I’m Hayley. I’m 22 and autistic.
One thing that annoys me is when people assume if they know one person with autism, they know a lot about autism. If you know someone with autism, that’s great. But no two people with autism are the same; we all have different abilities, skills and personality traits.
I’ve had people say, “I know someone with autism and they don’t act like you.” Exactly, because we are two different people.
I try telling people that, but they don’t always understand.
From a young age, I knew I was different. I wasn’t keeping up with others with schoolwork, my spelling was horrible and understanding everyday things was hard. I started getting bullied in fourth grade, and from fifth grade until I left school in 10th grade, my life was hell. I was bullied pretty much every day, and I would bottle up my feelings for months until I would release them all at once.
I believed people who said they were my friends, and I gave them my lunch money, let them stay at my house, gave them rides and would go hungry to help them. But when I was bullied, they would turn and bully me as well. Then they’d tell me they were sorry, and I would believe them and forgive them time after time.
I didn’t understand my autism fully until I got to high school, and by then I hated it. I wished I was never born with it. I would wonder, why me? I just wanted to be “normal” and accepted.
My mother and I agreed that at the end of 10th grade, I would not be going to school anymore. I started working at McDonald’s and left school.
I had teachers tell me all the time I would never achieve anything with my life because of my disability. I used to believe them, but slowly, with the help of my family I started not hating my autism and myself. As time went by, I realized I actually wouldn’t want it any other way. I’m proud to be autistic. Yes, I have trouble understanding emotions and sarcasm and how others are feeling, but I’m OK with that.
I am Hayley, and I’m autistic and proud.
Having autism hasn’t wrecked my life. In fact, it’s made it better. It’s made me see how much of a individual I am.
I have achieved many things, including:
- I got my license
- I’m a lifestyle support worker
- I share a rental
- I have my own car
- I found I have a passion for makeup and cosplay and photography
- I pay my own bills, including car payments, electricity and more
- And as of the end of last year, I started writing my own book about autism and have become a guest speaker about autism.
Don’t talk to me like I’m 2 when you find out I’m autistic. Don’t tell me how sorry you feel for me and how “brave” I am. And how I’m too “pretty” to be autistic.
People ask me why I tell people I’m autistic. It’s so they can understand me more, like why I might not look them in the face while they talk to me or while I talk to them. Why I can’t stay still. Why I cant understand sarcasm or jokes. Why I might not know what emotions they are feeling or showing. Why my anxiety is acting up or why I’m having a breakdown or meltdown.
So if you know someone with autism, please remember we are as human as you are. We have feelings, needs and dreams.
Don’t tell us what we can and can’t do, because we will prove to you we can do anything we set our minds to. And remember, no two of us are the same.
In June, I spoke at my first workshop in front of lots of people. In July, I passed a course on ADHD and autism with flying colors. I’m always studying and researching autism.
My story is ever changing, and I like that. It shows me how far I’ve come.
Follow this journey on Through My Eyes.