As Susan Boyle was catapulted into the public eye on Britain’s Got Talent, fans watched as she struggled to cope with the rigours of a rapid rise to fame. Yesterday the multi-millionaire singer opened up for the first time about her difficulties – revealing she has been diagnosed with Asperger’s. The talent show runner-up said that she feels ‘relieved’ to finally understand her condition, which until now has gone undetected.
The 52-year-old had always thought the ‘learning difficulties’ and ‘slowness’ she experienced had been caused by complications at birth.
But a year ago Miss Boyle visited a Scottish specialist who later diagnosed her with Asperger’s – a form of autism that mainly affects social interaction and communication skills.
After claiming she was misdiagnosed with brain damage as a child – and cruelly dubbed ‘Susan Simple’ at school – Miss Boyle said she now feels more relaxed in her own skin.
She told Observer Magazine: ‘I always knew it was an unfair label. Now I have a clearer understanding of what’s wrong and I feel relieved and a bit more relaxed about myself.’
Miss Boyle has always struggled with her health. Suffering from depression as a young woman in Blackburn, Glasgow, the isolation it caused made her more determined ‘to be where I want to be’.
But knowing she has Asperger’s has now helped explain why she also suffered from anxiety around strangers and struggled with eye contact – making her feel ‘different’ and ‘an outsider’ throughout her childhood.
She added: ‘It’s a condition that I have to live with and work through, but I feel more relaxed about myself. People will have a greater understanding of who I am and why I do the things I do.
‘I have communicative difficulties, which leads to a lot of frustration. If people were a bit more patient it would help.’
Miss Boyle shot to fame in 2009 when her audition on the ITV1 talent show became a global sensation on YouTube.
But the sudden fame made the singer’s Asperger’s more difficult to manage and she went into rehab after coming second in the final.
The I Dreamed A Dream singer, who has previously spoken about her struggles with depression, says she is now in a healthy and positive place.
She said: ‘Mental illness carries less stigma now. It’s not indulgence, it’s a negative process, but if you can turn it into a positive it makes you stronger. Believe me.’
Miss Boyle employs a team of people to help her combat her anxiety difficulties, adding: ‘I’m not strong on my own.’
People with Asperger’s often struggle to understand conversation and have difficulty comprehending gestures, facial expressions or tone of voice.
Initiating and sustaining social relationships can be tricky, and it can sometimes lead to an intense, sometimes obsessive, interest in a hobby or collecting. Mark Lever, of The National Autistic Society, said public understanding of Asperger’s can make a ‘huge difference’.
He added: ‘By revealing her diagnosis, Susan has played an important role in bringing the issue of autism to the nation’s attention.’
Miss Boyle is this month releasing a duet with Elvis Presley – with technology used to combine her vocals with those of the American icon, who died in 1977. The single, O Come All Ye Faithful, is raising money for Save The Children.