Learning to Be Myself as a Person With Autism

My name is Hannah. One year and two days ago I was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder — Asperger’s syndrome profile.

I had been trying to get a diagnosis since I was 17 years old. I was misdiagnosed with depression, anxiety (I do have anxious feelings but these are as a direct result of how I perceive the world due to my autism) and an eating disorder.

I have lost count of how many times that people have said things to me like “but you don’t look autistic,” “but you have a job,” “but you seem so normal.” People focus too much on stereotypes and don’t realize people with autism are as diverse as everyone else.

Since I received my diagnosis, I have been sharing my experiences on every social media platform possible. I want to stop people having the same problems I did. It is too common for people on the spectrum, particularly women and girls, to get misdiagnosed.

I used Autism Awareness Week to share my story on a local radio station and they shared an article about me on their website. This was great, but it is not enough.

Just because Autism Awareness Week is over, it doesn’t mean people with autism disappear. We constantly need to be aware and there is something much more important than awareness — acceptance.

A lot of people with autism use a technique called “masking” to hide their autistic traits and appear to be neurotypical. Our condition is not visible, yet we often still have the urge to hide it and pretend to be someone else.

I want people with autism to be free to be themselves. To encourage people with autism to embrace themselves rather than mask themselves, I started a new Instagram account, Aspie Aesthetic, to share my thoughts and feelings relating to autism in the hope it will open up a dialogue between me and other people with autism to normalize our experiences. I also hope neurotypical people will read my posts and educate themselves about autism so they understand us better.

I know I am only one girl and it is a big task, but I want to change the way the world sees us so the world is a nicer place for people with autism in the future.

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Thinkstock image by DM Baker.

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