The 31-year-old from Bendigo had always had what she calls “meltdowns”, where her struggles to cope with daily life would come to a head.
But when the pandemic hit, Ms Mekon said they started happening more frequently.
“I’ve always needed routine and structure to be able to function on a daily basis and when that was taken away during lockdown I experienced more frequent and intense meltdowns than I had ever before,” Ms Mekon said.
“I knew that working from home was obviously having a negative effect on my mental health, but I had no idea what was going on.”
It wasn’t until a friend suggested that her experiences sounded a lot like autism that the lightbulb moment happened.
“I hadn’t really considered it before but I went online and did some research about how autism presents itself in women,” she said.
Ms Mekon could relate to many of the signs she was reading about.
Growing up, Ms Mekon said she was “always really, really bad with change” and needed everything to be organised properly.
“If anything changed I would just freak out.”
Ms Mekon said she also used a lot of repetitive, self-soothing behaviours as a child to cope in the classroom – known as stimming.
“One of the big ones was I used to always have Blu Tak in my hands and I was used to just play with that to help me concentrate.”
There were also sensory issues with noises, lights and food, she added.
“I have massive sensory issues with food and I have always been like that. I struggle to eat new foods. Chicken nuggets and schnitty always get me through.
“The signs were always there, it was just I don’t think anyone kind of knew how to put a name to it.”
Despite all these behaviours pointing to autism, Ms Mekon said her GP wasn’t convinced and was initially reluctant to refer her to a psychologist for assessment.
“He didn’t want to write the referral, and I said to him it makes no difference to you whether you write it but it could make a massive difference to my mental health,” she said.
“I basically sat there and refused to leave his office until he gave me a referral.”
After a series of assessments, her psychologist diagnosed Ms Mekon with mid-level autism.
“She basically took one look at me and was like, how have you not been diagnosed already?” Ms Mekon said.
It was a relief to finally have the diagnosis, Ms Mekon said.
“Even though I’d expected it, I was like, holy s**t, there’s an actual explanation for why I am the way that I am,” she said.
But it soon came with an underlying resentment too.
“It did kind of mess with my head a little bit,” she said.
“I was a little bit angry that no one noticed it earlier because if I had gotten the support that I get now, when I was younger, it probably would have helped me a lot.”
Ms Mekon said while her diagnosis made sense to her family and those closest to her, many expressed surprise when she broke the news.
“A lot of people that I told, were like, ‘Oh, no, you’re fine, you’re absolutely fine’.
“But they don’t see what happens at home and the struggles that I have with just daily stuff.”
Ms Mekon said she had become an expert at masking over the years, adapting her behaviours to suit society’s expectations.
“Masking is when autistic people basically pretend that everything’s okay. I got very good at masking.”
Elizabeth Sarian, from Autism Awareness Australia, said it was now well known that females were better at masking the signs of autism than males.
“Girls are much better at adapting socially and learning how to adjust their behaviours,” Ms Sarian said.
“They call it masking but it’s a means of protecting themselves and trying to fit in.
“It is absolutely emotionally exhausting for them, and hence why we find that in their teenage years, or in their early adult years, it’s a lot more obvious that it really is autism.”
Another reason both girls and women tend to be diagnosed later was because the diagnostic criteria for autism was developed around a male profile.
It was not uncommon for women with autism to be misdiagnosed with another mental health condition, such as bipolar or anxiety, first, Ms Sarian said.
A common trigger for both women and men to seek out an autism diagnosis later in life was becoming a parent themselves, she added.
“At the moment we are seeing parents getting diagnosed after their children get diagnosed,” she said.
“They are recognising the signs they’re seeing in their children are actually really common in themselves.”
Ms Mekon, who is sharing her story as part of World Autism Awareness day today, said getting a diagnosis had helped her tremendously and she wanted to encourage anyone who might suspect they are autistic to seek out an assessment.
“If you think that you could be autistic then go and talk to your GP,” she said.
“If they’re not receptive to it, but you know deep down that you fit every criteria, then find a new doctor.
“Just advocate for yourself would be probably my main advice, especially for women, because women do find it so much harder to get diagnosed.”
Contact reporter Emily McPherson at email@example.com