It’s Never Too Late: A Cautionary Note on Late Autism Diagnosis

I can only imagine the feelings of an autism (or related) diagnosis later in life.

Relief in knowing the why. Comfort in knowing you’re not alone. Peace.

But maybe you feel regret. That you only just now found out. That you lived almost your entire life already without knowing, without help, without being able to answer so many of those whys.

As one who discovered his autism at 16, let me caution you: It is never too late.

Wait, caution? And yours wasn’t late at all. I don’t understand.

As I apprehended my autism, I embarked on a course that I regret, one that I would advise against doing when you find out.

I buried it.

I didn’t want anyone to know. I never wanted to bring it up. I wanted to plunge it beneath the depths of adaption, to “prove it wrong,” to live as if it weren’t something that could affect me.

Please don’t do this.

Being young enough in my formative years, I was just learning to navigate the world as an adult. And I built my vessel underneath many different veneers, gloss, ways to fit in, shaping myself in a way to where I sought conformity but couldn’t assimilate, to embrace a difference without opening myself to that difference.

Don’t hide yourself.

It severed me from many who would have understood, many more I could have helped, cut me off from a community of need. It was madness.

But still I found grace and graceful people. I built long lasting, life-defining relationships as I opened myself up; the more true I became, the more fulfilled I felt. With co-workers, peers, teachers, rare friends, and my future wife. If only I’d seen that it was a real me they probably saw and not the masked and mysterious marauder I was making myself out to be.

My caution is this: when you find out, don’t bury yourself out of regret.

Your life was not a wasted and confused mess.

I learned it the hard way in reverse, wasting fruit and sowing confusion by being less open about my autistic self. There were myriad mercies and blossoms of blessing in the dark sand, fertile and waiting for me — in this I was fortunate to love and be loved and do good, to shine the more true lights through the cracks of armored pastiches of fear and shame.

This is my lesson. And it’s not even mine.

It isn’t too late for you.

It wasn’t too late for you.

Be you.

****

Oh hey, don’t miss my latest video! To learn more about autism from an autistic person’s perspective, follow & subscribe to The Life Autistic here and on YouTube — or follow the more whimsical, spontaneous, and amusing content on Instagram and/or Twitter.

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