Diagnosis Normal: Living with abuse, undiagnosed autism, and COVID-grade crazy by Emma A. Jane
Combining brilliant storytelling with rigorous research, Diagnosis Normal is an incisive and darkly funny memoir from journalist turned academic Emma Jane.
‘I have three gears- glum melancholy, inappropriate outbursts, and extreme slapstick. On a good day, I can pass as normal but not for too many minutes. I’m what most people would regard as a hardened introvert . . . I like other people. I’m just not very good at them.’
Emma Jane has lived a thousand colourful lives. She escaped a small town and a traumatic childhood by moving to Sydney, where she made an indelible imprint on the oppressively blokey mediascape. She played in an all-girl band, married a rock star she hardly knew, had a baby, ditched journalism for academia, and changed her name from Emma Tom to Emma Jane. But all the while she was struggling with her mental health. Then, during the first Sydney lockdown she was accidentally sectioned in a psychiatric ward. At the time she wasn’t sure whether to be more embarrassed by the institutionalisation or the fact she’d forgotten to set her at-home eyebrow dye timer and looked like Groucho Marx. Given everyone suffered some sort of corona-related DIY body hair disaster, however, she decided to focus on her confinement, and when she was subsequently diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder a number of things suddenly fell into place.
Emma writes candidly about the complex combination of autism, mental illness and childhood sexual abuse that led to her being the person she is, and explores the impact each has on so many others in society. Critically, by breaking the toxic silence surrounding sexual violence and mental illness, she raises the possibility of not just surviving them but thriving. As she writes- ‘We need to speak unspeakable things. We need more un-pretty stories.’