time?

Helena Habtu:

It's really hard because there's this other girl that, I mean, I was friends with her. We're still friends to this day. She was considered popular because people were more nicer to her, but when it came to me, it's like I'm just this person that's just there. And I was considered bad as a kid because it felt like, no matter what I do, it's just I'm not good enough for these adults.

Kristen Hovet:

What are some things you've done to counter that, I guess?

Helena Habtu:

Go to cognitive behavioral therapy, which did help me a lot, and keep reminding myself that those perceptions of me were not true, and it's still hard for me to this day to heal from that, but I'm still trying to heal from it. I did certain things that neurotypicals didn't like, especially the teachers. They were really harsh towards me.

Kristen Hovet:

Once you're finished school and you have your degree, w hat would you like your life to look like at that point?

Helena Habtu:

I would like to see myself feeling more accomplished and helping other people with injuries, because I have an injury myself from a car accident about three years ago.

Kristen Hovet:

Is that what inspired you to get into that specific degree program?

Helena Habtu:

Yeah, it did. Yeah, I'm thinking about living elsewhere, but considering there's a financial crisis right now, it's kind of hard.

Kristen Hovet:

Yeah, for sure, for sure. The picture you sent me, there was a cat. It was very cute. I s that your cat?

Helena Habtu:

Yeah, it's my cat. His name is Milo. The reason why I got a pet was to help me with my mental health, and it did really help because whenever I see him like, I always feel this calmness that I have someone there.

Kristen Hovet:

Does anyone else in your family have a similar neurodiversity or anything like that?

Helena Habtu:

I kind of see it in my dad. Oh, my sister is getting diagnosed with ADHD.

Kristen Hovet:

I know that often goes in the same families, like they kind of go together,

Helena Habtu:

Yeah.

Kristen Hovet:

Do you have any questions for me?

Helena Habtu:

Why did you start T the O other A autism?

Kristen Hovet:

Well, I was late diagnosed, so I was in my late thirties when I was diagnosed, and I'm already into research and things like that because I'm a research communication specialist. A nd so I wanted to have a way to, because I found trouble finding evidence-based content, especially online, and a lot of the content was very old so it was very negative. I t would talk about autistic people in negative terms and so I wanted to help change that narrative, because a lot of the research coming out is by autistic people or there's autistic people on the research teams. I kind of wanted to highlight that and then also give a platform to other autistic people from different walks of life and experiencing different things. So I kind of do a mixture of like more lecture episodes and then interview episodes. It's been fun. I wish, like I also work full time, so I wish I had more time to do this. It's been good. A huge thank you to Helena for being my guest on T the O other A autism podcast. A nd that's all I have for you today. Thank you so much for being here. U ntil next time, b ye.

Late-Diagnosed Autistic and Schizophrenic Individual
Gratitude for Guest on Autism Podcast