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How did you realise you might be autistic?

Updated: Jul 16

It may have been done for you in a sense, diagnosed in childhood following suggestions from educational settings, where certain autistic traits of yours had been noticed. Or you may have made it all the way to your fourth decade without any idea that you are neurodivergent...and then something happened. What was that something?

What made you explore the likelihood of being autistic thoroughly enough to seek a diagnosis?

Here’s my story. In childhood and all the way up until a couple of years ago, I firmly believed I was awful with people. Engaging with others was not in my gift. My teachers told me so, my parents did too and later my colleagues confirmed that I was utterly hopeless at social interaction in a “normal” way.

I had a couple of very close friends and anything beyond that was a challenge. I have never had a birthday party. Don’t feel sorry for me! I haven’t wanted one. But what I did have was a world of wonders to lose myself in, be it philosophy books or painting explicit “frescos” on the interior walls of the school art department at night.

When I was in my third year of counselling training, a tutor, whom I got on with badly, kept asking me the same question over and over again:

“Why are you like this?”

This soon became her standard response to my dislike of group work, my unorthodox ideas, my pedantic attention to choice of words, my disregard for authority, my being fundamentally different from the rest of the group. What seemed to anger the tutor the most was that I was perfectly happy being different.

On yet another repetition of “But why are you like this?", it finally came to me that most of the conflicts I had experienced in social settings, be it education or work, had a common characteristic. These were struggles of wills. I would be obstinately independent and disregard all imposed hierarchy. Demand avoidance? Yes, probably.

At that point on the counselling course we were briefly covering neurodiversity and I started looking into autism. When I read recent research and accounts of lived experience of autism in women, the realisation dawned. A lot of reading later I decided to get an assessment and to my utter lack of clear emotion, I did receive a confirmed diagnosis.

Do you doubt your diagnosis?

I do. After all, I am a data analyst, as well as a counsellor. I like certainty. Neurodivergence is not a certainty. Diagnosis of autism is an opinion. An opinion of a qualified professional, yes, but the are no biological indicators for autism. Unlike a broken bone, it does not show up on an x-ray. There is research into the autism genome but it has not yet been conclusive. Perhaps I ought to just try harder at being normal? May be autism is a convenient excuse I can hide behind.

Having said this, I am glad I had the assessment. It has given me a different perspective on my life and a new direction. What's more, the new understanding of myself has resulted in better relationships.

In my data job I am currently on a central governement project, analysing big data. I was placed there because apparently I am "good with people". Can you believe this? After a lifetime of quite the opposite. Understanding and accepting myself has allowed me to extend the same to others.

Now a qualified counsellor I specialise in supporting autistic adults with whatever struggles they may be experiencing. You and I are of one blood, paraphrasing Kipling's Mowgli. Or, well, of one neurotype. The immediate empathy is uncanny.

What’s your story? If you’d like to explore what the realisation of autism means to you, please reach out. 

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