Having never had even a passing interest in Taskmaster, only watching one episode and not getting it (my wife’s obsession with Taskmaster TikToks had led to us searching out episodes on YouTube), I knew nothing about Fern Brady going into this. All I knew of her was that she was autistic and a comedian, and all I knew of the book was that it was about her experience as a woman with autism. Suffice it to say, I was surprised by all the different turns her story took.
But it makes sense, trying to cope with an unwelcoming (to you) world not knowing for most of your life the one thing that would put your struggles all into perspective and give you the key to climbing out of that hole is bound to make anybody spiral. This isn’t a case where the diagnosis mends everything, though; Brady is still very much working through things. However, in the process, she provides readers not just with a personal view of what it’s like growing up as a girl with undiagnosed autism, but also with plenty of cited info to back up the very real issues she brings up.
I’d known women presented differently, yet she does a stellar job of helping get across how they do, both through her own examples and the aforementioned sources she brings in when necessary. Still, despite being a man, I could sympathize with her being flatly told by her doctor that she was silly for even suggesting she was autistic; I will always remember my PCP giving me the same reaction when I asked him about me possibly having ADHD (look who’s silly now, Dr. Wilson!).
In terms of both autism and ADHD, biases and incomplete knowledge (on both the part of the public and the medical field) run rampant, so it’s no wonder so many resort to self-diagnosis, as the number of people that get missed for one reason or another and get left to flounder, confused and scared, like Brady is alarming. Reading that manga with stories on developmental disorders, I forgot to mention another recurring theme was them being initially misdiagnosed with something else before realizing, oh, it’s actually a developmental disorder. I probably forgot to bring it up because, as you can see here with her initial diagnosis of OCD, it’s kinda par for the course with us folks. Prior to my own autism diagnosis, I had a telehealth psychiatrist throw out OCD as a possibility for me too, amusingly enough (side note: that’s been a recurring theme since, and is still a possibility too, but the jury is out).
Sure, an undiagnosed autistic person is bound to have some anxiety or depression, so it’s not to say we’re talking all dead ends here. I’m not about to denounce those medications for autistic people such as myself or Brady. We’ve clearly both found some relief from them. That being said, you only get so far treating a symptom for a disorder you don’t even know the name of. And just as I wonder what else I could’ve been, had my neurodivergences been discovered as a kid, I wonder the same about Brady, much like she does about herself. The story she tells is an unabashedly tragic one, yet through it all she maintains a sense of humor about it all and a sense of determination. I wish we could see what that could’ve done for her had she been diagnosed sooner, but am overjoyed she’s landed squarely on her feet. Her stance might be a little wobbly, to stretch the metaphor, except that doesn’t change the fact that she’s a somebody now and is helping to rid us of the stigma surrounding autism.
P.S. I’m strongly considering utilizing her approach and tracking my meltdowns and the probable triggers (plus keeping a list of things that help bring me back to zero, like time alone) in an attempt to cut down on them. I don’t know for certain that I’ll be able to pick them all apart well enough for it to be perfect, but I’d like to give it a try. Plus, I know I need to get back to exercising; doctors and mental health professionals don’t ramble on and on about its benefits for no reason. Just been too damned exhausted from my job to even think about it. Thankfully, though, I’ll be switching to a different job within the company soon where my physical labor will be next to none, so exercise can officially go back on the docket!