Remember me? We used to see each other quite regularly or speak on the phone, but I haven’t troubled you for such a long time now.
The last that you saw of me was when you referred me for a diagnosis of autism.
Perhaps you wondered whether it was worth doing; after all, there are “no services for people like you,” as you told me at the time.
I was diagnosed. The label assigned to me, had it been assigned in childhood, might have acted as a ticket to services. But in adulthood, it looked meaningless to you.
But it wasn’t.
It wasn’t a ticket, and it wasn’t meaningless.
It was a shield. It protected me from abuse at work and at home.
It was a scoop and a sculptor. It caught up all the disparate seemingly senseless bits of me and brought them together in an unexpected but beautiful whole.
It was a translation dictionary. Opening up communication between me and my colleagues, my friends, the midwives who watched over me as I birthed my son, and the research community which I have recently joined.
It was a microphone, enabling me to be heard at times and in places where I have not been able to speak before.
It was a stethoscope, a thermometer and one of those little knee hammer things. With it, I was able to understand my own physicality better, noticing more when my body needed taking care of. Before you gave me these tools, I only noticed that my body needed help when it broke. You might remember all the times when you came into work on a Monday morning only to find that whilst you had been away for the weekend, I’d been admitted to an emergency medical centre somewhere.
It was a window into my heart. Now, I understand the differences in my emotional processing. I no longer wonder whether I am anxious or depressed. I am able to discern that the advice handed out to neurotypical people might not apply to me, and I’m able to find advice that works for me from people who feel like me, too.
It was a hand on my arm. The scars that once lay there, inflicted by my own hand are fading. Now that I understand the ‘why’ of how I am, I no longer punish myself for it. In fact, sometimes I even celebrate it.
It was an invitation to a community. A sense of belonging and connection to a group of people I’ve not met, but who all support me as I navigate the world.
It is not only you who I have not seen in such a long time, it is also the people who might have supported my mental health as it broke, who might have picked up the pieces from a ruined relationship, who might have fit the bill when I couldn’t cope in work any longer. There are a lot of people I no longer need to see.
Perhaps you worried that money spent on diagnosing me would be money wasted …as you said, there are no services for people like me. The money spent will have been saved ten times over by now. More than that, I have earned money (and paid taxes) that I would not have earned (nor needed to pay) had you not given me this shield, this scoop, this sculptor, this translation dictionary, this microphone, this stethoscope, thermometer and tiny knee hammer thing, this window, the hand on my arm and the invitation to …well the party that is the world of proud autistic people. (I hope those taxes paid can buy another adult the gift of having their neurotype identified).
Dear Doctor, I haven’t seen you in such a long time, so I wanted to write and say thank you. Thank you for the diagnosis that changed my life.
Postscript. This is a very personal letter, but the experiences in it are common to many. I can evidence them with over a hundred pieces of research, to view a summary of these click here:
https://tinyurl.com/JoGrace and you are welcome to send me a friend request too. It is always good to meet people curious about neurodiversity.