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The Mentra Publication

Impacts of my autism diagnosis & how it changes my perspective

TIPS I WOULD GIVE MY YOUNGER, UNDIAGNOSED SELF

Meet our author, Mollie!

Mollie Pittaway is a freelance copywriter, content creator and autism advocate. She is particularly keen on promoting awareness of autism in young girls and advocating for neurodiversity inclusion in the workplace.

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I made the discovery that I was autistic when I was 21 years old (lucky to some, but 21 years is still most of my life to me!). I vividly remember looking back at my school and university years. I contemplated all the times I was misunderstood or didn’t understand why I felt like there was an invisible barrier between myself and other people, like I was watching a movie play out right before my eyes.

Image of kids watching a movie/screen.

I dissected every individual memory I had and analyzed it from an autistic point of view.  I loathed being picked on by my teachers for being the “quiet one” when, most of the time, I didn’t know what to say. Equally for having to give my opinion to the whole class rather than to a smaller group. Despite wanting to be friends with most of my peers, I just couldn’t, for whatever reason, relate to them. I’d get on really well with at least one person, a small group at most, and everyone else felt like they were behind an invisible barrier. Their outlook on things was so different to mine. 

 

Each memory gave me more of an insight into my new autistic identity, which was actually there all along. Things that didn’t previously make sense suddenly did. 

 

I am sure many neurodivergents have embarked on a rollercoaster of emotions, reeling from the discovery that they actually are normal, just a different type of normal to neurotypical people. 

 

When you’re diagnosed as autistic later in life, you don’t automatically feel a sense of relief as to why you’re so different from others. You go through a grieving process. You grieve for the life you could have had if you had known you were autistic, rather than drifting through life wondering why your experience was completely different to everyone else’s. 

 

If I could go back in time, similar to the time-traveling movie “About Time” or “Back to the Future”, this is what I would tell my younger undiagnosed autistic self: 

 

You don’t need to be “liked” by everyone. 

Autism isn’t a “deficit” or “disorder” like most resources will tell you, it just means your brain is wired differently to other people, and you have a different set of qualities and values to other people, known as neurotypical people. 

Unlike the false limiting beliefs you tell yourself, you’re not “strange” or “weird” at all. I know exactly what you’re thinking right now, “How is anyone going to like me if I’m different?”. 

I know you’re feeling lonely now, but out there in the big, wide world, there are lots of people who feel the exact same way as you. Yes, really. 

The truth is, as difficult as it might be to accept at first, you’re here not to be liked by everyone, but by some people who desperately need a friend/partner/colleague like you-- more than you’ll ever realize. And that’s special.

By being yourself, you add color to the people’s lives you touch and value to your school/university/work by expressing your opinions, even if you don’t think you do. 

 

 

Focus on what makes you special and appreciated

Being different isn’t easy. 

You’re often told to “just be yourself”. But when you act like yourself, you’re implicitly told, “no, not like that”. 

But you have many qualities that people are going to like and admire. 

People are going to love your non-judgemental way of being, and you’ll be able to have deeper relationships with people because of it. 

In your work life, people are going to love your creativity and how you come up with suggestions on how to improve certain ways of doing and approaching things. 

And when people truly get to know you, they’ll know that you endlessly talk. Because when you talk a lot around people, that’s because you trust them and you know they support you. 

 

Don’t compare yourself to others, it’s going to make you miserable

There’s a great saying, which goes: “Comparison is the thief of joy.”

It’s true.

Your pace, and life choices, is going to be different to your peers. And that’s okay; that’s not a good standard to judge yourself by. 

They’re going to naturally find some things easier than you, it’s just the way it is. 

You need more time than them to adjust to transitions in life, there’s nothing wrong with that. 

What I can tell you, is you will reach a place of acceptance. You will look around, and realize you’re okay with being where you are. Because you’re happy. 

 

You’re allowed to advocate for yourself and your needs.

“You’re too sensitive. Stop taking things so seriously!”

This is something you will hear a lot.

It makes you feel like you’re the problem. In reality, there is no such thing as being “too sensitive”. You’re allowed to feel the way you do. 

If people make you feel like you’re not allowed to feel the way you do, that’s when you need to set boundaries with them. The needs, agendas and opinions of others are not more important than your own. You are equally as important, so you should never feel like you have to dim your light to make others more comfortable. 

You can have the courage to say, “I’m not happy with this (situation/action/behavior); I’m going to walk away.” 

You can also have the courage to say “this is what I need…”. Both of these things take courage, but I promise you that it’ll get easier once you fully get to know yourself and your limits. 

 

Focus on the people that help make things “make sense” 

Some things are going to remain as confusing to you in adulthood as they are in childhood. 

For example, some people say they “must go”, but still continue the conversation even after they’ve said it a couple of times. If you’re asked “how are you?”, you’re not really supposed to say how you’re feeling (it depends on the person you’re talking to). And getting a job can be based more on your ability to network than it is on your competence.

There’s always going to be a part of you that is self-conscious about this, but you’ll find that it does get easier as you grow up and gain confidence.

You’re going to find people who you can be your true, honest self with, who light you up from the inside and give you the confidence to be who you are in their presence. And you’re also going to find people to help you make sense of the world, and navigate it.

 

Have faith, because there is so much in store for you. 

I wish we lived in a world where we could time travel and go back to our younger selves, and nurture them like a younger sibling, but we don’t. 

If I had known this information earlier, I feel like rather than wondering why I felt like I was almost defective, I would have been equipped with the tools to become self-confident and empowered.

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Written By

Mollie Pittaway

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