“If you’ve met an autistic person,” the saying goes, “you’ve met one autistic person.” Yet it’s impossible, I find, not to constantly compare myself to other late-diagnosed autistics. Rhi Lloyd-Williams recently took stock of life since a diagnosis which came about a year before I received mine in late 2016.
So what has changed? In general I am definitely happier for knowing. Before diagnosis I spent a lot of time comparing myself to other people and pushing myself too hard. I now know that I’m not a faulty non-autistic, I’m a perfectly formed autistic person.
I’m certainly glad that the diagnosis explained so much about my life’s failures, but I find that I compare myself to other people just as much after diagnosis as I did before diagnosis, it’s just that now, as I said, I compare myself to other late-diagnosed autistics.
It takes nothing away from Lloyd-Williams’ sense of being a “perfectly-formed autistic person” rather than “a faulty non-autistic” if I say that for me the experience simply has been one of finding myself in an entirely new context in which to feel like a failure.
The internet seems chock full of autistic people, including late-diagnosed autistic people, who give every indication of living reasonably successful or at least basically self-sufficient lives both before, during, and after diagnosis. Then there’s me, who has lived more of his fifty years siphoning off the financial resources of his parents than he’s lived not doing that.
I know that when I bring this up, there’s a danger of sounding like I wish all of these other late-diagnosed autistic people would just stop talking about their lives (which, of course, themselves are not somehow devoid of struggle or strife). That’s not what I mean.
I just mean to say that while diagnosis for me surely explained some things, it’s done absoutely nothing to make me feel less faulty, less the failure. Whether unknowingly autistic or knowingly, I have no purchase.