I grew up autistic, with ADHD and eventually PTSD, but without any diagnosis or much support. I grew up poor, abused, and neglected. People around me tried to control even my facial expressions and disapproved of me endlessly.
I was too much, too fragile, too loud, too rude, too weird, etc. Adults all around me ignored my struggles or told me I was making things up. But inside, I kind of liked me and thought maybe the people around me were jerks.
When you’re made to feel like you don’t deserve the air you breathe, then every breath you draw is open rebellion.
So, my advice to you comes from living as an autistic teenager without many options or freedoms. My thoughts were all I could call my own, and they were bent towards rebellion. I knew that I didn’t want to self destruct. I wanted a healthy revenge, one I could pursue forever, because I had heard it couldn’t be done.
Here are 10 things I learned on that journey:
1. Know yourself.
Know your flaws, your strengths, and your needs. What matters to you? What feels right to you? The things people say about you won’t hurt as much if you know what is true about you.
Ever feel like people just want to erase you? This is how you refuse to let that happen.
2. Be fair to yourself.
Own your mistakes, avoid judgement. Remember, feeling sorry means it’s time to apologize and learn, but feeling shame might mean that society is lying to you.
It does that a lot.
For example: Ever notice how we get in trouble for helping ourselves? Not everything we’ve been punished for is something we’ve done wrong. You can learn to tell the difference.
Rebel against shame by showing yourself kindness.
3. Take Tiny Steps.
Getting started and solving problems are the hardest parts of getting things done. Find one not-scary next step you can take to help get past the overwhelm.
People will see you struggle and assume you can’t do things. You can rebel by becoming comfortable with failing. Then, instead of being ashamed of your failure, feel pride in the resilience and passion you have to keep trying.
What is failure? How can it help us?
4. Know your emotions.
It’s normal and healthy to feel bad sometimes. The world is pretty messed up, and people will try to stop you from feeling things intensely. Feel them anyway. Emotions create motivation, and they can help us.
When you are calm, ask yourself: How do you want to use your emotions? How can they work for you instead of against you?
There will be times where your emotions overwhelm you. That’s okay, because we don’t control how we feel. Knowing how you feel will help you respond to your needs faster, which can prevent extreme overwhelm down the line.
Remember to be fair to yourself and rebel against shame.
5. Amuse yourself.
Have hobbies, interests, and inside jokes with yourself. You are who needs to approve of you. Society lies and tells us that pleasing others is the most important thing. It is not. Confidence is about knowing yourself so well that no one else’s opinions really matter. This is your life, and it is for you to enjoy.
If no one was watching you, what would you like to become good at?
6. Rules are low-key pretend.
We agree to follow many of them because they are there to protect people, and that’s the right thing to do. However, many rules are lies. Like when we’re told we must feel shame or that our stimming is rude or embarrassing.
Ask yourself: Who decided this should be a thing? And why?
Also ask yourself: What will happen if I break this rule? Be prepared for consequences, and keep yourself safe.
- The Giver
- Z is for Zachariah
- Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry
- The Witch of Blackbird Pond
- Calvin and Hobbs
- The Secret Life of Bees
- The Taming of the Shrew
- The Hunger Games
- I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings
- Why Does He Do That?
- The Gaslight Effect
- Where to Draw the Line: How to Set Healthy Boundaries Every Day
- How to Do Nothing: Resist the Attention Economy
- They Live
- 12 Angry Men
- Thank You for Smoking
- The Secret Garden
- Soylent Green
- The Great Debaters
- The Princess Bride
Never stop reading, watching, and gathering new ideas. It builds empathy, wisdom, and courage.
9. Advocate for your community.
If you want to persuade others, you need three things:
- Pathos (emotion),
- Ethos (ethics),
- and Logos (logic).
Changing minds means patiently talking to people in your community. In person, or in writing, challenge the ideas around you without personal attack. Instead, use the holy trinity of persuasion to shape your message.
10. The best revenge is living well.
When you’re made to feel like you don’t deserve the air you breathe, then every breath you draw is open rebellion. So make it a habit to breathe deeply, my friends.
Tip: There are people who will celebrate you. Don’t settle for the first people you find. Hold out for the kind ones.
Above all, remember that shame is a lie. Your existence is a gift to you. Think of everything that had to come together in order for you to exist. You are worthy of love and that is true even if the people around you can’t love you well.
That’s them, not you.
- Work Hard and Catch Up: Patterns in a Neurodivergent Career — June 27, 2020
- Teenage Rebellion: An Autistic Teenager’s Guide to Revenge Through Self Care — March 13, 2020
- 10 Good Boundaries to Have as an Autistic Advocate so Haters Don’t Burn You Out — February 7, 2020