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When I was diagnosed with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), I believe the jigsaw puzzle of my life fell into place. For most of my life so many pieces were missing, some just didn’t fit in, some were just lost in time and some, no matter which way I turned them, would not marry up. 

If you were to ask me what tangible thing represents my life it would be a jigsaw puzzle, because it can be complex, challenging and sometimes you can search for a while to find the part that fits. I love this analogy, but this is not all of me.

Because I was adopted, I knew from my birth records that my mother was an alcoholic, but I do not blame her because in 1961 they never knew what alcohol could do to the unborn child. Poverty and social disadvantage also played a role in my early years.

About three years ago I was looking on my computer at some papers from NOFASD, when I came across an article headed ‘Characteristics across the lifespan’. The first one listed was ‘Memory problems’. Really, I’ve been having memory problems for a while – difficulty storing and retrieving information – that was ringing some bells! I started ticking every box as I read on. Wow, wow – could this be the final piece of the puzzle that’s been missing for 60 years – and can this be the key to unlock the mystery of why I did the things I did? Did I have FASD?

I can’t believe one document could change my life, but it did. This paper covered infancy right through to adulthood. I guess the next step was a diagnosis. To get a FASD diagnosis in a child is pretty easy, but to get one for an adult is extremely difficult and not many doctors can do it – or want to. It can be expensive and time-consuming. I believed for me it was the way to go and nothing had ever felt so right. I was diagnosed on 23rd August 2021 and felt so elated and happy. There was also a feeling of being justified in what I knew – it was finished.

by Jennifer Catlin 

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