Content warning Full spoilers, I talk about which parts of the book really resonated with me
This book meant a lot to me. As a person who's always known I was different and often felt like an alien - much as Fern describes - it's taken me until now - just a few months shy of 40 - to finally seek help and start getting my mental problems properly understood.
While I can't empathise with Fern having an even harder time getting properly diagnosed than me due to gender, I certainly can empathise with the struggle of a GP who knows little to nothing about autism/adhd/much of anything else. My GP diagnosed me with depression and gave me SSRIs 15 years ago and wrung her hands of me. It didn't feel right at the time but I didn't have the mental energy or focus to fight that and push for a better diagnosis or a reasonable plan to move forwards. For all these years a part of me knew that wasn't right. Or at least that it wasn't the whole story.
Reading this book was important to me. I am not alone. It's not my fault.
Fern describes her feelings and the difficulties it has caused almost like I'm looking into a mirror. Especially the way she describes her difficulties masking and how hard it is for her to maintain, how much energy it drains.
She talks openly and freely about how hard she has worked over years to do a better and better job of masking and "being normal" and how this has become a big goal for her. I've been on the same journey, working on gradually "normalling out" as I age.
I know it's not about me. It's about her. But it's also about all of us. And it's about the systems that let us down.
Mental health problems are seen as something that you shouldn't talk about because it makes you weak. And if you do talk about them you're dismissed with "oh everyone does that don't be silly" or "maybe you're overthinking it" or "can't you just try to think more positive?" or of course the classic "you don't seem autistic you seem OK" (as if people have no idea how good at masking a person can become with years of practice and an ungodly fear of letting the mask drop and being found out)
There's no happy ending in this book, as there shouldn't be. The book ends with an acknowledgement that she has managed to muddle through so far, albeit with great struggle, and will continue to try her best to do so, but it will continue to be a struggle. This is all we can do isn't it? I'm rooting for you Fern. Good luck. It will not be easy but you can do it.