It took eight years and a detour via an ADHD diagnosis, for me to finally ask for a referral. I took a three-page document to the appointment with the psychiatrist, titled Why I Think I’m Autistic, and handed it over with a rueful smile whilst explaining that yes, I know I’m weird. An hour later I was on the waiting list for an autism assessment.

It took another two years for my appointment to finally come up. Thanks to COVID-19 it was done remotely, but the assessor on the other end of the phone was friendly, forthright and knowledgeable. Within a few minutes, the long-standing fear that I wasn’t 'autistic enough' had dropped away. She got it. At the end of the two-hour conversation, she asked if I wanted to hear her opinion.

“This isn’t going to come as a surprise to you…” she said, and it didn’t. I finally had my formal autism diagnosis, at 40 years old. I know I’m weird… and I know I’m autistic.

Having that diagnosis in writing was an emotional moment and it hit me harder than I expected. Layers of fear and self-criticism were suddenly washed away and I found that for the first time in my life, I felt that I had permission to really enjoy being myself.

I no longer feel like I have to hide the fact that I know too much about certain very specific subjects, or that I have little routines I need to follow, or that I will sometimes have to ask exactly what someone means because the subtext escapes me.

I no longer feel ashamed of being myself and sometimes I feel almost giddy at the freedom that gives me.

So, for Autism Week my message to you all is: savour your weirdness and your quirks and if you suspect you might be autistic, don’t be afraid to find out. If you know you’re weird, maybe you’re one of us!