Being autistic is tough sometimes, there’s no denying that. But harder than just being autistic – is being autistic, but not knowing you’re autistic.
I grew up without a diagnosis, and the idea that I’m autistic only crept in a little over a year ago (I’m 26 now).
“Life was harder pre-diagnosis*. I understood less about myself, about the world, and I felt so much shame just for being me. I can’t tell you how much my quality of life improved simply by knowing I’m autistic, and taking steps to change my life with that in mind.”
*As an aside, while I got a professional diagnosis, self-diagnosis is valid and can be just as beneficial. Knowledge is a powerful thing.
Looking back, before my diagnosis, I lived life by the wrong manual – with sets of rules, standards and expectations that didn’t apply well to me. I needed guidance and lessons outside of what this manual typically teaches. I thought I was the one lacking; that I was somehow defective for not living up to the expectations my peers achieved – why couldn’t I manage to be like everyone else?
“Well, now I know why. I’m not neurotypical, but neurodivergent. The standards and expectations for neurotypicals (NTs) to thrive are different than those for autistics and other neurodivergents (NDs). We learn differently, we express ourselves differently, we are just different. And there is nothing inherently wrong with that.”
This realization has been so freeing! My needs are different, and they’re allowed to be. I need more support than my NT peers in some areas, and now I can find ways to adjust. I can adapt my life to work better for me, based on my needs and not some notion of how I shouldbe living.
“ When I face a problem, now there’s a whole community out there sharing about how they face those challenges from a neurodivergent perspective – advice I can more closely relate to and understand. I finally have access to the right resources and the right places to look for help – among other autistics, other NDs out there helping to write a new manual for others like us.”
I can’t tell you how much better I feel now, how much better I treat myself than I did before. Instead of wondering, “what’s wrong with me?”, I wonder about how to adjust my life so I am happy, and I wonder why the world is so harsh on those who are different. There’s nothing wrong with me, nothing that I need to fix. It’s taking time, but I can and I will accept myself for who I am, my strengths, challenges, interests, and all, because I am good the way I am and I deserve to live a happy life – just like everyone else.
I wouldn’t be here, finally understanding that I can be who I am without shame, without my autism diagnosis. And what a relief it is.
Sullivan is an autistic yoga teacher striving to share more coping tools (such as yoga & meditation) with the neurodivergent community and beyond. Blending her background in psychology and mental health with yoga, Sullivan strives to share the peace, self-acceptance, and physical awareness yoga and mindfulness has brought her. Sullivan has a BS in Psychology from the University of Washington, and completed her 200-hour yoga teacher training in 2019. Read more about her online yoga instruction here.