Life on the Autism spectrum

John L

Age at interview: 39

Brief outline: John was diagnosed at the age of 39. Although it took him years to become “comfortable” with his diagnosis, it also helped him to be “less angry” with himself. John enjoys reading and writing, and his audience includes politicians and policy makers.

Background: Ethnic background: White British

Audio & video

John was diagnosed with autism at the age of 39. As a child, John had an infection in the bone behind his ear. The first surgery he had was unsuccessful, so John had to go through a series of further operations, which caused him much pain. He remembers transitioning from special education to a mainstream school at the time. Because of his increasingly disruptive behaviour, he had to see a psychologist, but the psychologist blamed John’s parents, making them feel “a lot of guilt and blame”. 

John started educating himself about the human condition through psychology readings, which is how he learnt about autism. Although he found many of its aspects “relatable” at the time, it wasn’t until his nephew was diagnosed with it that John decided to go through the diagnostic procedure himself. 

He was not entirely happy about the diagnosis though. With his words, “it meant a lot of work in some ways because you actually have to rethink your past”. He suddenly understood “the lack of relationships, the lack of proper friendships”. It took him 2-3 years to become “comfortable” with his diagnosis, a process at the end of which he accepted that the “darkness” is just part of him, not the “whole spectrum” of his personality. As a result, he has learnt to “let things go” and be “less angry” with himself. John believes that autism is a complex condition and he feels that much of what is labelled as autism is “just people being people”. 

John describes his working life as “hit and miss”. During his university degree, he worked with young offenders, a job he enjoyed very much, he feels that he learnt a lot about people, and it also put his problems in perspective. He continued working in the field after he finished his studies, but his health gradually deteriorated, and he found that he couldn’t continue to “pretend to be normal”. Currently, he spends his days reading and writing. Although sometimes he struggles “to get out what’s going on internally”, his work has a broad audience of policy makers and politicians. His wish for the future is to have more stability, to travel, have a relationship, and be able to be “happy with achievements”.


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