Jamie Hocking 2023My name is Jamie, and I am a late-diagnosed autistic woman with ADHD. I am originally from the USA but I live in Australia with my husband and two daughters.

I have worn many labels throughout my life. As a young child in America, I was first identified as gifted and ‘painfully shy’.

Throughout the years, I was diagnosed with many mental health conditions such as depression, generalised anxiety disorder, OCD, hypochondria. As a new mother I had prenatal anxiety and depression, as well as postnatal anxiety and depression. At times I had wondered if I had bipolar disorder, and even borderline personality disorder.

If you are neurodivergent, you’ve probably been through the misdiagnosis and google diagnosis merry-go-round too. Maybe, like me, you’ve also been on the medication merry-go-round as well.  And part of my brain make-up is my desire to keep digging until I find the answers. I knew that there was something more going on than ‘just’ anxiety and depression. I knew that I was different from as far back as I could remember. I just couldn’t come to a conclusion that seemed to tick all the boxes.

For a while, I was able to stop investigating what was ‘wrong’ with me. That’s because I became a mother, and I was hyperfocused on motherhood. But when a close female relative was diagnosed with autism in 2015, I became hyperfixated on learning everything I could about autism in girls and women. Back then, there was a lot of talk about how girls and women presented differently. Sometimes this was referred to as a ‘female’ presentation of autism. I believe that it’s now called the camouflaging subtype, as there are males that fit this presentation who are often diagnosed later in life as well.

But back to the short version of my diagnosis (longer version begins here), when I was learning about this so-called female presentation, and I was learning about the diagnostic criteria for autism, I was able to see a lot of myself in that criteria and presentation. But shortly after my relative’s diagnosis, I was in the USA where I quickly realised that they were very behind in understanding the nuances in diagnosis in adults. Being female seemed to make it even harder to be taken seriously. I was told that I was ‘too self aware’ to be autistic by a therapist, and I was told that I was “too capable” by a neurologist.

And so I self-diagnosed. But I didn’t feel confident. Hello imposter syndrome! Oh and there’s my old friend ‘What if you’re wrong? You’ll look like a fool!’ I didn’t talk about it to anyone except for my husband. I would tell myself that I couldn’t tell anyone else I was autistic because I might be wrong. That it was probably ‘just anxiety’ and it was my own damn fault that I couldn’t just stop being anxious. I read all the books, I learned a lot of tricks and techniques for dealing with anxiety. So if I couldn’t stop being anxious, I must have something to gain from it. I told myself I was a bad, defective, weak person. That I was not good enough.

I was in a weird place. I wanted answers, but I didn’t want to accept the answers I was getting because I knew enough from my relative’s experience to know that you need to find people with specific expertise in autistic women order to get a diagnosis. I knew in my heart and soul that I was autistic, but without that professional diagnosis, I was always going to have questions about the legitimacy of my diagnosis. I do know that self-diagnosis has been accepted in the autistic community – but the way my brain works – even if that was valid for someone else, it just wasn’t going to give me the certainty I needed. So no judgement to those who have self-diagnosed – but for me I needed confirmation.

And when I was 44 years old, I got that confirmation, along with a surprise diagnosis of ADHD. It was a surprise for a couple of reasons. For one, I was a super-organised student and graduated from a prestigious University with High Distinction. I was also very organized at home – but hey, maybe that is where my autism over-rides my ADHD. For another thing, my mind is super hyper-active, but whose mind do I have to compare it with? I didn’t know that other people’s minds were much quieter. And I didn’t think I had a hyperactive body because I feel like I don’t need to move around a lot because I am quite happy to sit and read, or type. But as I am typing this my legs are moving back and forth. And I realise how much smaller, more fidgety movements I make. I have come to realise that while I don’t have the big, obvious movements of ADHD that some children tend to have, I do have hyperactivity. And there are more things that tick the ADHD diagnosis boxes… but again I will get into more detail down the track.

About 7 months post-diagnosis, I started this blog. You wouldn’t believe what it’s taken to get here. But maybe you would. Maybe my story resonates with you. I am starting this blog because I have been writing for years, but keeping it mostly to myself, or only sharing within small groups. I have been afraid of being visible.

Over the years, I’ve had many different passion projects. Things that I was totally obsessed with for a time – but then moved on from. But one thing that has been consistent since my 20s is my desire to write and share my writing. The topics may have changed over time, but my love for the written word – as a writer and a reader – has never waned. I know that writing is a great outlet for my feelings, but I also know that it has the power to heal. I am writing this blog for myself. For that burning desire to express my soul – a desire that people often find at midlife. Or perhaps, it’s more like we find the courage at midlife. I thought I would feel like this because ‘time is running out’ – but that’s not it. I feel like this because I am gaining confidence and accepting myself. And I finally have the supports in my life that are allowing me to do this without being too overwhelmed to pick up a pen or open up my laptop.

I can do this without the fear of ‘failing’ and not being ‘good enough’ because I have learned enough to know that it’s not up to me to decide if five people, five thousand, or five million people read it. And that those numbers do not define success for me at this point in my life. To me success is having the courage to be me, and to ‘put myself out there’.

But I do hope that it helps other people, because that’s who I am at heart. Maybe you will feel some more self-compassion as you read. Maybe you will feel more understanding of what you’re going through. Maybe you will be able to show someone what I’ve written as a way of trying to explain how you feel. Maybe some of my words will be part of your journey toward more acceptance, compassion, and love – either toward yourself or toward others.

Regardless of the outcomes, this is Autism at Midlife. This is a peek into my life. My journal entries. My inquiries. My ponderings. My ruminations. And my experiences. As a woman. A wife. A mother. A writer. And as a human living in a very strange time in history.

This is an unflinching look at my journey through perimenopause from the perspective of a neurodivergent woman who was only diagnosed properly at midlife.

I’d like to say ‘Happy Reading’ but that might be false advertising. So instead, I will end with my gratitude for your interest in my journey, and for giving me the opportunity to tell my story.

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