I have been on this journey of discovering my true self for just over a year now. I have always felt like a misfit, but I always learnt what I needed to do to appear “normal”. Ever since I was young I would watch and try to copy people who seemed to have it together.
It all began in January 2018, when my father-in-law told Hubby that my son, Master W (7), may have Asperger’s as he shared the same traits as the children of one of his friends, 2 of whom are diagnosed Asperger’s, and one Autistic. After being initially quite offended at the suggestion that there was something wrong with my son and that he needed fixing (that was how I interpreted the suggestion), I did the logical thing to research what Asperger’s actually was. I knew a tiny bit from studying my Graduate Diploma of Education (Secondary), but in hindsight I really knew about as much as a child learning to count knows of advanced calculus.
Being as thorough as I am, I lived and breathed Asperger’s and Autism articles and books for the next several weeks. But within a day or two I had realised that yes, he really is an aspie (because saying “Aspergic” just sounds really weird). But then, as I was completing a “does your child have Autism?” quiz on the internet I suddenly realised that everything I was ticking for Master W also applies to me. Everything quirky about him, he gets from me. So, I re-did the quiz with me in mind and I scored 38 (out of 50, anything over 20 is plausible ASD, and 32 is the average score for autistics).
My initial thought was “I bet it’s one of those internet quizzes that everyone scores high on, like all those Facebook IQ tests”. So, then I got Hubby to do the quiz and he scored 20, and I thought “hmmm!” So, I got my Mum to do the quiz and she scored 19, then I really thought “HMMMM!!! Maybe it’s not just a “Facebook IQ test where everyone scores over 150” thing”. I searched the internet day and night (in between being Mum and preparing for a brand-new career as a teacher) for references to autism in adult females.
I knew that getting a diagnosis for Master W was the right thing to do as he was struggling with his school work and the extra support was definitely warranted. The question was “as an adult in a happy marriage, with children, a career, etc, what good would a diagnosis do?” Ultimately, I read a quote from someone who said she got herself diagnosed so she could say to her son “It’s ok. Mummy has it too.”
This one line resonated so strongly with me that I made up my mind that the day after Master W’s diagnosis was confirmed by all 3 required professionals, paediatric psychiatrist, psychologist and speech therapist, in March 2018, I phoned a psychology clinic and arranged for my own appointment to get booked in.
Then during the April school holidays, I received a phone call saying there had been a cancellation and asking if I was available “tomorrow”. 5 hours of appointments analysing my childhood and personality later I had a psychologist confirmation in May 2018. Then I booked myself in to a psychiatrist, and 2 hours later, in July 2018, I had the second confirmation (as is required by the Western Australian guidelines) that yes, even though I “look” perfectly normal, I am in fact on the Autism Spectrum and I am just really good at masking what is going on in my head and how I am feeling deep down.
It took me a month before making it “Facebook official” by announcing it on Facebook to all my friends and acquaintances. I just needed a few weeks to get my head around this profound shift in my thinking. My decision to wear this label like a badge of honour is all to break the stigma surrounding the word “Autism” and show my son that it is nothing to be ashamed of and to change how society views autistics.