As I sit back and reflect on the eight months that have passed since returning from Destination Diagnosis (or the Sunshine Coast, as it’s more commonly known by normal folk who relax on holiday at the pool with a good book, not at the psychologist’s office with an intensive autism assessment…) I feel overwhelmingly positive about the whole experience.
I cannot say that there have been no bumps in the road: there have (and there may have been a few craters thrown in for good luck too). I also cannot speak to anyone else’s experience but my own, acutely aware as I am that my story is only one story of many. For whomever it may be useful however, herein lies my attempt to summarise where I am at, eight months on.
Let’s begin with what has really been the only negative for me so far: a lightening-quick and turbulent ride through the emotions of the Kubler-Ross Model (otherwise known as the Five Stages of Grief) that spat me out frazzled and depleted, feeling as if I’ve been living life in an emotional tumble dryer for the past several months.
This has not been a particularly enjoyable or relaxing experience, yet I’m OK with it, for two reasons. Firstly I love logic, and this enforced rollercoaster ride is nothing if not logical. The raw truth of it is staring me boldly in the face: through the transformational shift that is an adult autism diagnosis, I have lost the person who I thought I was.
Secondly and most importantly though, I am happy to roll with this emotional rollercoaster because while I have lost something big, I have simultaneously gained something much more valuable: the real me.
So as I let go of who I am not, and start getting to know the real me, I have found myself building a sense of self-understanding. The seismic event that was my autism diagnosis has triggered an as-yet unfinished series of aftershocks and jolts that slowly but surely have been shifting and shuffling innumerable experiences, situations and interactions over the years into their rightful places.
Self-understanding has given me a whole new filter through which to view life. It has given me answers to all of the times that I have questioned and doubted myself, unable to grasp why I was lacking where others thrived. What I love most about this self-understanding though, is the realisation that I am not the things I thought I was. I am not defective, stupid, crazy, lazy or less. I am autistic, a little different, and proud of it too.
As I write the above paragraph, I can see the birth of my self-acceptance. I know that this will be a daily practice for me after 36 years of self-doubt, but it has already been an incredibly liberating experience. Happier as I am in my skin, I am no longer satisfied with trying to shoehorn myself into the mold, functioning on the surface but flailing beneath.
Yes, this may mean that I seem a little quirkier and put delicate noses out of joint more regularly, but I know now that there is a place in this world for the authentic, bona fide, kick-ass Chloe, and I intend to take it.
Eight months on, and I sense that I breathe a little deeper, see a little brighter, hear a little clearer and live a whole lot fuller.
So it is with confidence and joy that I can report that, for me, diagnosis has been hugely rewarding. It may not be for everyone, and it sure as hell wasn’t cheap, however it has been worth it a million times over in ways that can never be quantified.
ABOUT CHLOE PERRY
Chloe Perry is a working mum who lives in Perth’s northern suburbs with her husband and two children. As a recently diagnosed adult female living in a 50:50 neurotypical/neurodiverse family unit, Chloe has a lot to learn but also hopes, in time, to have a lot to contribute.