Hi, I'm Sara and I'm a 38 year old autistic woman.
In 2016 or 2017 I reconnected with an old friend from CEGEP on Facebook. This friend regularly shared content about neurodiversity, autism and ADHD because they had just been diagnosed autistic themselves. As I had been diagnosed with ADHD in 2013 and already had an interest in neurodiversity since my first diagnosis, I read a lot of those posts and found them interesting. Then I started following the same neurodiversity and autism pages that those posts were shared from (most notably one page called Vellum and Vinyl).
I spent a few years reading about those topics and joined a few autistic Facebook groups (where self-diagnosis is widely regarded as valid!) and learned how much overlap there is in traits between autism and ADHD. I also had a coach who was autistic as well who I clicked with better than anyone else before, and I found a list of autistic traits in women that I identified with by 90%. So in 2018 I decided I wanted to get an assessment, and fortunately the neuropsychologist who had assessed my friend was local and also familiar with how autism presents in adult women. I was very grateful as professionals who are familiar with how autism presents in adults, and especially in women, are few and far between.
It cost a lot of money (1k+) so I had to wait till I got my income tax return in March of 2019 to be able to call the Montreal Neuropsychology Center and request an appointment with Dr. Tamara Soles. I waited till September and finally saw her, I liked her a lot and the appointment went well and I got my diagnosis verbally on the spot (and in writing later). I cried from relief, knowing that I'm not a broken neurotypical, I'm a perfectly good autistic, and that I have a community of people I can call my own 😃
It took a while for it to sink in, I remember thinking "wow I'm really autistic!". Many adult discovered autistics grieve about not having known sooner when they received their diagnoses. For whatever reason I didn't go through that grieving period, I was just like "ok great what now?" The "what now" for me turned out to be being able to be a lot more self-compassionate now that I knew I shouldn't expect to be able to do things the same way as neurotypicals, or even do the same things at all. It was very validating to know why I had struggled so much in school, that I wasn't stupid or lazy. The education system and academia in general is not built for neurodivergent minds and is very inaccessible to many of us for that reason.
Knowing my brain was different from those that society had been built around went a long way towards unlearning a lot of the internalized ableism I had. I no longer expected myself to be able to perform to the same level as others or on the same timeline as others. My brain isn't built for high-stress, fast-paced environments, the exact ones that I had been thrust into my whole life, especially in restaurants where I worked after cooking school. This caused me two burnouts. But now I know it's not my fault, I was simply in environments that weren't suited for me. Thankfully I've found a wonderful neurodiversity-affirming, trauma-informed support network and neurodivergent community that is helping me find the right environment and resources for me. This has led me to learn a lot over the past 10 years about neurodiversity, the pathology paradigm and trauma healing, all of which I am hoping to write about in future blog posts.
This post also appears on the A Montreal Autistic Blog