The story I would like to share is one that I call my own. It’s a summary of my experiences, and yet it could easily belong to any beautifully-neurodivergent individual.
The following I dedicate to all of those who may have had similar experiences throughout their life, in the emotional and physical experiences they have had.
My name is Andrew, and I was diagnosed late with Autism– or so I thought.
I disclose these experiences along with unsaid things that I wish could be said to a mother who hid who I am and never truly accepted everything I can be. This is for each and everyone of you who have had to mask who you are, or who have never truly been able to embrace yourself because a parent knew what that you were autistic but couldn’t accept it.
If you had a parent who didn’t acknowledge that you were beautifully-different with one of many neurotypes that exist in people, this is for you. This is for the people who know that for each difficulty we experience, we find a gift and a talent as a human being with a mind and a heart all our own ready to be embraced.
I always knew I was different in my own way. Others would call me sheltered, but I never saw or felt that way since the age of four. Looking back over the years, my mother, once a mother of fairy tales in my eyes, seemed to change after I reached the age of five.
For the longest time, I never quite knew why. She would favor my siblings. My older brother, the first-born boy, and my younger sister, mom’s first-born girl and the last child after me.
Over the years, I’d thought a great deal of neglect I suffered was because my mother had simply stopped loving me over time. As I got older, I went through an awkward puberty. I was ridiculed by mom and my older brother for being a “grown man who was crying.”
I would come to blame my mother’s neglect and brother’s bullying on a crucial problem of mine– the problem being that I would have meltdowns in school and sometimes at home or at events when overwhelmed. My mother simply convinced everyone that these were “temper tantrums,” going so far as to let my siblings call me a demon until I believed it.
As one can imagine, I’d developed other issues out of pain. I blamed both my mother’s and my siblings’ hurtful and ignorant comments about my emotional state for my weight. At the time, I was overweight, and thus a bigger target to my family.
Unfortunately, at the time I blamed myself more than anything or anyone else, like so many who will read this have done. But they shouldn’t.
We aren’t broken– people are just cruel at times.
Instead of of researching autism, my mother, a brilliant mind in several fields, convinced any doctor who would listen to drug me drastically. This only caused my weight gain to speed up, making me fearful and causing me to develop diabetes from high blood sugar at that time.
She would later come to throw me out, abandoning me, after being pressured by my siblings who were furious about years of financial hardship and lack of gifts on Christmas Day– I simply wasn’t worth the cost of food I ate or the sparse gifts at holidays.
For years, with little contact with the family who abandoned me, I lived with relatives to escape abuse– and unfortunately that didn’t stop mistreatment and beatings. I was considered a burden there, too.
With no mother, I thought I was a monster. I thought that somehow I was so different in some invisible way that I couldn’t be loved– an illusion that I and you who are reading this must learn to dispel.
When I would start college to escape my hardships at home, where my relatives would come to treat me even worse than mom had, I began to research autism and Asperger’s Syndrome and even took courses in child developmental psychology and general psychology because I wanted to know who and what I was.
I wanted to know WHAT was wrong with me that I was treated so differently.
As I began to make friends and meet incredible people, I would come to realize something you as a reader must also realize: I was asking the wrong questions.
There was nothing wrong with me. Outside of my hardship-filled and toxic home, meltdowns were virtually non-existent. My special interests and mind were appreciated over time by my peers, and I excelled.
Once I was no longer being abused and involuntarily heavily-medicated, my weight and blood sugar normalized, and I was no longer diabetic– though I would have been happy to accept myself where I was with my weight, as you should accept yourself as you are, too. Not everyone’s body recovers from that kind of trauma.
I realized that being overwhelmed was a factor that affected me and caused what I learned were meltdowns. I began to theorize even more that I did have some form of Autism. Many of my friends had been diagnosed, too, and I thought, “Perhaps this is the hunch I need.”
Shortly thereafter, I decided to seek out an individual who could diagnose me off campus. Finding the right kind of doctor and psychiatrist took over a year and a half thanks to insurance issues, but I refused to give up.
I am 25 now, and less than four months ago, I was diagnosed with autism. The difficulties I faced all my life made sense, and a flood of relief washed over me. With relief also came self-mourning and the crashing force of everything I’d overcome and endured.
This is extremely common. It is the start of the healing process in a neurotypical-held world that often degrades Autistic Individuals. It is the start of self-love and acceptance without the masking we developed to protect ourselves.
But also with my diagnosis, I thought it would help my family learn and know how to love me. It didn’t. It was only after I was diagnosed that I found out my mother knew since around the time I was five years old. I had already been diagnosed, but she was so ashamed that she hid it from me.
Twenty years of living in the darkness, not having access to accommodations I needed, being shamed for my sensory overwhelm and medicated until I became physically ill– that’s how ashamed my own mother was of who I am at my core.
However, something I’m only now beginning to realize with the help of good friends and a wonderful therapist is that it was not my fault for how I was treated and mistreated. Often, a family member knows we are different and is unable– or unwilling– to accept us.
In closing, I wish to say that you will not be everyone’s cup of tea, but you are so much more than other people’s opinions about you. They’re not all capable of seeing you for your full value or understanding how truly much you are worth.
You were always more than the abuse that people made you to feel you brought on yourself. You were always more than the burden people made you to believe that you were. Even if you need help to get by in life, you are valuable. Your ideas are brilliant. Your broken heart is full of promise and potential. Your spirit is full of Light and Love. Or, You are you.
- Home at Last: Finding Your True Family When You’re Misunderstood - February 14, 2021
- Angry Political Autistics: On the link between white supremacy, privilege, and systemic oppression - January 8, 2021
- On Matthew Rushin, Osime Brown, and Systematic Trauma to Black and Indigenous People - July 22, 2020