Growing up, I struggled to fit in. I was bullied frequently in school, and dealt with unfriendly people as an adult. I knew I wasn't like everyone else but didn't quite know why. After an educational diagnosis of autism that was denied by many people, spending many years in special education, navigating high school with a 504 plan and experiencing anxiety during exams, accommodations in college for test-taking anxiety, and receiving speech therapy as a kid and this past year, I decided it was time for answers. In 2017, I started treatment for anxiety through the counseling center at Missouri State and taking medications. But it didn't stop there.
I was medically diagnosed with autism and an accompanying language impairment in May of last year. The news didn't come as a surprise, but sort of a relief. I didn't question myself anymore. Before that, I was embarrassed, and didn't care for who I was all that much. I felt like being different was bad.
After my diagnosis, the idea of self-love made more sense. Because of my autism/being autistic, I have learned to love myself more. I now see autism as a gift.
I refuse to be silent. Sharing your story is not attention-seeking. The less we talk about disability and mental health, the more the misconceptions stay.
My autism/being autistic has opened doors to giving back in multiple areas, through Bear POWER Ambassadors, pursuing a career in speech therapy based on my own experiences, and more. Autism is a beautiful life, a beautiful way of living. As Temple Grandin would say, autism just means that I am different, not less. 💕
Dear World is a storytelling project that connects people through their meaningful stories. They have photographed over 125,000 individuals and I am proud to be one of those many. #dearworld #DearMissouriState