Sitting in my newly constructed Nerd Lair (Study in the shed) organising and archiving about 12 years worth of photos, I noticed something. Today is a sort of birthday for me. Two years ago today I got my confirmed diagnosis that I was Autistic so rather than catching up on the couple of posts that I was planning to start writing I thought I would reflect on those couple of years and how things have changed for me and in general.
I remember being really nervous in the lead up to this point, not because of what being diagnosed would mean for me, more what it would mean if I wasn’t. It’s one of those things that in many respects I already knew the answer. I’ve always looked at things differently and in a way most didn’t. It being confirmed was just that, the validation of something that in many ways I already knew. If I wasn’t I was in effect just a weirdo. I am still a weirdo , but there’s a reason for it. I am actually wired differently from most people and its enough. One of the things that still sticks wife me was being asked if i had looked for support from the NAS. I hadn’t and for me the reasons for this to me are pretty obvious, until I was diagnosed, I wasn’t officially autistic. So why would I burden them when it wasn’t certain.
I think the relief of having it confirmed was probably one of the main factors in the way I decided to approach it. I knew why I was like I am so it becomes easier to accept. I made a conscious decision to go with it. The thing that I found the most shocking and frustrating was now I had my diagnosis I could legitimately in my mind look for the support that was available. That’s the moment that the wind whistles and the tumbleweed blows across the shot. There wasn’t any for adults who were late diagnosed. So I started reading and discovered in the first instance Dr Temple Grandin. It was a this point that I really started to discover how different my thought processes were to those of normal people. Reading her describe her thought processes as a search engine set to image only was in not understatement an epiphany for me. It was the first time that I found someone else what actually thought in the same way as I did. I started to look at all those things that I took for granted, that to be honest other people thought was near wizardry as strengths and started to really play to those. I decided to run with it.
I also decided that as you will see in the news and especially on the likes of LinkedIn, companies really do like to rave about their cultures as Diverse and Inclusive. I decided to test this. I stopped masking and stood up put my head above the parapet and “came out” in a very obvious and public way at work, By writing a blog about it. I looked at this from the perspective that in a company as big as the one I work for with thousands of employees in the Uk and the World there could be no way that I was the only Autistic adult. So I decided to step up and say something. In the main the support and feedback I got was quite overwhelming and it was shared worldwide. I say mainly simply there will always be those who can’t or don’t want to try to understand, but that’s their problem not mine. I was asked to join the disability employee group and actually look to what could be improved. I do tend to look at some things rather cynically at times, but on this one it’s real, it’s genuine and it’s deep-rooted in the culture right up to the top of the company and I’m proud to be part of it.
The toughest thing has been losing my mum shortly after I was diagnosed which was a huge set back especially for my depression. I would like to think she would be proud of what I’ve achieved in the last couple of years and I hope she would be proud of me. Two years on I’m still waiting to grieve as I don’t think I have yet and it does leave me feeling a bit guilty, this is when being logical is hard as I rationalised it too easily. This made me realise how differently I process (or not) emotions.
I moved departments last year and changed jobs and the impact that has had has been seismic. I’m sat here typing on Sunday night and I’m looking forward to what I’m going to do tomorrow, I didn’t think that was possible a year ago.
I’ve become a vocal advocate of Neuro Diversity, and I’ve discovered that there are some for whom someone who is actually autistic talking about autism and not wishing they were someone else really does not fit their agenda. They really don’t like it especially when you surgically disect their weak arguments. There is a coven for want of a better word of parents who are self professesed experts on autism who are more interested in being martyrs and wanting sympathy for how hard their life is than making their kids lives better.
Rather than being the end of a journey being diagnosed has been the start of a new one. I think I’m better for it. I hope that on the way I done my bit for making life a bit better for those of us that aren’t normal. I’ve certainly become more forgiving of myself and I have stopped trying to fit in. I’m alot more comfortable with who I am, and that’s made alot of difference to my family and friends.
Be nice to each other
I’m going to finish on a quote from my marvelous late mum.
“Try to be good. If you can’t be good, be careful”