Don’t get me wrong, I love books. In fact, I tend to find an author I like and voraciously read everything they write. I remember, when I was at school, our teacher got us to read Pennington’s Seventeenth Summer, for a unit on Growing Up. I told him later on that I had read the next two books in the Pennington Trilogy, and he replied that he had read the next one, The Beethoven Medal, and not been as happy with it. And, I am reading Lian Hearn and Rebecca Tope’s books.

Do I enjoy reading fiction? Well, it depends upon the context. I love crime fiction and I love fiction where there’s an historical or real life context. When I am interested in something, I read all there is to read about it.

But there is one book that is marketed as a self-help book by that doctor I have no time for that I have seen some of and I regard it as nonsensical as the newspaper articles he has either written or been interviewed for. And, yes, it was his first.

He wrote about resuscitating your authentic self and numerous preposterous theories regarding how to do it. Something that someone described as being offered a life-raft of strategies to help, and my strategy can be explained in four words. TAKE THE MASK OFF.

It’s all very well to claim that you don’t know who you are anymore and that you need to find yourself, but we need to consider that. How do you define your identity? Do you define it by what you do? Or do you define it by who you are? That’s something the individual can decide. If you want to give your life to a cause, that’s your choice.

Often times, if you enter into a relationship and that relationship breaks down, you can struggle to go back to what you did before that relationship. I know, when I broke up with a girlfriend, she hated The Bill and I loved it, so, for me, I thought, “Yes, Saturday nights I can watch The Bill again.” And, Tuesday nights, I don’t have to sit through Charmed, I can watch The Bill. I could return to TV Shows I enjoyed. That is about getting in touch with your true self.

If you’re not sure what you believe, well, you can have to sit and ask yourself, does your identity clash with your religious beliefs? For example, if you are LGBTIQA and the religion you were raised in views that negatively, should you continue to attend church? Or would it do more harm than good?

It will be more harmful for your mental health to be a gay man who enters a heterosexual marriage to appease your parents, and then, in your 50s, finally confront who you are. Similarly, if you are a transgender person living as the sex you were born in and entering a heterosexual marriage.

If you are autistic, it will be more harmful for your mental health to live as a neurotypical.

Your authentic self may be that of a bigoted individual, so trying to masquerade as a nice person is hardly good.

I remember, when I was 19, I wanted to change my doctor. Well, to be honest, I thought about it when I was 16, and asked my mother whether you needed permission to do it, and she said, “Not from a GP. You do, though, from a specialist.” And it’s not “permission” as such, rather you go back to your GP and request a referral to someone else.

What made it worse was, my mother was furious that I wanted to change from an Australian doctor to an Asian doctor. I saw it as being no different to being at a company and having a Holden Commodore as a company car and when you retired, you went and bought a Toyota Land Cruiser. My mother, however, regarded it as traitorous! Is it? Well, no. I remember being given the question, in economics, is it unpatriotic to say that we shouldn’t always buy Australian made products? My answer was, “Well, no.” Yes, you may keep your fellow Australians in work, but are you getting the best product for your money?” The joke used to be that if you bought an Australian made car, make sure it was made on Wednesday or Thursday. Why? And I remember this being given as an example in math, asking if the data was reliable and the teacher said no. The teacher’s rationale was, on Friday afternoon, the workers would be wanting to get finished so they can go home, and on Monday or Tuesday after a long weekend, they’d be nursing hangovers from big weekends. I remember my former high school deputy principal joking that he had a car he could have sworn was put together by someone who was righthanded working with their left hand on a Tuesday after a long weekend.

I prefer female doctors, but I do acknowledge that I saw a female doctor I wouldn’t trust with my car’s radiator cap and I have a male doctor (rheumatologist) who is excellent and with whom I have a good rapport. I don’t however, believe that patriotism or tribalism should come into consideration when it comes to doctors. I mean, Australia’s leading neurosurgeon is Charlie Teo and some of the greatest minds in medicine in Australia are Chinese. That doesn’t mean they’re all good or all bad. But, it would have been wrong of me to stay with my parents’ doctor when I wasn’t happy. I could drive a car manufactured in a country I wasn’t interested in, but I couldn’t see a person I don’t like as a doctor.

So rather than reading a book that takes over 200 pages to tell you things, what you have to do is be brave and say, “This is who I am. Some will like me, some won’t. But only by living as our authentic selves can live a contented life.”



Diagnosed with autism at 35. Explained a lifetime of difference.

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Peter Wynn

Diagnosed with autism at 35. Explained a lifetime of difference.