To the Teenager Just Diagnosed With Autism
I would first like to say, “Welcome to the club.” It’s a club with some of the greatest people you’ll probably ever know. Believe me, I know how you feel. You’re probably feeling really overwhelmed right now, which is completely OK. I went home after I found out and curled up in a ball for hours and cried. And that’s OK. You need to take time to let yourself digest this. Just remember: It doesn’t change who you are.
I found out about my autism in an unhelpful way when a friend read it on an attendance list and acted as though it was a bad thing. Since I knew absolutely nothing about autism, I naturally assumed she was right. My other mistake was how I tried to learn about autism. Being a teenager, I would be willing to bet you’re already looking on your phone, laptop or some other device. Put it down. Just do it. The only thing that will accomplish is convincing you this is the worst thing that could exist in the world. And that’s probably what it feels like. I won’t make it sound better than it is and say this isn’t going to be hard. Because it is. There are going to be days when it feels like the whole world is in your way, and every word a person says just confuses you more. So no, this isn’t the easiest path that we could be on.
I spent about a year after my diagnosis hating everybody in the world and myself. I felt like I was never going to amount to anything. And unfortunately, some people won’t believe we will amount to anything. You will probably be told not to care about those people, which I know will be difficult. So I suggest something else. Don’t pretend they don’t exist. Use them as your motivation. When you read or hear people saying you can’t do anything, lock it away in your brain. When you accomplish something, you can tell them in your mind that you’re better than people think you are. It’s a wonderful feeling.
When I was first diagnosed, the hardest for me was that my parents acted like it didn’t exist. I didn’t (and haven’t) spoken to them about it, and it takes a toll sometimes. I would advise to just talk to your parents. Just talk. And I know talking can be hard and miserable and confusing and frustrating and a thousand other things. If you don’t talk to them, though, you’re going to spend a long time wondering what they think and form incorrect thoughts about them and yourself. Maybe it’ll be a five-minute conversation. Maybe it will take five hours. But you have to try to get them to understand, at least a little bit, of who you are. And if they do that, you guys can help each other.
The last thing you should know about is school. I’m going to sound harsh here, but I think public school (especially middle school) is the worst idea anyone ever had, and I wish it didn’t exist. I don’t know how your experience in school has been going, but since I’m a pessimist I’ll assume you’ve had at least some…troubles. Some teenagers seem to find pleasure by harming others. They feed off of our pain, so they can feel better about themselves. And I know how badly it sucks. Believe me when I say I know. The last thing I ever wanted to do was go to people and tell them about bullying, because when I did, nothing was done. But you have to try. You have to try and change it. Even if you can personally endure it, we all can’t. We can’t all take what some of us go through. So please, try.
I know this is one of the scariest things in the whole world right now. I know you probably don’t even know how you feel. I sure didn’t. But all this diagnosis changes is how people treat the things you have trouble with. And I know it’s probably the last thing you feel right now, but be proud of this. It’s part of who you are. Embrace it.
Someone who has been there
Follow this journey on Life As An Autistic Teenager.
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