So this momentous moment – the moment that I knew, deep down, that I have autism – had been and gone. The bells had stopped ringing, the celestial choirs had stopped singing, and I was left with a large flashing neon sign in my head that posed the question: what next?
I had told no one apart from my husband about what I now knew. He tended to concur with my position, however not being an expert in the field and having only ever really previously had the ‘benefit’ of the autistic stereotypes popularised by the media, autism was somewhat of a curveball for him too.
The answer to my ‘what next?’ question came to me in the form of self-doubt and many years of not allowing myself to trust my gut. My instincts told me “Yes, I am autistic”, but my brain posed helpful questions such as “But what if you’re barking up totally the wrong tree here, kid?” and “Aren’t you just using this autism thing as a handy explanation for a general propensity to suck at life?”. Gee thanks brain; now shush!
Anyway, I figured that a formal diagnosis was important for me. I get that this is not necessarily the case for some people, however it was for me so I decided that I needed to pursue it.
I did have one key concern though. I think it would be fair to say that, pre-diagnosis, not one single individual from my friends, family or wider associates would have been able to actually pick autism for me. Socially anxious? Sure, for those who know me well. Quirky? Yes, of course a few people would agree with that one!
But hang on a moment: if even I hadn’t recognized my autistic traits for a good 35 years, how the hell did I expect anyone else to, let alone a clinician who is likely to spend closer to 35 minutes with me!
My research had taught me that female diagnosis is frequently late, and more often missed in comparison to male diagnosis, so this fuelled my concern. In particular, I now realised that I had spent a lifetime perfecting my mask of neurotypicality, and along the way had developed acting skills second to none. With the ‘female profile’ a relatively new entity, I felt I needed to find a clinician specialising in female diagnosis.
Having done some initial investigations into specialists here in Perth who fit the bill, I’ll be honest: I was pretty underwhelmed. Maybe specialists in the female autism presentation do exist in Perth (and I really hope, for the girls and women of WA, that they actually do), but at the time, I wasn’t finding them.
However (and let’s cue those celestial choirs again), in a particularly spectacular example of the stars aligning to allow what should be to be, I noticed from my reading that Tania Marshall, psychologist and specialist in the assessment of the female adult autism presentation, worked out of the Sunshine Coast, QLD. And the happy coincidence? We had a pre-booked family holiday to the Sunshine Coast fast approaching in a few months.
Boom! What were the chances? Time to get on the phone and give those celestial choirs something to really sing about!
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.