You found out you’re autistic? Congratulations!
There is a lot I wish I knew when I found out, so I wanted to share some of this with you, as an autistic adult who has learned a lot.
Autism is the name for the way our brains work. We think differently to most people, which is why A LOT of artists, inventors, musicians, scientists and more are autistic. Not all of us will become people like Satoshi Tajiri (the creator of Pokémon) or Einstein. But we all have potential to make a difference in the world, be it in a big or small way. Being autistic means we often think outside the box and are more likely to create new ideas or solutions to problems.
While being autistic has its positives, it can be hard sometimes.
We experience the world differently to most people, so we can be sensitive to sounds, lights or tastes. We can also have a strong sense of justice so we may feel strongly about things other people may not care about.
But most of the difficulties we face aren’t because of autism.
Because our brains work in a different way, people can find it hard to understand us sometimes.
We find it harder to understand them, and they find it harder to understand us. This is known as the “double empathy problem”.
But a lot of the ways things work are based on what works for non-autistic people.
Because of this, some things others find easy can be hard for us. For example, some autistic people find going to school really hard, because of the way schools are designed.
People can misunderstand us too. Many of us have been bullied because we stand out. Many of us have deep interests that we care a lot about, but non-autistic people sometimes call these “obsessions”. Some people will wrongly tell you and parents or carers there are some things you will never be able to do.
Because of these difficulties, you might dislike the idea of being autistic right now. It is common for autistic people to struggle with anxiety or depression when they are diagnosed, because of the amount of difficulties we have experienced – I know I did.
But if things are hard right now, I promise they will get better.
At least 1 in 67 people are autistic. This means there are over 1 million of us in the UK! You are not alone, and connecting with other autistic people may help you to see that despite some difficulties, being autistic can be pretty awesome.
If you struggle with anxiety or depression, struggle with feeling angry a lot or don’t know how to control your emotions at times – none of these things are permanent. While the double empathy problem is real, some people try incredibly hard to bridge the gap. Some places and services may not work well for you, but some are really amazing and do everything they can to make them work for everyone.
And if some places don’t work out, that’s ok. Life isn’t about trying to “fit in”. It is about learning to live life in a way that works for you – which means finding spaces and places where you can be yourself, surrounded by people who understand you.
When I was first diagnosed, I thought I was going to be unhappy for my whole life. It was only when I stopped trying to “fit in” that I realised this wasn’t true.
As someone who learned a lot over the years, I want you to know it is ok to follow a niche interest that most people don’t understand. It is ok to strive to live a life that might be seen as “weird” by other people. It is ok to have ambitions and dreams that some people don’t understand.
As an autistic person, it is really important to know that trying to “fit in” doesn’t work, even if some people tell you it is what you need to do. The happiest autistic people I know are the ones who don’t try to be “normal”. Being autistic means you have to live a different life to most people, but that life can still be a very happy one.
If we’re being honest, no one is “normal” and we shouldn’t strive to be. The world is a better place for everyone if we all feel free to be ourselves. Not everyone is comfortable doing this right now, but there is nothing stopping us 🙂
A happy autistic adult, who used to think I never would be