Learning to Embrace Who I am
By Ben Levin
I’ve spent years being ashamed of myself—who I am, what I am. “And what are you?” you might ask. Well, I am autistic. For years I’ve felt that having this part of my identity made me “less than” neurotypical people (and non-autistic people in general). It was especially hard after I did this program in elementary school which gave me more social skills, because I thought that it removed my autism as a whole.
Then, in eighth grade, after a fight with someone about whether or not you can recover from autism, I began to be afraid to tell people that I “used to be autistic” because I did not want to be seen as a crazy liar. I’d just switched schools, and it felt liberating and redeeming to have my new friends not know about my autism. But in eleventh grade, I started feeling stifled by having this huge secret. I started to realize that redemption does not mean denying who you are.
Last winter, my family and I felt compelled to accept that the program did not remove my autism, and that autism really is life-long. I also started to understand that autism is not something to be ashamed of, but actually something I should embrace and be proud of. After spending a month coming to terms with these new perspectives, I posted on my social media letting the world know that I am autistic and proud to be so…
It felt amazing. I was stunned by how much support I received.
Being different is not the same thing as being not as good as. Whether or not you have autism or anything else, you should always embrace yourself for who and what you are. That’s my journey now.
If you have a disability and you’re struggling to feel good about who you are, or to believe in yourself, I can relate. But I’m learning, as Amythest Schaber would say, that I’m neurowonderful. I would love to hear from you, to talk to you, and to connect, so please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’re autistic, you have a gift to bring to this world! And I for one believe that gift deserves to be unwrapped.
All the best,