When I was little I had a book about a Bunyip. It was a wonderfully illustrated book about this strange feathered and furred creature, that emerged from a muddy Billabong one night and went around asking everyone it could find, “What am I? What am I?”
It wandered, shunned and alone. Told it was a Bunyip. Told that was not a good thing to be.
The story ends when it finds another Bunyip, and the other Bunyip asks, “What am I?”
“You’re a Bunyip, just like me!”
I probably should have put a “Spoilers!” Warning in there. I’ve ruined the surprise for you.
But that’s essentially the journey of finding out you have Autism as an adult. A lifetime of wondering and asking, “What am I?” Only to be met by horror or disdain or mockery or (worst of all) polite minimising.
When you’re first told that you are one of us, there is that joy. There is that happiness I felt when the Bunyip wasn’t alone anymore, when he got to be with other Bunyips.
Whether you are newly diagnosed, yet to be diagnosed, or have known for ages, Bunyips may still come in all shapes and sizes, but it’s bloody lovely to be one of you.
I think once you’ve answered, “What am I?” You can turn your attention to the far more important question of, “Who is that?”
It’s not about deciding if you’re “disability first” autistic, or if you’re “person first” Rhi (hello!), it’s about knowing what you are so that you can get on with making the most of being who you are.
They’re important distinctions, and you can’t distinguish unless you know the first. Diagnosis (including self-diagnosis where it helps) is important. It’s not a label. It doesn’t effect who you are. The restrictions already exist even if you don’t acknowledge them.
Without the label you can’t plan. There are so many things that would have been impossible for me to contemplate before realising I might be autistic. But now I know, there may be ways to make things happen. Because I am making allowances for myself, instead of stubbornly battling the reality of who I am, I can achieve so much more.
I have wasted enough time.
I’m a bloody Bunyip! Hear me roar!