Many autistic people only realise they're autistic later in life. A late diagnosis, either in the form of a formal diagnosis or self diagnosis, can bring both relief as well as grief.
Some ideas, suggestions, support for those who self assess or are assessed by formal practitioners later in life.
Please add your insights.
When getting a diagnosis later in life, many autistic people go through a process of reviewing their life experiences through the lens of an alternate mentality. This can often cause a sense of grief.
You may grieve the way that they were treated by others, because they found your natural behaviour difficult or confronting. Maybe you suffered mental and/or physical abuse. Maybe you missed opportunities because you did not recognise them.
You may also grieve 'lost' time, that was spent going from wrong diagnosis to wrong diagnosis, maybe even being medicated for things that you did not suffer from. You may have experienced autistic burnout without knowing it, and feel like you would have recovered from that earlier had you known that you were autistic.
A late diagnosis can also bring a lot of gratitude. Many people feel relief for not being a 'failed allistic person', but rather a 'perfectly fine autistic person', with their own unique perspectives on life, nature and the world. Getting the diagnosis may therefore also help you to 'give yourself permission' to share those unique views, and own them as something that makes you a valuable individual.
You may also reflect on experiences and wonder if you would have had them if you had known that you were autistic. Maybe your family and teachers would have been more protective of you if they had known you were autistic. They might have not encouraged you to join the girl scouts, or to go on holiday by yourself, or to join a club. Maybe you feel like those experiences have shaped you as a person, or were valuable in another way. Ignorance can be bliss.