A Life With Autism Is Not A Life Wasted

A Life With Autism Is Not A Life Wasted

Your satisfaction in life is not dependent on the value that society puts on it.
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Autism and other learning/mental disorders are a growing topic in today's society, and while others may believe that it can hurt a family as a whole, I wholeheartedly believe that our experiences in the world of Autism have only made my family stronger. My brother, Tristian, has Autism, and he does not deserve to be labeled as a "failure."

Tristian is one of the main reasons I love my life. I was there when he took his first steps and said his first words and he was there when I needed a shoulder to cry on. I don't think there's been a time where I wasn't thinking about him or the moments we've shared in one way or another. He is the absolute sweetest child you could ever meet, as well as one of the most determined.

There is no measure of the amount of love I have for that little boy, and he just happens to have Autism. In others' eyes, he'll never amount to anything in the "big picture." In our society, he is praised outwardly, yet is limited by the constructs we put up. He'll never have a "normal" or "meaningful" life and will "always need constant care." But what gave everyone the right to rate the happiness and potential of another human being? Why are we not asking the right questions?

Instead of judging or casting off people who suffer from a disability, why are we not collectively pushing to make their lives live up to our own standards? If we're not doing anything to help families suffering, we have no place to comment on the occurrence of disabilities in such families.

In my own experiences, when anyone says that a mental disability, like Autism, is a burden or a "waste of life," I can't help but disagree with that mindset. Of course, every family, in general, goes through their own set of medical problems, but the idea that a ruined life is synonymous with living with a disability is downright cynical and uncaring. Your life does not end when God presents you with new obstacles. Obstacles in life only make you stronger and the absence of said obstacles breeds complacency and discrimination.

My life with my brother and his diagnosis has only made me more grateful for the things I've been given. Whether Tristian had Autism or not, I would still have someone that I would be proud to call my brother. Autism has never and will never impede on his idea of self-worth or confidence. My family's bond may not be the strongest the world has ever seen, but the love surrounding us is undeniable.

No family should be labeled by the disability their child has. Their time is not wasted or thrown away, and their potential shouldn't be demeaned by stigmas that society has a hard time letting go.

Cover Image Credit: Sophia Raquel Garza

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I Weigh Over 200 Lbs And You Can Catch Me In A Bikini This Summer

There is no magic number that determines who can wear a bikini and who cannot.
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It is about February every year when I realize that bikini season is approaching. I know a lot of people who feel this way, too. In pursuit of the perfect "summer body," more meals are prepped and more time is spent in the gym. Obviously, making healthier choices is a good thing! But here is a reminder that you do not have to have a flat stomach and abs to rock a bikini.

Since my first semester of college, I've weighed over 200 pounds. Sometimes way more, sometimes only a few pounds more, but I have not seen a weight starting with the number "1" since the beginning of my freshman year of college.

My weight has fluctuated, my health has fluctuated, and unfortunately, my confidence has fluctuated. But no matter what, I haven't allowed myself to give up wearing the things I want to wear to please the eyes of society. And you shouldn't, either.

I weigh over 200lbs in both of these photos. To me, (and probably to you), one photo looks better than the other one. But what remains the same is, regardless, I still chose to wear the bathing suit that made me feel beautiful, and I'm still smiling in both photos. Nobody has the right to tell you what you can and can't wear because of the way you look.

There is no magic number that equates to health. In the second photo (and the cover photo), I still weigh over 200 lbs. But I hit the gym daily, ate all around healthier and noticed differences not only on the scale but in my mood, my heart health, my skin and so many other areas. You are not unhealthy because you weigh over 200 lbs and you are not healthy because you weigh 125. And, you are not confined to certain clothing items because of it, either.

This summer, after gaining quite a bit of weight back during the second semester of my senior year, I look somewhere between those two photos. I am disappointed in myself, but ultimately still love my body and I'm proud of the motivation I have to get to where I want to be while having the confidence to still love myself where I am.

And if you think just because I look a little chubby that I won't be rocking a bikini this summer, you're out of your mind.

If YOU feel confident, and if YOU feel beautiful, don't mind what anybody else says. Rock that bikini and feel amazing doing it.

Cover Image Credit: Sara Petty

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I've Recovered From An Eating Disorder and Exercise Addiction... Now What?

I am ready to be simultaneously healthy and fit, rather than hurting my body while trying to be fit.
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While recovering from an eating disorder and exercise addiction, I purposefully didn’t force myself to work out much or put a huge emphasis on working out.

As I continued to recover, I also did my best to not deprive myself or restrict any certain foods, which I have an extensive history of doing. Exercise and eating healthy are two of my biggest passions and two things I have been surrounded by my entire life. My parents are marathon runners and we were "that family" that wasn't allowed to eat candy or junk food.

However, recovery meant letting go of the suffocating hold that I had on these two passions.

My recovery has primarily been in the last 6 months, even though the issues I struggled with started in 9th grade. I turned my focus to body-acceptance, forgiveness, and healing — and away from negative self-talk and hatred for my struggles.

I hated what was happening, but didn't control being pulled back towards it.

For me personally, recovery has been a journey I've primarily taken on my own. It has taken A TON of hard work. It has required training, not unlike physical body training.

This kind of training has been mental and physical — training the thoughts, ideas, and beliefs in my mind and training my physical responses and actions. From harmful, life-consuming actions to beneficial, life-giving actions. Recovery is more than worth it.

It has been difficult, to say the least, but so necessary, eye-opening, and freeing, as anyone with these types of struggles knows.

You have to fill your mind with truth, find support (even if it's very small), re-train your mind, and be fully invested in your recovery — in order for it to happen.

For internal struggles like eating disorders and addictions, there is no perfect formula or set of steps to follow. There's no pill you can take or encouragement someone can give you. Everyone's story is different and recovery comes with a lot of ups and downs.

I've come to a point in recovery where my body and mind are ready and begging to dive back into better eating and consistent working out (with a better, healthy mindset of course.) I'm really curious as to if anyone else with similar struggles is at this point or has been here. I am excited about health and fitness, and excited to be able to enjoy these things that I love. But there's still a sense of fear in the back of my head.

It’s hard for me because uhhh... Where do I start!?

What do I do?! The last time I was fully invested in fitness was years ago.

I went from feeling like a fitness and PRO to feeling like a complete newbie.

I am ready to be simultaneously healthy and fit, rather than hurting my body while trying to be fit. One of my MAIN goals for this summer is to get back into a clean eating lifestyle (that allows me to feel my best!!) and to find a consistent fitness routine that I will be excited about and will stick to.

Crossfit workouts used to be my PRIDE and JOY, and I desire to find a place or activity that allows me to LOVE fitness again.

I've found confidence, peace, and joy without restriction, obsession, and deprivation... and I'm ecstatic to be able to incorporate balanced, safe health/fitness back into my life.

Cover Image Credit: StockSnap / Nirzar Pangarkar

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