Today is Autistic Pride Day. When I sat at my computer thinking about the best way to address this subject, I realized I just couldn’t think of autism on its own, but of all of my traits as a person. When we talk about being proud of our neurology it is not a lot different to being proud of our physical traits, our nationality or belief systems. Talking about pride is usually very controversial for the simple reason that people see themselves very differently. I might like something about myself, but someone else who is like me might not like that part about themselves. It’s about self-acceptance, the environment you are in, how you were raised, the level of support you have, the combination of your traits, conditions, challenges…
Being proud to be autistic is just a part of the whole being proud of myself. I have many qualities and strengths as well as the variety of faults and difficulties that makes me proud of the person who I am.
I struggle. I have numerous bad days. I wish sometimes I was someone else because I am sick and tired of my problems and other people might seem lighter or at least different towards me.
But that’s a deceiving thought and I know it because we all have problems and hardships and wish we could have a different set of challenges, just for a change (let’s make no mistake here, there is no living person that is devoid of problems). In the end, it all comes down to how I see it all. How I see the good and the bad in my life, and how I wish to experience this throughout my life.
About the autistic part of me; yes, I feel proud of it. I am proud of my autism, my daughter’s and my son’s. It makes us “feelers“ and “outside the box thinkers“. It also makes us very easily hurt, detached from the overall pattern that brings other people closer and makes us feel like we don’t actually belong. But I’ve chosen to see all of these as challenges, not burdens. All of our deep feelings and thoughts are tools to help us overcome the obstacles of living in a hostile and very strange world. So, every day when I wake up I choose to face the challenge. To pick up the tools I was given and face whatever comes my way. To feel grateful for this set of tools I call mine. It’s who I am. There is no way to overcome the challenges presented to me if I’m not even comfortable with the resources I have to begin with. I should not wish to be somebody else simply because I can’t stop being me. And I honestly don’t want to.
I think a lot about self-acceptance and its importance more than ever when I look at my son. Unlike me and my daughter who were diagnosed with Aspergers and “look normal” to other people (not that it makes things any easier, since it actually adds another layer of problems of having to prove yourself, but that’s not the point here), my boy is diagnosed with “classic” autism, and it shows. He’s 4 and starting to speak now, very rudimentary. He moves, plays, interacts in a way that’s completely different from his peers. But when I look at him I don’t wish he would behave like others so he could “fit”. All I wish for is that he can go on being himself without ever doubting his value and that he’ll be lucky enough to always encounter people in his life who are able to appreciate him just the way he is and may connect with him. I never for one second feel ashamed by the way he behaves. There is a place for him in this world the same way there is a place for the shy girl, the rambunctious boy, the sassy teenager, the introspective man, the outgoing woman, and so on. There is a place for each unique type of individual because that´s exactly what we are: individuals. There isn´t really a standard as people like to believe.
You could ask “But if he looked like the others, things would be easy because he would be able to blend in, right?” Well, I’m sorry to disappoint you, but coming from the side of the “able to look normal” I could only answer this question with a big “No”. Fighting to fit into a frame that’s not yours can only bring you heartache and disappointment. It is a never-ending process of checking everything you do and say in order to fulfill somebody else’s expectations and never being actually able to fulfill them despite all the effort. It’s about having to doubt your worth and having to put yourself down, because the only reason you would so desperately want to change yourself is thinking that what is there is not good enough. So that’s why being proud of yourself is so important. And that includes your autism. There is no way to move forward, to actually feel accepted or fight for it, if you do not accept yourself in the first place. Look at yourself, search for your strengths, don’t allow your weaknesses to put you down, and face the challenges with all you’ve got. As clichéd as it is, that’s the truth. And it’s the only way to achieve happiness.
About Renata Jurkevythz
I’m a 36 years old recently diagnosed Aspie. Married to a neurotypical for 15 years. Mother of three – a 10 year old Aspie girl, 4 year old classic autistic boy and a little baby boy. I found out about my neurology last year after my son was diagnosed and I started to dig deep into autism. Then my daughter’s diagnosis followed. We are a unique, happy bunch and try to make the best of what we have. We see different brains as just different, all with positives and negatives – there isn’t a wrong one! We are from Brazil but recently moved to Germany. My special interests are writing, learning languages, games and movies. I also love forests – they bring me peace. Things that make me instantly happy are the sound of singing birds (specially Seagulls) and children laughing.