That moment when you’re a fresh-faced 18 year old and you’re at the bar ordering a pint of snakebite in a plastic glass or a WKD (the blue one) – choice dependent largely on your taste in music circa 1997 – so you can join in with the crowd for the rest of the night before puking your guts up into a bin after a pasty from the all-night garage, when the bartender asks:
‘Have you got any ID?’
The fear in hearing those five words and being unable to convince them of your identity is real. How can you demonstrate you’re of legal drinking age if you don’t appear to be, without the official paperwork to prove it?
You could tell them your date of birth and what year you took your GCSEs, or you could remind them that you got served when you came in last week and the King’s Head down the road have never asked to see proof,* but the fact remains that unless you can produce documentary evidence to prove your identity, you will only get lemonade.
Having to ‘prove’ your autism, ADHD or other neurodiversity can feel the same.
YOU know who you are but it is so often the case that without a document to produce, to be carried around at all times just in case you are questioned, people decide that they are under no obligation to believe you, or to treat you accordingly.
This is just one of many reasons why adults are often keen to pursue a formal diagnosis, particularly those adults who receive the chronically misinformed response of ‘you don’t look autistic / ADHD/ other’, which deserves its own post …
*They would serve anyone.
Imagine you are a koala in a child’s story book, hanging out doing typical koala-y things with eucalyptus when the child jabs you with her finger, exclaiming ‘Look! A cute, furry bear!’
Now, you probably do look quite like a bear to the untrained eye – you have fur, paws, cute teddy nose – and nobody corrects the child to tell her that, actually, you are a marsupial,* so from that moment on, as far as you are aware, you are a bear.
I will end the analogy here because I have already spent an unplanned hour researching koalas (eucalyptus is toxic / they have opposable thumbs / chlamydia is widespread in some koala populations), but the point is that growing up – navigating childhood, adolescence and adulthood – unaware that you are autistic or ADHD or otherwise neurodivergent, is like this insofar as you have been given or mis-taken an identity that is not yours.
You have struggled through life, living as a bear, doing the normal bear things that other bears seem to find easy, and have always felt different to the other bears, because YOU ARE NOT A BEAR.**
*I had to look this up as my nine-year-old son wasn’t around to ask.
**This is, obviously, a continuation of the analogy above that I said had ended.
I forget what, but probably one of the hundreds of brilliant ideas I’ve already had this week (it’s Tuesday). However, having decided that I should try following some instructions to set this up properly, instead of blindly rushing straight to the interesting parts without a plan or an end goal in mind*, I signed up to Blogging Fundamentals and hit an existential brick wall at step one:
Today, publish a “who I am and why I’m here” post.
I could write about being a parent, or about my background in academic publishing or the fact that I’m left-handed. I might list the many, many courses and qualifications I’ve started working towards over the past two decades but then I’d likely have to provide some kind of explanation for why 99% of these remain incomplete, or why I was 27 years old before I learnt to drive and why I ‘only’ have a licence to drive automatics (and if your response to that is the tediously predictable whine of “but if you only pass your test in an automatic you’ll never be able to drive a manual car” … shut up).
I am a competent pianist, I have a first-class honours degree from the amazingly accessible Open University (English language and linguistics, creative writing and Latin if you’re interested) and an Advanced Diploma in the Therapeutic and Educational Application of the Arts, plus a 1500-metre swimming badge I achieved aged 10 and possibly the Kent Cycling Proficiency award, although I’m not sure I’ve ever seen the badge so may have been misled on this.
These achievements notwithstanding, I still feel ill-equipped to answer the question. Yet it does seem a question (actually two questions) in need of (an) answer(s). So I’m off to do some research …
*This is a lie. I created the logo first.