As a young girl I always felt like I didn’t quite fit in. I had difficulty connecting with others, being in large groups exhausted me, and I had a hard time following conversations. I knew that I was different, there was something that prevented me from truly belonging. After many years of searching, I finally found out what was ailing me; I was diagnosed with autism. Upon the realization that I had autism, I felt a mixture of emotions. At first I felt fear and embarrassment, but it quickly became replaced with a sense of empowerment.
My journey of healing began with a newfound commitment to embracing my autism rather than fighting it. I started researching others who had similar diagnoses, and began to understand that being on the autism spectrum doesn’t make me any less valuable or capable for that matter. Instead of focusing on the ways in which autism made me feel “less than”, I started to think about how it made me unique. I began to look for strength in the things about me that were different and fascinating.
I also worked to cultivate an understanding and appreciation of my neurological wiring. I wanted to provide myself with the tools necessary to cope with stressful and overstimulating situations. I started to use mindfulness techniques to keep my thoughts and emotions in check, and also started to practice yoga and meditation to ease my anxiety.
My biggest challenge, however, was regaining a sense of control of my own life. I had always relied on my parents to make decisions for me, and I felt like I was incapable of making my own decisions. I worked to push myself to make more independent decisions and it was scary, but also liberating.
It’s been four years since I was first diagnosed and I can look back and say with pride that I have come a long way. I still feel overwhelmed in social situations, but I can take a deep breath and keep going. I no longer feel ashamed of my diagnosis, I embrace it and am thankful for the unique perspective and skills it has allowed me to acquire. I am so proud of how far I have come and am looking forward to the many challenges ahead.
My brush with autism has been nothing short of a blessing in disguise. I am now confident in my ability to turn a challenging situation into an opportunity for growth and self-acceptance. I have come out of this experience with a new strength, and a renewed sense of hope and courage.