A Diagnosis Changed My Life
How Accepting I Had Autism Changed My Perception
While the title gives the idea I was diagnosed recently, that is far from the case. I have been more or less in denial for nearly five years.
When someone thinks autism, they do not believe a nerdy girl who, by all means, looks standard to be diagnosed with autism. I'm not saying that everyone connects autism to a person who may dress funny, talk a little too loud, get angry a bit too quick, and seems sincerely oblivious to society, but I did. I did for a long time, and that is what made accepting my disability so hard.
I grew up knowing I was different, a history of bullying and being a social outcast ensured it, but I did not think of myself with a disability, hindered. I was smart, enough to be accepted into a program for gifted children in elementary. Never at a young did I think I had a disability, not when I was raised in an age where that meant to be stupid, hindered, abnormal in a sense that could not be fixed. One must understand as I say this about disability, this is not me of today. This thought process is me at age 8 to 13, where we all desperately longed to fit in.
When I was thirteen or fourteen though, I was diagnosed. My therapist, a man I still today do not think fondly of, called it Asperger's but said the official term was High Spectrum Autism. The word autism did not stick well with me. Period. The word reminded me of a boy from elementary, D, who had a personal teacher and was more of an outcast than me. I flat out refused the diagnosis mentally, even as I nodded and played along.
From there I went to high school, and three weeks into the year was transferred to another. They had a "specialized program catering to youths with similar issues." For three years I looked at that resource room with despise, a room I took as a personal offense for existing and continuing to make me an outcast. I made friends in there, older than me, but internally I separated myself. I mentally screamed, "This is not what is wrong with me! He misdiagnosed!" from freshman to junior.
It wasn't until last summer, closer to late spring; I started to accept it. I had a great girlfriend, now BFF, T. She had her problems, and as we talked I never really connected to her. I had never been an empathetic type, but with how closely parts of our past overlapped in similarity I should have felt something. A tug. But nothing. I could smile and sympathize, but for the first time, I honestly felt that barrier between her and me despite how close we were. It was an emotional barrier, a wall of soundproof glass blocking the reception in my head. I finally understood what the therapist meant.
Having that final piece fall into place helped me. Years of self-hatred, careful consideration of my every move in fear, slipped away. I was no longer trying to micro-analyze every word said for me to understand their meaning and choosing which was right, I did my best to use my instincts even if they were wrong. I was able to stop worrying if not feeling a need to cry for others and stop trying to force a display of emotion based on others around me. I felt, for lack of a better word, free. I stopped working to pretend, and it made a world of difference for me. I am confident if someone were to ask my friends, they would be able to note the difference.
Once I came to terms with it, years too late to some, as I stopped trying some things I became more aware of others. I pay more attention to my tone, trying to give my own voice rather than mimicking others. I no longer work to rationalize my waves of desiring attention then ignoring people for days as something else. I am learning, even now, how to be me. The freedom I have after such an extended period of self-oppression is refreshing and has let me reach out more than ever before. I am happy, and for me, that is an emotion that never came in such long span as it has today.
Perhaps accepting your disability is not as elegant for others as it is for me. I cannot claim my experiences with my disability can be blanketed for everyone with the same one because the Autism spectrum has what seems an infinite different way to present itself. I am likely lucky, all things considered, to be so high on the spectrum. But I can hope that this story helps people understand the difficulty coming to terms with different things.