Alarms are going off. Maybe someone says something and you brush it off. At first. Maybe you see a character that resonates, read a book that clicks. Maybe it’s someone else’s diagnosis. A friend. A family member. Your child. So, you search the Internet, and your head gets quiet: what if I’m autistic?
You keep digging, hoping for something definitive: and as you go through the info; the lists, the “aspie girl” traits, you find yourself ticking them off, that’s me, that’s me, that’s me. More and more falls into place. Your quirks, your routines. Maybe even your whole life.
Why get a diagnosis?
Maybe it makes no difference: you’ve survived this long, kicked ass even. You don’t want anything to change. You don’t want or need to be treated differently. You reeeeally don’t want to get the look. But maybe?
You could get affirmation, acknowledgement.
You could give your loved ones new ways to understand and support you.
You could be okay with giving yourself a break.
You’ve felt wrong for a long time, and maybe? This could mean feeling right.
Personally, I don’t think a diagnosis is necessary – environment is huge. For me. because I already felt so different, outside, and wrong– the diagnosis was a relief, it explained the ways I didn’t fit. But (maybe) if I had felt more accepted in general, more sure of my strengths and my place on the planet, it never would have mattered ‘why’ I was how I was. I would’ve just been me. And maybe that’s what being on the spectrum really is – being completely you. (That’s another reason I love the Māori word for autism – takiwātanga- it means in his or her own time and space, totally! Being beautifully yourself and doing things in exactly your own way.)
In the end? It doesn’t matter why anyone chooses to get a diagnosis (or whether they even do), it’s only important to know your why. Your why will let you know how hard to push, how far to go. It will keep you on track. Do you need evidence? A strong feeling? To be 50/50? Do you need a doctor’s certificate?
If you’re looking for a sense of identity, a way to describe your feelings, or affirmation – self-diagnosis can be enough. (And chances are, if you feel sure, you’re probably right. Lots of Autistics are self-diagnosed, and that’s totally okay.) But if you’re looking to access medical or educational support? To make your feelings more real, explain who you are to friends, family, or workmates? To prove you’re not crazy? (Spoiler alert: you’re not!) To give it a name? You might want to explore an official diagnosis.
Talk to your doctor, ask for a referral to a specialist. Remember: it’s important to talk to medical professionals who understand the different ways autism presents in females. And don’t be put off if the first doctor you talk to doesn’t get it. Doctors can be amazing resources, but they’re also people, and we can forget that they don’t know everything – and they definitely have some big blind spots on this! Over the years I’ve presented with lots of Autistic traits and been diagnosed with lots of the peripheral conditions (major depressive disorder, anxiety disorder, all-around-awesomeness, etc.) and yet, a doctor familiar with females on the spectrum picked it up on my first visit. Autism can be so different in girls – and that’s why it gets missed, because people are looking for the ‘classic’ signs, aka boy signs, and girls don’t always have them! Or, they have them, and they’re interpreted differently (“He doesn’t make eye contact” “Oh, he might be Autistic!” “She doesn’t make eye contact!” “Oh, she’s just shy!”)
Self / diagnosis is a beginning. You don’t have to tell anyone, you don’t have to keep it secret. Do what feels right for you. Take time to process it, to decide what it means to you. Maybe a diagnosis won’t change anything. Or maybe it will change everything.
TLDR: You are not broken. You do not need to be fixed. You don’t have to be diagnosed for your feelings to be ‘real’ and it is up to you whether you ever tell anyone. A diagnosis doesn’t mean limits or restrictions; it just gives you information and choices. (It could even open up to who you are and how you can be happier in the world.)