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When I Realized I Don't Need to Be 'Normal' as an Autistic Person

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The word “normal” gets thrown around a lot. To me, it means you have to live your life in a particular way, follow fashion, jump on the bandwagon and be part of the crowd. For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been a little bit “different.” Even from the age of 4, I have memories of playing by the sandbox blissfully on my own. People soon figured out I wasn’t like my peers and when I was 4 I received my autism diagnosis. You might think this is a piece of fantastic news from the parents’ point of view, but if you’re a kid, you might disagree.

My childhood years were filled with visits to my therapist, getting help with math and many other appointments. From the ages of 5-10 I just knew that doing these things was a part of my life. It was nothing to be ashamed of, and it wasn’t something I thought about much — until I reached high school.

In high school, I was placed in the SEN (special educational needs) program because of my behavior and my terrible math ability. I had no idea if any other kids in my school were on the spectrum. Some kids branded me a “freak” or “weirdo” because I was different. I desperately wanted to be “normal.” I hated being the odd one out. My behavior took a drastic downward spiral and I wanted my school years to end.

I was bullied on every single aspect of my character. I got reminded every day that I wasn’t normal, that I was “ugly,” that I would never amount to anything. I ended up self-harming — every time I hurt myself, the pain faded. I know this sounds weird, but I was mentally and emotionally fragile, and almost hypnotized by the pain into a superficial happiness and calmness that never lasted.

Eventually, I got thrown out of my high school for bad behavior. I had every bit of confidence knocked out of me, but slowly I built it back up. Later, as an adult, I went to college, made friends, and promoted acceptance in the autism and mental health community. I’m still an autism advocate. I have done many great things like photoshoots, being in local papers, and even passing my ICT course last year.

Right now I’m loving life, and as for being normal? Let’s just say I’m unconventional and I choose not to measure my life or other people in terms of being normal. I have accepted who I am and I love life despite all the challenges it has thrown at me. It hasn’t been easy, but it’s definitely worth it! I want anyone who’s autistic to realize there is always hope and you will get through the difficult times.

Getty image by Andreonegin.

Originally published: April 22, 2020
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