Arianna Nyswonger

@arianna-nyswonger | contributor
My name is Arianna Nyswonger, I am 23 years old and am autistic, I have from PTSD and autoimmune diseases. I am an advocate for multiple things including autism awareness and acceptance, disability rights, LGBTQ+ rights and civil rights. I am a novelist and blogger. In my spare time I love to cuddle my service dog and write.

Autoimmune Disease: Getting a Wheelchair When You Can Walk

“Thank you babe, for getting this darn walker out of the car!” I tell my boyfriend as I unfold my walker in front of me. It was a warm, sunny, Sunday afternoon, and we had just left a long day at church. When we stopped at a local store because I was out of food, I saw the long walk to the front of the store from my handicapped parking spot, and sighed. When I got to the front of the store, I was already tired out and we still had to shop. So I hobbled into the store with my boyfriend leading the way with the basket. I have autoimmune diseases that are taking a lot from me — quickly. They’re also giving me things I really don’t want, like unimaginable and horrific pain, sleepless nights and days spent in bed. I was able to go five minutes without pain. It came on quick and suddenly. My knees buckled, my breath was stolen from my body, my teeth clenched and my eyes watered. I bit my tongue and continued walking. I was determined to get the things I needed. I tried to hide the pain like I usually do — I hate when my boyfriend sees me in pain. But the mask came off quickly and in a loving way, he told me to sit and that he’d help me retrieve what I needed. This is normalcy for my boyfriend and I. My walker doesn’t help me and the pain only stops when I sit. It’s hard on both of us and cuts our dates and fun times short. I don’t want to have my fun days stopped. Later that night, I went home and thought about getting a wheelchair. I had been thinking of asking for a while now. I cried and asked myself why me? Getting a chair can be scary, and there are so many things to consider. I thought, what if they stare? What if they call me names? What about the judgment? I was afraid others would think this meant I was “giving up.” Is it worth it? I asked myself the same questions over and over again. I eventually realized people’s opinions don’t matter, and if they wanted to stare, that’s their issue. If this would get me out and about, if this would give me some freedom, why not? My original worries grew and developed from society’s fear of those who are different. People tend to hate on anyone they can’t understand. Society makes people like me doubt themselves. Society tells me that because I can walk, I do not need a wheelchair. It’s funny how society is usually the reason many people become like myself: waiting until the last moment to get what they need. Against what society wishes, but in agreement with my family and friends, I decided to listen to my sister and boyfriend and asked for a wheelchair. It was scary, nerve wracking and extremely hard to admit I needed it, but my doctor was amazing and thought I needed it as well. As a society, we must change our thinking. Not all illnesses are visible, and we shouldn’t hesitate to get the support we need.

A Letter From Your Autistic Friend

Dear friends, You probably don’t understand why I told you I am autistic. You probably don’t get why I told you I have issues with comprehending people or certain things. Here’s the thing: I did it because “comprehension” is what gets me into trouble. I tend to lose friends because of it. It can cause issues with communicating and understanding things in general. I tell people so they are warned that I don’t do these things on purpose. It’s just a part of who I am, and I have to work around it, but it’s hard to do this. I do my best, but sometimes my best isn’t good enough. I get things mixed up. Sometimes I don’t even know I do it till it already happens and the person has walked away. I ask that you please try to be patient with me. I am trying. Please remember that it’s not you, and it’s not entirely me — it’s how my brain works. I try to be patient with myself, but it’s harder when my friends aren’t with me. I’m sorry for any misunderstanding that may happen, but please know it doesn’t mean I’m not trying to be a good friend. There are many things I’d love for you, my friends, to do, but the most important things are these: I’d love for you to let me know if you feel I am not understanding you correctly. I can’t tell when I am having comprehension difficulties, so I need people to let me know, “Hey, I think you may have misunderstood me.” I’d like it if you didn’t treat me like a child or think that, just because I am autistic, I am in need of constant help. I can live my life on my own. Yes, there are some things I need help with, but I don’t need constant supervision. Being autistic doesn’t mean I am a child. I’m 23, so please treat me as such. But most importantly, when things get tough, please have patience. I know things can be difficult, and I don’t expect you to be perfect, but I ask that you try to have patience with me. I know it can be frustrating; it’s frustrating for me, too! Being autistic is part of who I am. It’s not a “disease,” and I don’t need to be “cured.” Yes, things can be difficult, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I just need friends who are patient and understanding. We autistic people just need a society in which we can be ourselves — and it starts with you, my friends. Sincerely,Your Autistic Friend Image via Thinkstock Images

