I don’t really believe in those labels. I’m an autistic 23-year-old in an autistic 23-year-old’s body. I function the way I function, and I do not conform to a binary of high or low.
I am me. I have had it hard before. But in many ways I have it good too. I feel good today, and there’s a solid chance that I will feel good tomorrow too.
I have skills!
I have talked in detail about some of my needs, often to help educate people, especially parents and caregivers. But while you know about my needs, I also want you to know that I have a lot of abilities, and I think my abilities are pretty cool.
- Write stories
- Write wikiHow articles
- Draw pictures
- Pretend to be competent at playing piano
- Teach my sister
- Research stuff
- Get good grades
- Do public speaking and actually like it
- Code CSS and HTML
- Code more boring stuff
- Enter writing contests and win sometimes
I enjoy writing and drawing (as perhaps you could discern from this blog). My dad says I could illustrate a children’s book. He might be biased, but I like to think he’s right.
I write code for school. Perhaps someday I will do that in a job. I will see what happens.
I can do things and feel proud of what I’ve done. Some of my abilities are limited compared to those of my peers. Other abilities of mine are impressive, at least based on the reactions of others.
I think that’s normal for life. We are below-average in some areas and above-average in others. I know I am quite below average developmentally, but I also think some of my abilities are considerable.
And autism enhances a few of my abilities. Special interests and hyperfocus allow me to get more practice, and really love what I do. I really packed in the writing in middle school, and I advanced quickly. I’ve been drawing pictures for over 20 years now, and that’s a lot of practice too. (Sometimes I wear a wrist brace because I was drawing too much and I need to resist temptation for a while. And let’s be real, I’ll try to draw with the brace on anyway.)
Am I meandering? Maybe. But that’s what you get for reading an article by someone with inattentive type ADHD. And perhaps you can see my enthusiasm for the things I enjoy.
I enjoy both simple and complex pleasures
“Simple pleasures” doesn’t really have a well-defined antonym in our cultural lexicon, so I made one up.
Here are some things I like:
- Star Trek
- Illustrating and writing wikiHow articles
- “The Good Place,” “Jane the Virgin,” and “The Fosters”
- Building stuff with Dad
- Cat videos before bedtime (to get good dreams)
- PG or PG-13 lesbian fiction
- Stevie Nicks (a Fleetwood Mac singer)
Sounds like a normal 23-year-old, right? Neurotypicals could like all these things too.
Here are some things that also make me happy:
- Touching all the interesting items while walking through a store
- Stuffed animals
- Hair bows
- Holding hands with Mom and Dad
Sounds like a normal 7-year-old, right?
A lot of adults outgrow simple pleasures and replace them with more “sophisticated” pleasures. But at least for me, I didn’t outgrow very much. I just added to the list. I get to enjoy both childish and adultish things.
Adults aren’t “supposed” to be childish, but I don’t pay much attention to the “supposed to” things. I like what I like. And if I like more things, then I just get to have more fun.
Bad times are transient
I have had bad times. I have looked death in the nose. (What, you think I would make eye contact?) I have ridden in an ambulance and I have cried a lot. I have wondered about my own survival.
And right now I’m okay. I took all my meds and they worked. I am swaying side to side and listening to my current favorite music and typing fast. I have plans to spend time with my brother today and buy a secret gift for my dad. I take pauses to stretch my face and stare into space.
Bad times happened last year. Bad times happened last month. Bad times will happen again, though hopefully not soon.
I make adjustments. I get better. I swim in the pool with my dad and my sister. I watch my favorite shows on Netflix. I draw a little girl with an Afro. I comb my hair. I fuss over my toes with a nail clipper. I accidentally cut my toe and cry for my dad to come put a band aid on me so I don’t have to look. I draw more pictures. I take my meds. I limp into the kitchen to get cheesecake because my band aid feels funny on my foot.
Yes, I am disabled. Yes, I have mental illnesses. Yes, I have poor judgment about how to use a nail clippers. But that doesn’t mean life is always suffering.
Medication and therapy have given me my life back from when mental illness controlled it all. My life is, in many ways, limited compared to that of my peers. But I do like it. I have a nice family and a nice computer and a nice Netflix subscription.
My bad times are bad. But not all of life is bad times. My good times are good.
I hope I will live a long time. I want more good times ahead of me.
I think life is more good than bad.
I know some people want an autism cure. They conflate autism and suffering, and they think deleting autism will cause happiness and end sadness. They want to find the autism genes and develop a prenatal test. They want a world in which autism does not exist.
That’s not what I want, though. I want to continue my existence. I don’t think my life is bad. I think autism is a mixed bag, and I don’t want to lose it, because I don’t want to lose myself.
While I didn’t always enjoy my life, I have the right supports now. In my app that asks me how my day was, I tend to say it was OK or good.
I have optimism in me. Some of that may be my father’s genetic influence. (He’s a relentless optimist.) Some of it may be circumstantial. Some of it may be the meds doing their job.
But I’m mostly OK. I have family and drawings and cheesecake. I know that people will be there for me during the hard times. I don’t look forward to everything, but there are things I will have in my life that will be good.
I don’t want pity. I don’t want infantilization or raised eyebrows or “her parents are raising her wrong.” I am 23 and I have a life ahead of me and I am OK.