Empowering People, Launching lives

My autism acceptance journey

Author: Mariss Ijaz


15th April 2024 | 3 mins read

It never really occurred to me that my brain was wired differently – well, not for a long time anyway. I was always sensitive to loud noises; the sound of the bell ringing to signify the end of breaktime at school, the footsteps of everyone rustling into the classroom. It all irritated me like chalk to a blackboard. I tended to take things that were said for face value. Someone could say ‘it’s raining cats and dogs’ and you’d probably find me twisting and turning my head by the windows searching for literal fur animals everywhere.

My emotions have been bursting with intensity for as long as I can remember. I’d experience hyperactive episodes that were like an almost unbearable surge of energy – bouncing off the walls. On the more painful side, I’d have meltdowns that felt like someone had physically taken out my heart, smashed it into pieces with a hammer and then forced it back into my ribcage. It was hard to tell what would trigger my episodes, even for myself. I could be having a relatively good day and then maybe I’d stub my toe, or maybe someone would speak over me, and next thing I knew I’d be sobbing my eyes out and questioning where my life is going. This happened frequently, and in all honesty it still does. I thought it was the norm. I thought we all felt like this, and others were just better at handling it.

I remember being unable to carry out seemingly simple tasks that my peers could do easily growing up. They were all oddly specific; tying my hair up into a high ponytail with a thin hairband, blowing air into balloons to inflate them, using a hole puncher and stapler, sharpening pencils, tying shoelaces. These were all things I needed step by step instructions and guidance on, and sometimes even then they were left unachieved. My creative abilities compensated for all that I lacked in my studies, so that was a massive fuel for my self-esteem. No matter what I couldn’t do, I could write creative pieces. I could notice things that others couldn’t, like the characteristics of strangers on the bus or down the road.

I would say I’m quite a misunderstood individual, and that’s a thought I’ve carried with me from my childhood to early adulthood. I’ve always had trouble reading social cues and understanding sarcasm, although I can say I’m a lot better at it now than I was even a few years ago. Nothing major clicked in me, it was all just down to exposing myself to bigger social situations and engaging with people more. They’re complicated little things, humans, but they get easier to figure out as time goes on and you spend more time sharing the world with them. I also found it a lot easier to start unravelling personalities one by one – getting to know people on a 1-1 basis with an intimate conversation as opposed to being exposed to group settings instantly, which can be daunting. I’ve been told I can be seen as rude and abrupt at times. This is often unintentional, and it can be frustrating trying to explain that you’re genuinely not trying to cause any offense, especially when you’re not even sure what it is you’ve done that has upset someone. I’ve also been told I have ‘no filter’. In layman’s terms, if there is a part of the brain that allows you to think about what you’re saying before you open your mouth, mine must be faulty.

It would be a massive injustice to sum up our entire existence with just one word, when we are so much more

I remember reading The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida. I’d never felt so heard, validated, included. Enjoying artwork and writing by neurodivergent creators was such a massive saving grace and I think it always will be as I navigate through life. It’s lovely to have our own little community, a safe space, where we can feel out of place together. And more importantly, reassure one another that feeling ‘different’ doesn’t necessarily mean ‘bad’.

I’m in my early twenties now and I’ve been diagnosed with ASD since the age of sixteen. It’s only recently that I’ve started to embrace my diagnosis without shying away from it due to the stigma in society. It’s imperative to bear in mind that the word ‘autism’ is not an adjective or personality trait. It’s something we have, not something we are. It would be a massive injustice to sum up our entire existence with just one word, when we are so much more. We are gentle, sensitive, caring, fiery, inspirational, resilient, empowering, entertaining, intelligent, creative- we are the colour in a world of grey.


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