How Luna Lovegood in 'Harry Potter' Helped Me as an Autistic Person

In my childhood, there were a few characters from books that helped me not only find myself but accept myself for who I am: autistic and quirky! One of them was Luna Lovegood from the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. As a child who was often the outcast and the target of many bullies due to being “different,” I identified with Luna. I loved that she accepted who she was and that, no matter what the bullies would do or say, she’d keep her chin up and use it to teach others, or as a learning experience for herself. She never looked down on herself for being quirky and different. I loved that about her because, unlike myself, I couldn’t get over being different. I wanted so desperately to be “normal.” The thing is, instead of being viewed as quirky, I was viewed as the weird child in school throughout my life, and Luna embodied what I wanted so desperately to be. I felt like she was my best friend (I knew she was only a fictional character), but I felt like I understood her so much that I knew her personally. I would read and read and tell myself that one day, just maybe, I would accept who I am and become like Luna. Being autistic is just being myself. I am now 23 and have just barely grasped that. I was and still am very much like Luna with my characteristics. The only difference? I have now accepted myself. Thanks to the help of the Harry Potter gang, I got through one of my deepest bouts of depression I had as a child (I also have PTSD). I remember one day after school, after being bullied so much I felt I had nothing to continue living for, I came home to a package on my bed. This heavy, bulky package. addressed to a Lady Arianna Nyswonger, from my favorite, loving, biggest-Harry-Potter-fan uncle, was the seventh and final Harry Potter book. Through a stream of unending tears I opened that package and grabbed the book. I stroked its binding, and I remember telling myself, “ I can get through this, I know I can. Just one more year and I am done. Just like Harry and the gang and Luna, one more year.” It was my senior year, and I was having a rough time with it. I immediately opened the book and started reading, losing myself in its white pages and the gifted words of a fantastic storyteller. I soon forgot why I was so upset and the thoughts of “giving up” and just “ending myself” were completely lost within the typed out words. Harry and his story helped me, but Luna helped me the most. Anytime she’d show up in the book, I would get excited — it was someone I could finally relate to. Luna was me! Every day after school, I’d pick up the book and read. Through tears, I’d battle my own demons just through reading this book. Harry defeating Voldemort was me defeating the person inside telling me to quit. It was me defeating the bullies who constantly brought me down. It was me defeating myself, the part of my wanting to quit and die. Hogwarts was my home during my childhood. I have been there since the beginning, and it’s been there for me. It’s helped me through my deepest, darkest times when I thought there was no hope. It gave me someone I could relate to. It helped me accept me. And for that, I can never repay J.K. Rowling. She gave me a safety zone, somewhere in my mind I could go to get away. She wrote a character who told me people would accept me if I just would be me, that the haters can hate but they can’t change you. She wrote a character who helped me become who I am today: a writer, an activist, a blogger and most importantly, myself. If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page. If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 . Image via Facebook | Harry Potter

What a Chronic Illness Patient Wants Her Doctors to Know

Dear doctors and therapists, This is your patient, and I am writing this letter because I want you to hear me out. I want you to listen to me. I don’t want to be told lies or given sugarcoated answers. I want you to help me find out what’s happening to me. If I tell you I’m having issues and need to talk, or if I tell you the pain is getting worse and want to know what we can do about it, or if I tell you I need assistance moving and ask for a device that can help — hear me out. Don’t ignore me. I am doing my best to live my life like any other young adult, but being told that you can’t or won’t help makes it harder for me to do so. I need your help. We must work together to make things better. We must work together to find answers. A doctor-patient relationship must include both sides working together. Things won’t get accomplished unless we both put our heads together and find the answers. I can’t do it on my own, and you can’t either. If I say my medication isn’t working, let’s find another one to try. If I am fearful of lowering something without adding another, please hear me out. Most likely there is reason for that fear. If I tell you that my pain is horrible, please believe me. Just because I am not crying doesn’t mean it’s not there. What would I like to hear from you? I’d like to be told I am not faking it, that this is truly happening to me. I’d like to hear that you believe me and that you care. That you will do everything in your power to help me. I want you to acknowledge my fear and sadness. I want your support and kindness every single step of the way. But my biggest request is that you listen. That’s it. Have a heart. My pain is not all in my head, and I’m not faking my pain and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It’s hard as it is to deal with this, but even harder when those I need to help me won’t. Please hear me out and help me. Sincerely,A chronic illness patient Image via Thinkstock Images

What Not to Say to an Autoimmune Disease Patient

What I want to hear, as an autoimmune disease patient, is very simple. I don’t want to hear “You’re so brave!” or “You’re my hero!” Although these things are great and positive, they feel demeaning to me when I am not feeling brave or strong. I love that people want to compliment me, I love that they make an attempt at showing they care, but I don’t want to hear that every time. What I want to hear most is not that I am brave or strong, but that it’s OK not to be. I want someone to hug me and say, “It is OK to not be strong all the time, to not be brave 24/7. It’s OK to yell and scream and have a fit, just don’t stay in that frame of mind all the time. You aren’t being negative when you aren’t brave or strong all the time.” I want to express my fears without being told, “Just stay positive.” I want to be told my fears are rational and that I can still be real without being negative. I want people to stop this conception that if you are fighting something deadly you are brave and strong all the time when all you are doing is living, you are doing what everyone else is doing. I want people to listen when I say I am being realistic instead immediately judging that I am being negative. I want to be real without someone judging.