Recently, I got an email from someone who told me that they couldn’t afford to see me but they just wanted to know “with autism, how did you succeed?” I haven’t responded yet. I have been sitting with this question for days. What did they mean, succeed? Have I succeeded? If the life I am living is to be defined as “success” then the most prominent reason why I am here is due to luck. I was born with a large amount of privilege and handed my fair share of luck. I have put myself in incredibly dangerous situations. I've pushed my body and mind beyond what is healthy. I have been to the depths of depression & hopelessness. I can’t say how I am still here beyond attributing most of it to sheer luck. I call luck the short answer because it is. The main reason I am here is luck, to be sure. I was lucky that the overdose of pills and drugs I took somehow didn’t kill me. I am lucky that the dangerous situations I have found myself in were not fatal to me. I am lucky that when I was depressed and burnt out, I kept going against all odds. Despite my obvious luck, I also believe being autistic had a role to play. Being autistic caused me to focus on the deeper questions of life and I believe this saved my life. I found ways to think and live that worked with my brain and helped me make peace with how life is. I am not the person I was 20 years ago or even 1 year ago. I have always been open to challenging the way I think and been willing to change based on new information. I have found interests and ways of being in life that give me purpose and meaning. Purpose and meaning are what keep me wanting to be here. As a late diagnosed autistic person, I am still learning how to accommodate myself in a world that assaults my senses on the daily. But what I have learned is that I actually can accommodate myself and it makes a huge difference. I can say “no” more and live a low-demand lifestyle. I can let go of crap that doesn’t work for me. I can choose to surround myself with people who appreciate and like me as my autistic self. And I have let the people who can’t do that go. I have connected with the autistic community & it has been so helpful to know that I am not alone.
This is what I wrote back: Dear _____________, I appreciate you reaching out to me. That is a hard question to answer and it has caused me to think a lot. I don't know if I would define myself as "succeeding" but I do generally enjoy being alive and I do have purpose and meaning in my life. I believe purpose and meaning are the true ingredients that make my life good. I do have challenges as an autistic person, as I am sure you know. It is not easy. However, connecting with the autistic community, finding my own way to follow my purpose via my business as well as accommodating myself have all made a huge difference. Sometimes you need to let go of things that hurt you that you thought you needed to do (e.g. work a job that harms you, etc). Sometimes you can't make these changes/accommodations right away so you'll need to plan and wait. I think of living as an autistic person as an experiment. I am constantly trying new accommodations or ways of working with my brain out and some help me and some don't. It's trial and error. I don't think I am an expert on the best ways to do this or anything but this is generally the type of stuff I work with my clients on. I hope that helps. ~ Danielle