Christine McGuinness has revealed how she was left feeling suicidal as a teen while struggling with undiagnosed autism.
The 34-year-old star – who was diagnosed with the condition at aged 33 in 2021 – recalled wishing that her life "would just end" due to no not being able to understand how she felt.
Speaking on Heart's Dirty Mother Pukka podcast, she shared that not having a diagnosis at the time impacted on her mental health from struggling to make friends at school and led to her leaving education aged 14.
McGuiness' three children – twins Penelope and Leo, nine, and Felicity, seven – are also autistic, and it wasn't until their diagnoses that she starting researching whether there could be a genetic link.
After a 'long process' of assessments McGuinness was diagnosed at age 33 in 2021 – a result that she describes as an 'instant relief'.
However, years going undiagnosed as a teenager led her to suffer from social anxiety and mental health complications, including suicidal thoughts, she told podcast host Anna Whitehouse.
"I used to pray that I wouldn't wake up," she revealed. "I used to pray that my life would just end and I convinced myself that nobody would even notice."
"No one understood that I didn't understand what the problem was," she explained. "But even though I had family around, my mum, I absolutely loved my mum so much, she had absolutely no idea that that's how I felt."
"There was always times throughout my life where things had happened or I'd find myself in situations, especially at school...I ended up leaving school quite young – I was 14," she continued. "It was all because I couldn't cope in certain situations."
Due to the complexity of most autism symptoms, it can sometimes take a while to receive a proper diagnosis which can lead to feelings of depression and anxiety as people can struggle to try and fit into or make sense of the world, according to the Mental Health Foundation.
The range of symptoms also overlap somewhat with mental health conditions including social anxiety, eating disorders, personality disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder and psychosis. However, there is no reason that someone with an autism diagnosis can't live a happy and fulfilling life.
The model also said on the podcast episode that "the penny dropped" following her diagnosis, which was a turning point for her.
"Suddenly, my whole life had made sense. It's been a completely different life since, it's been so much better."
She added: "I'm so, so grateful that I didn't go through with what I was feeling as a teenager and that I have found a purpose, not just in being a mother, but being a mother to three autistic children, who I'm extremely proud of.
"I am so happy they are the way they are because they've been the best teachers to me."
McGuinness has opened up about her experience of being diagnosed as an adult in the new BBC documentary Unmasking My Autism, available on iPlayer, and also previously appeared in a 2021 documentary on the topic with her ex-husband, the presenter Paddy McGuinness, with whom she split last year.
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Watch: Christine Mcguiness talks on BBC London Live about autism diagnosis