Dear Austistic Girl,
I’ve been where you are. I know how you feel. I empathize so much.
You have questions. You have fears. You may wonder what is wrong with you or why you can’t seem to make friends or why people think you’re weird.
I’ve been there. When I was in elementary school, autism had very specific diagnosable symptoms. And those symptoms were (and still are) catered to boys. So wanting and trying to make friends or even just understanding some social cues meant that I couldn’t be autistic.
I was bullied in school. Not physically. I was bullied verbally. The kids told me I was weird. I tried to do the right thing, either by copying what they were doing or lying to make myself interesting, but I always seemed to do it wrong. I could never pinpoint why.
After I finished 3rd grade, I was homeschooled. I loved being homeschooled but I also feel like it hid my autism further. Again though, autism had certain criteria and I managed to hide mine, even unconsciously. I didn’t realize I was hiding anything.
One thing that wasn’t very well hidden was that I had trouble making friends. Being homeschooled, I didn’t exactly have a place to make friends in the first place (except church). So that also stayed hidden.
One thing that did help me with this feeling of being weird was when I went to church camp one year (I think I was 9). I learned about Psalm 139, which is a gorgeous Psalm about how God knows us so very well and He created us “fearfully and wonderfully”. That remains my favorite passage in the Bible. I knew God loved me. But that doesn’t stop me from wanting human approval.
Also around this time, I became obsessed with the Bible and Bible trivia and that continued for several years (I actually was a Bible Bee semi-finalist). I was a good girl, so no one thought this was weird (except, you know, the other kids). I would later recognize this as a special interest.
I took things too literally. There were instances when things would go over my head and I would later be confused or embarrassed when someone told me what was actually going on (or when someone recounted it and commented on my obliviousness). I was innocent and naive (which is funnily enough, a sign of autism in girls). I tried so hard to do things right. I just wanted approval and good friends.
I’m not going to tell you every part of my teenage life that screamed autism. That’s what this blog is for but not this letter.
This letter is to tell you that I know what you’re going through. I know how painful it is to have people reject you for something as vague as being “weird”. I know what it feels like to have people say “you’re not autistic” because you can navigate a few social things and you have some empathy capabilities. I know what it is to have to hide your diagnosis from some people because they won’t understand.
But I also know how freeing it is to find out that you are autistic. To find out that there is nothing wrong with you and you’re just wired differently from allistics. I know how awesome it is to know why you do what you do. I know how amazing it is to find another autistic and they understand why you act that way too and you understand them. (Also autistics have a special sense of humor and having someone who understands that humor and actually laughs as well is nothing short of awesome.)
So good luck to you, dear Austistic Girl. I hope that you do find friends (or even just one very good friend) and that, with your diagnosis, you better understand yourself and you gain confidence and love for yourself. And you know what? I think you’re pretty awesome.