April is the anniversary of my own Autism diagnosis, it has been a whole year since my suspicions were confirmed, and the journey towards my own understanding and acceptance continues. Since I self diagnosed a little over 20 months ago, out of the blue, I have sought out books that help me to better understand myself. Many of them have made me sob with recognition and realisation of how I have struggled. Notes are made in the margins of many of them where I pencil in incidents that are brought to mind from my own back-catalogue. I have gifted particular favourites to family members explaining that finally we have a manual on how to deal with Rebecca. But this year I have found these books difficult to deal with, mentally draining and upsetting during periods when I am probably in a bit of denial to be honest. Much as I sought out the diagnosis to confirm my own suspicions, much as I was relieved to hear confirmation of what I knew already, I have still spent about 12 months doubting that it is true, though frequently being proven wrong! It is exhausting to read a book that you are so familiar with already, that makes you realise that you are different, that these are actual issues that are not going away and that, perhaps, some people have got a better handle on it.
This book was different.
This book was sunshine and nature, hawks and the crashing waves, peanut m&m’s and putting one foot in front of the other. This book felt like home for many reasons. It was spooky how similar some of Katherine’s experiences of working this out were to my own. How strangely identical some of her thought processes seem to be. How difficult noise and light and people can be to deal with but how your husband already knows that about you and you don’t.
But this book is so much more than a journey towards an ASD diagnosis and that’s what made it different. The walk that Katherine undertook to complete before her 40th birthday, the 630 miles of the South West Coast Path, along the coast around Devon and Cornwall, interspersed with walks around Kent, my own home County, breathed a freshness into this and at times the autism was secondary and the walk was everything. The grit and determination was inspiring. The glimpses of Katherine’s autism were achingly obvious to me, knowing what I know about myself, but were ultimately just part of a story about one woman’s walk.
There were so many moments in this book, so many times, when I felt that I was reading about myself. The confusion about why people don’t like you when you’re the one putting the most effort into friendships. The friendships that drift away. The anger. The need for silence. The struggle to fit in, to be present. The feedback about always disappearing. The hyper focus when you put your mind to something. The sudden self-awareness that the realisation of autism brings making you so self-conscious about how you are that you just want to go far away and never talk to anyone again.
This is the first autism memoir that I have read where I genuinely feel able to recommend it to everyone because there’s so much more to it. The autism is important and educating people about what it really is, rather than what they think it is, is something that we hope for but often these memoirs are really only accessible for other Autistic people. To help them understand themselves. This book will make you want to lace up your walking boots more than anything and into the bargain you will definitely learn what being an autistic woman is really like. And to hear that we are positive about it!
“The truth is that the label of ASD helps me to make a better account of myself, and to finally find a mirror in which I can recognise my own face. I’m proud of it, actually. It has given me many gifts”.
Katherine’s writing is a delight and this is the loveliest most positive book I have read in ages. I like to walk and Katherine has given me the confidence to put a bit more effort into it. I want to go see what she saw! I am more positive about my own diagnosis through reading this book and have to say that I look forward to reading it again. It’d be great, Katherine, if you went on another walk and wrote about it! Post diagnosis or never mentioning it. Because really this is just as at home with travel books to be honest and I would love to read more! Feel free to continue inspiring me!
I read about so many authors that feel so vulnerable putting their novels out there. How much more difficult must it be to put your own self out there. I thank you so much Katherine for this book. It is one I shall keep on my bookshelves, read again and gift to relatives and friends, just for reading pleasure, walking pleasure and a smattering of ASD.
•Katherine uses both terms Aspergers and Autism in her book. This is because the term Aspergers is no longer used in the main and most diagnosis now are for Autism Spectrum Disorder.