Thank You For Seeing Me {+ Notes On Being A Happy Aspie}

 

“Thank you for seeing me, I feel so less lonely.”

~ Alanis Morissette, Empathy.

 

I’ve spent days trying to figure out how on earth to convey just how overwhelmingly touched I am from all the love I’ve received since ‘coming out’. So here I am, sitting at my laptop, trying to string the words together.

I know I’ll never be able to truly put it into words, but here goes…

As I mentioned last week, I had no idea what to expect when, with a pounding heart and shaking hands, I hit publish on I’m Coming Out Of The Autism Closet.

I thought it might make a bit of a ripple, purely because it would surprise so many people. I hoped it might reach a woman who feels misunderstood and give her answers to life-long questions she had about herself. I wondered if it might help me find some fellow Aspergirls.

But never for a second did I think it would get the kind of attention it received.

Here’s just some of the reasons this past week has been so damn incredible:

  • The website crashed from all the hits my post was getting – a first for Wild Sister!
  • My story was shared hundreds of times, even by organizations like the Autism Women’s Network.
  • I’ve received hundreds of emails, messages, comments and tweets, all soaked in love, celebration and heartwarming kindness.
  • I’ve now connected with so many Aspergirls who have shared their own stories with me.
  • I’ve heard from women all over the world who now have relief, answers, and new insight into themselves after reading and relating to my story. Some are happy just to finally know why they always felt so different, and others are now on the road to a diagnosis.
  • I’ve got a long list of interview requests, which I’m so excited about.
  • Women I’ve been friends with for years have shared their own connections to the Autism Spectrum, either through a child, family member or friend.

A week later, and I’m still blown away from it all.

I’ve heard from Aspergirls, wives, sisters, daughters, mothers, psychologists, artists, businesswomen, authors, bloggers, and even a university professor researching the link between ASD, ADHD and entrepreneurship.

I’ve laughed when I recognized myself so clearly in the stories of other Aspies, I’ve teared up when I read the countless supportive comments left for me by total strangers, and I’ve watched in awe as my story spread like wildfire across the internet.

But the most touching and surprising moments came from mothers of children on the Autism Spectrum. While I had hoped I would be able to help women gain a better understanding of themselves, it hadn’t occurred to me that I could help women be understood better by their loved ones.

I read comments from mothers, saying that my article gave them insights to their young daughters. That reading my story helped them understand their Autistic child better. Thanking me for being a positive role model, for giving them hope that their daughter can grow up to be happy, confident and successful, and to put it as one of my readers so eloquently did; not despite Aspergers, but because of it.

Reading comments like those made my day. It really doesn’t get any better than knowing you made a positive difference in someone’s life, no matter how big or small that difference seems.

It didn’t really hit me until I woke up the morning after I published that article, but I literally revealed almost every one of my biggest weaknesses, fears and vulnerabilities in that post. I put my kryptonite out there for the entire world to see, and it feels incredibly liberating.

I’ve never felt more vulnerable + exposed, but I’ve also never felt more acknowledged and understood.

I don’t have to hide anymore.

I can be ‘out’, in all my Aspie glory. And it’s been incredible to know it has encouraged others to come out of their own closets, no matter what kind of closet they’ve been in {because really, aren’t we all in some sort of closet?}

On Being A Happy Aspie

I also just want to clarify a few things. A number of people have commented on my positive reaction to my recent diagnosis. While I’m very happy now, I don’t want to sugarcoat anything or pretend like it was easy for me to get to where I am.

When I first recognized Aspergers in myself {almost a year ago}, I felt relief, but I also felt sadness. I went through a whole range of emotions about it, from hopelessness for my future to anger at my past. It was hard to come to terms with the knowledge that I truly am different, and that certain things will always be harder for me than most people, like socializing or even going to the supermarket.

I sort of went through a period of grieving, realizing I’ll never be ‘normal’. Of course, logically I know there’s no such thing as normal – everyone is different and everyone has weirdness to them. Really, I had to let go of what I’d been conditioned to believe my life ‘should’ look like, and accept it for what it really was; imperfect, sometimes messy, but also quite beautiful and completely my own.

