Christine McGuinness has revealed that she is relieved and emotional to discover she is autistic – after being diagnosed with the same condition as her three children.
Christina, who recently spoke about her difficulties in childhood and anorexia revealed the diagnosis in her new book Christine McGuinness: A Beautiful Nightmare.
She said: “I have been confirmed as autistic. It’s strange, but I’ve noticed there are little hints throughout my life that I’m autistic and more like my children than I ever could have imagined.
“My issues with food, my social struggles, how hard I find it to make friends and stay focused, and my indecisiveness. The way I float through life reminds me of how my eldest daughter Penelope is.
“It all makes sense now. And as much as I’m not totally surprised, it’s still been emotional for me to accept, but it’s a relief as well.
“My diagnosis came in August. Patrick and I were invited to meet with expert Sir Simon Baron-Cohen at Cambridge University.
“Patrick and I filled out what’s called an AQ questionnaire. It tests for symptoms of autism.
“While lots of people might carry a few traits, to actually be classed as autistic you’re required to score a high number, and I did. The scale goes from zero to 50 and the average neurotypical person would score up to 15.
While my husband was bang-on average, mine was 36, which is high.
“Those two weeks between finding out I’d scored high on the test and my official diagnosis from Simon were a turbulent whirlwind of upset and trying to process the idea I could be autistic. Sir Simon quickly put me out of my misery and confirmed I’m autistic.
“And not just mildly – I’m quite high up the spectrum.”
She admitted: “It was a lot to take in and once my appointment was over, I broke down in floods of tears. I think it’s because the news conjured up a mixture of emotions and while I’m not totally shocked and it’s a relief, I’m just really sad for my younger self.
“Because of my inability to concentrate and my hatred for my school, I left with no GCSEs. I was more than capable of sitting the exams, but I just couldn’t be in that exam hall.
“I remember it so clearly… everyone was on single desks all over the room. I could hear people scribbling their pens on the exam paper and every page turning sounded like a drum banging. I just sat there and didn’t do anything. I didn’t lift my pen.
“What made it even tougher was after a while of staring into space, I got shouted at by the teacher and asked to leave the room. I rushed out in tears and that was it.
“After the appointment I set off on my drive home to Cheshire, and I thought about Patrick.
“I wasn’t sure how he’d react, but when I told him he said he expected it and he’d suspected I was autistic for years – he never thought to tell me.
“Patrick was always conscious that I was a bit different and had my little quirks, but he never understood exactly what it was. There are times when he gets really frustrated with me, for example when it takes me hours to get ready.
“Not even when I’m getting fully glammed up, but simple things like picking between two plain T-shirts, and not being able to decide which one to wear.”
Christine’ reckons her obsession with Dirty Dancing was a strong hint of her condition.
She explained: “A perfect scenario to try to explain my autism to you is one of the loves of my life, Dirty Dancing
“As a teenager I’d watch it on repeat, over and over again, every single night.
“When I met Patrick at 19, he noticed I had Dirty Dancing pyjamas on and I told him it was my favourite film.
“For my 21st, he knew I didn’t want a huge party, and I didn’t have friends to invite anyway, so he treated me to a weekend away in London and arranged to take me to see the Dirty Dancing theatre show in the West End.
“When it came to the film, I knew all the dialogue, the whole script from top to bottom, so when we watched this theatre show, right from the opening line it was different. It wasn’t my Baby and Johnny
“I really struggled with it. The music was nice and the dancing was amazing, but the storyline was slightly different and I haven’t been able to watch the film since (sorry, Patrick).”
She continued: “And it’s mad when I think about it, that throughout my 20s, I never had one single night out – not one. I didn’t have a hen party, I didn’t have a 16th, an 18th, a 21st, or a 30th. For me, that’s normal.
“I made every single excuse not to leave the house and socialise. I understand now it’s because I’m autistic, and it’s much easier to stay in and not have to deal with the real world when you’ve got autism.
“I am the best version of me when I’m with my children and that’s probably because we’re all autistic. The four of us are quite happy to stay in and sometimes not talk to each other. It’s when I’m out and about that my autistic mind really goes into overdrive.
“For example, if I go into a hotel room, and it makes perfect sense to me now, but I’ll rearrange the whole room.
“Even my food struggles I’ve had throughout my life make sense to me now.
“I’ve only tried green food, like broccoli, over the last couple of years. I can eat it, because I know I’ve got to be healthy, but I never once tried colourful food until my 30s. It’s quite common for autistic people to favour beige food.
“So, my autistic traits can range from aversions to patterns, or my issues with food to something really social, like making friends.
“I’m trying to see my diagnosis as a positive thing – at least I know for definite.
“In fact, there are lots of upsides to being autistic, just like there are with the three kiddies.
“I’m quite creative and artistic, and I enjoy doing crafts and painting with the children.
“In fact, art was the only lesson I liked at school.
“One of my finest qualities is that I’m very open minded to people and I think I’m genuinely kind. That’s something that’s in my children, too.
“I bet you wish you didn’t have children,” someone once said to me. How disgusting is that? I couldn’t believe it. Well, actually, no, they’re still my children and I love them so much and I’m so lucky to have them.
“Having had some time to digest my diagnosis, there are a few things I can take from it.
“As well as it being a huge relief, and I understand myself better than ever, I’m certain this can benefit my children, too. We haven’t told them yet that they’re autistic. But now it’s been confirmed that I am, the fact that they’re like Mummy can only make it easier when we do speak to them about it.
“And in true Christine style, since receiving my diagnosis, I’ve been overthinking.
“I really worry about changing myself, because I don’t want to.
“I think I’m OK, but I’ve lived a life that’s very suitable for an autistic person.
“Everything’s been a slow-burner – Patrick’s career, our relationship – which is great for me, because I would have struggled to cope with a sudden big change.
“Another concern is people treating me differently because of this.
“I don’t want those around me to constantly be like, “Let’s make sure Christine is OK.”
“I’m hoping my diagnosis will do a lot of good and any women reading this who are unsure about themselves, it might be inspiring to them.
“I’m married with children and I’m working, which are things a lot of people might question whether an autistic person can do.
“But I’m living proof that, although it’s not easy, with a bit of grit, resilience and a supportive family you can achieve anything.”
- Preorder Christine McGuinness: A Beautiful Nightmare (RRP £20, out 25 November) and save £5 with offer code XA9. Order online at mirrorbooks.co.uk