For my entire life, I have sought substances to numb my experience. I have always felt like an alien, like someone not completely at ease in their body. I began seeking substances as a very young child. I would pick up burnt cigarettes from the street, I started smoking weed, taking random pills, and drinking alcohol before I went to high school. I have always had a difficult relationship with substances because of this. Despite the short-term relief that substances provided, it was never enough. I could never reach the place of actual relief.
After becoming completely sober, I was unable to find relief via substances and I was forced to face the overwhelming experience of being me. And through this experience, I was able to dive into the research and came to the conclusion that I meet the criteria for Autism and most likely, ADHD (AuDHD).
The diagnosis/discovery of me being autistic actually provided me with more relief than substances ever could. Everything started to make sense and I was able to take steps toward self-acceptance of myself as an autistic person.
There is also a lot of grief about being diagnosed later in life. I think back to the little girl seeking out disgusting old cigarettes on the ground and I just want to take her by the hand and explain to her that she is neurodivergent. I want to tell her that there are other people like her and there are ways to live in the world and enjoy life despite feeling like she was born without skin. And that Autism is her superpower. It will be a challenge, yes but it will allow her to see the world differently and that is valuable beyond measure.