I started medical school without a diagnosis of anything, but I had my suspicions for a long time that something was up. When I started looking into getting diagnosed, I found out that everyone else had their suspicions for even longer than I did, but nobody really thought to tell me. I rocked back and forth when I was younger, I'd ask why I couldn't see the cats and dogs that were apparently raining down on us, and I didn't have many friends who didn't take advantage of me back in my school days - all common for a child with autism.
My main reason for wanting a diagnosis of some sort was that I thought it would somehow validate my awfulness during my first year - that it would excuse me from being a decent doctor, or that others would be more accepting of me. I probably worked just as hard to get the diagnosis as I did getting into medical school! I think that getting a diagnosis is quite a big deal for an adult with autism; diagnoses are easier to make in childhood because there are more facilities and resources in place, while an adult might find they have to fund it themselves.
The diagnosis finally came, but even as I was being told, I didn't feel the excitement or the relief that I was expecting. I think that I'd been waiting for it for so long that I had already come to terms with it long before anyone else was able to, so it wasn't really news to me. Nothing changed, and the worst thing is I was still using the autism as an excuse for being bad in consultations and with my peers. The validation did make me feel more confident to talk about my problems, though, because now I wasn't just being difficult - there was something genuine that I could use as an excuse for my inability to talk to patients or look them in the eyes.
But has the diagnosis really helped me? If I had to be honest, not really. It will only continue to be a hindrance for me now - it is something I will have to declare on job applications and the medical school seems to think it's a bigger deal than I do. And, on top of that, I do believe that there is a slight psychological element to it all - I am autistic, therefore there are certain things I cannot do and other things I will never be good at. This is the mentality I have, and it is becoming rather difficult to shift. Good days temper the feeling, but one bad day can make an entire weekend grey and full of depression until I realise on Monday that I'm the only person who cares so much.
I'm still growing up, though I hate to admit it, and things I have mentioned above will get easier with time, but I do wish I could skip ahead a few year sometimes so it can be over and done with! They say that the best days of a person's life are those spent at university. I used to think that wasn't true, but maybe it is in a way I can't fully see yet.