Guest Blog: Permission to be me

The following blog was sent to us by a serving police Sergeant – the officer’s identity has been withheld due to family confidentiality.

My wife and I have always joked about my quirkiness. “I’m sure you have some form of autism”, she would say to me. Although it was said in jest, deep down we both knew it was a distinct possibility that I was on the autism spectrum.

After my daughter was born my wife and I started to see some distinct similarities between her social interactions and mine, so we continued to wonder.

In 2016 I was successful in getting an interview for promotion, but unfortunately missed out by a small margin. When I received my interview feedback I was convinced that I had been wronged in the marking of my answers. In fact, it turned out that I had interpreted some of the questions too literally and so didn’t answer what was actually being asked of me. It took me several months of deconstructing my interview in my mind to realise that I had fallen foul of a common trait of the autism spectrum – literal translation. Was this my fault or a process design flaw I wondered?

I began reading up on autism, searching the internet for more information to gain a greater understanding. The more I looked, the more boxes I began to tick. I came across an online questionnaire, often used as an early diagnostic tool. I was really pleased with my high score on the questionnaire, as I always enjoyed a good exam result, however the score was an indicator of a high likelihood of autism spectrum condition (ASC).

All evidence indicated a likely ASC diagnosis, but I questioned what good it would be in my thirties to have such a diagnosis? After all, ASC cannot be treated, it is merely a ‘different’ or ‘non-typical’ way of interacting with and processing the world around you; something I have lived with all of my life, though few people have ever known.

A diagnosis now at this stage in life would not change anything.

However, I read a few articles explaining diagnosis in adulthood can be a good thing, helping to provide self-acceptance for who you are and for those around you to begin to understand your quirks. It could also help to seek reasonable adjustments at work.

I went to my GP, who had to seek funding for an adult assessment, but within around 10 weeks I had my diagnosis. It was confirmed that I was autistic, following several questionnaires and a full day assessment with two psychologists.

The assessment process was uncomfortable, reliving uncomfortable parts of my childhood and teens in some detail; my difficulties forming friendships, spending large periods of time on my own and the challenges I encountered in suppressing my quirks to the people around me.

Now, I am not so much coming to terms with my diagnosis, but more like coming to terms with being ‘me’. I am now making less excuses for the way I am, embracing my quirks and being true to who I really am – rather than what I think everyone else expects me to be.

It isn’t easy being, thinking and doing things in ways that are unfamiliar to most other people, but with acceptance also comes the realisation that my differences are the root of my strengths.

Diagnosis hasn’t ‘fixed’ me, but it has released me to finally be myself.