Monday, April 30, 2012
Dear 'I Wish I Didn't Have Asperger's'
When I think of that statement I think about the times when I, myself, thought it. My mind skips back years in time where my own journey wasn't always easy. Those times, are hard to think of now. I still have those times now where I think, just for a moment, that I wish I didn't have Asperger's. This letter may well be for me to reflect on during those moments as much as for others out in cyberpsace looking for some consolation. This letter may be for my son, when he gets a little older and thinks 'I wish I didn't have autism' during his moments of inevitable struggle.
What would I like to say to the child that I once was and to other autistic children out there right now? I'd like to remind them that the things that seem to huge now won't be in a few years. I wish I'd known that when I was alone at recess, or picked last at PE everyday. I'd tell them that it's okay to be an individual and pursue your own interests, instead of worrying if the other kids will approve. I'd tell them, you will find a friend, a good one. Just be patient. Do not accept 'friends' that treat you less than in order to have a friend. I'd say, you are good enough, just as you are. Repeat that to yourself until you know it to be true. This will be the one thing, if any that I would make sure that I as a child would have known. I am good enough just as I am. People that are worthwhile will respect me as a person, autism and all.
What would I say to that awkward adolescent that I once was, and to the other autistic adolescents out there? I'd tell them to just hold on. I know it's hard right now. Being a teenager is hard for everyone, but even harder for us on the spectrum. I'd tell them that they'll get a chance to date and find love. I know it can be lonely. I know everyone else is telling you to be patient and the right one will come along. I know you're tired of that cliche. I know these words won't stop you from feeling lonely, but please let them soothe you some into knowing that it will happen. It may not be tomorrow. It may not be next week, but please know that you will not be lonely forever. If I had a way to tell my former teenaged self something, I'd have told myself to keep busy doing what I like, being confident with myself and the dates and friends would come naturally. Fretting, obsessing and constantly trying to problem solve will make relationships harder to come by and quite possibly prevent them from happening in the first place. Getting a boyfriend or friends is not like a math problem or crossword puzzle. It can't be solved by intellectual thought. It has to go through the natural stages to evolve. I'd tell myself that I need to learn about meditation and find a good therapist to help me learn about emotions. I'd tell autistic teens that what others think don't matter as much as what you think of yourself. Pay attention to keeping things in order on the inside and things on the outside will be much smoother. Learn how to detect and handle your emotions. This is not something that is firsthand for us. It needs to be learned and is crucial to success.
I'd tell teens to take advantage of the internet. The amount of support available is endless. Find other ASD teen to chat with. Find ASD adults to mentor you. We are here. We've been where you are and understand. We can help guide you and are more than happy to do so. Don't post on Facebook or constantly tell your peers that you're lonely ect... This will have the opposite effect you are hoping for. Find some online support group to confide in.
For young autistic adults, I'd tell them most of all, that it's okay to ask for help. It's okay to not know things. There is no shame in needing assistance. Don't try to do everything on your own to prove that you can and to prove you're independent! It takes a strong person to ask for help when they need it. Don't drive yourself into the ground with anxiety and depression by trying to do it on your own. Find support from somewhere. Sometimes, with some of us, it won't be family. We'll have to find it somewhere else. Take advantage of disability services when and if you need them.
What I would want any autistic person to know, is that being autistic is okay. Don't waste a minute of your life hiding away who you are trying to be someone you're not. Do what you love, and love what you do. This will help instill pride. Immerse yourself into positive actions and let that direct you to self worth. Don't ever let the bullies in your life win by repeating their stories in your head through the years. If you can't shut the stories off, get to therapy to help you. Know, I mean really know that you have worth just as you are. Be authentic. Be compassionate with yourself. You are going to have bad days. You are going to have sensory issues and meltdowns. Again, learn your body and emotions. It will give you a better opportunity to handle these things when they come up. Be compassionate and forgiving with yourself when these things happen. Remember: " I am good enough just as I am. People that are worthwhile will respect me as a person, autism and all ." That is your new mantra. The world can be noisy and overwhelming. Sometimes, you might feel like it's all too much, or your heart literally aches with loneliness. Please, remember that there's many of us that share your story or care very much. We have autism, too, or children that are autistic, or friends, and family. You're not alone. Reach out to us. We're here.