After I spent some time feeling sad about it, I let it go for a while. I stopped thinking about it until I felt ready to pick it up again. I gave myself time to accept it and live with the realization for a few months. That’s when I started to see the strengths and what I refer to as superpowers.

That’s when I started to connect the dots and see how Aspergers had affected my life, both good and not-so-good. And that’s when I began to realize that, with my already established and ever-growing Wild Sister audience, I could really do some good by opening up about AS. I could speak candidly about it, raise awareness and help other women just like me.

That’s when I decided to see Aspergers as a positive. That’s when I decided to be happy about it.

Because as I learned a few years ago, right before I started Wild Sister, happiness is a choice. Not necessarily an easy choice, but still a choice.

I refused to feel hopeless about it. I refused to let it make me angry, resentful and bitter.

I’d already achieved some of my biggest dreams without even knowing I was an Aspergirl, so I knew it wouldn’t stop me from going after even bigger dreams. And now, I can really focus on my strengths and have the support I need when it comes to my weaknesses.

Yes, I’ve had tough times too. I spent my early twenties sleeping all day and too afraid to leave the house. In primary school, I had panic attacks before school, meltdowns after school, and was bullied during school. Growing up, I always felt like I was inherently wrong. Broken. Defective. Dumb {Sidenote: I thought I was dumb, and other kids called me dumb, because I was terrible at maths. It seems this is because of something called Dyscalculia, meaning numbers don’t make sense in my mind. Maths, analogue clocks, remembering phone numbers, these are all hard for me to this day. For me, this is a part of my Aspergers}. Useless. Unloveable. Unlikeable. Ignored. Unseen. Unheard. Alone. For a long time, I hated myself and I blamed the world for my problems.

That all started to change the moment I decided to do whatever I could to be happy instead of miserable. That was only three years ago.

Why am I writing about all of this? Because I don’t want to give anyone a reason to pass me off as ‘one of the lucky ones’, to think I’m happy because life has been an easy ride for me. It hasn’t. I saw a comment from someone about my post, implying that I seemed too happy for someone with Aspergers.

Pardon my language, but I call bullshit on that.

I’ve heard stories from women who’ve been told they can’t have Aspergers because they’re married, or they have a job, or they can make eye contact, or they have empathy, or they’re this or they’re that.

All bull.

I call bullshit on the myth that people with Aspergers can’t be happy or loved or successful… or feel.

I’m happy. Very happy, actually. I’m also in a happy marriage, I have a successful career running my own business, and I have an awesome group of family and friends. I often feel overwhelming empathy, for people and animals. I live a quiet, peaceful life that suits me perfectly.

But none of it was handed to me. I worked hard for what I have today, and most of it I built from scratch. I’m incredibly proud of how far I’ve come. And if I can do it, so can anyone – Aspie or not.

Being Open To Whatever Comes Next

I’m still not exactly sure where I’m headed from here. The Autism Spectrum has quickly become a new special interest for me, and I know I’m still only at the beginning of this exciting adventure. {Of course, I’ll still be here pouring all my love into Wild Sister.}

Lots of things are swirling around in my mind at the moment in regards to the possibilities. Perhaps a book? A female aspie-specific e-magazine? An online community? Even public speaking? I don’t know. But I trust that I’ll have it all figured out when the time is right, or an opportunity will present itself to me to show me the way.

Right now, I’m just opening up to whatever comes my way.

Whichever way I decide to go, I’ll be sure to keep you posted about it.

Anyway, I really just wanted to say thanks.

Thanks for supporting me and cheering me on.

I’ve felt your love from every corner of the globe, and you’ll never know how much it means to me.

I’ll always look back on the time I revealed all my weaknesses and vulnerabilities to the world as one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

Thank you.

I love you, and I feel incredibly blessed to be a part of this global sisterhood. We’re one of a kind.

Here’s to those who change our lives without even knowing it,

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