Why this site is named what it is.
I grew up in a time where disability was not well recognized, much less accepted. The categories available for people (disability wise) were “physically disabled”, “mentally retarded”, or “normal”. I fit into none of those categories. My social environment developed another category: “defective freak”. This is what I grew up believing about myself. About who I was, and about what my worth as a person was (or wasn’t, as the case may be).
I spent much time in my teens trying to figure out why I was so different, and why , despite my intelligence, and academic ability, so many of the things other people took for granted were so difficult or impossible for me to manage, or even comprehend. It was obvious (to me, at least, though everybody else denied it) that there was some form of disability involved.
During my first year of University, a friend introduced me to the internet. There I found Autism Network International (ANI). They believed that autism was a different, but equally valid way of being, not a form of “brokenness”, or something that needed to be “cured”, or “fixed”. They were determined to find a way for us, and others like us, to learn to navigate the world, with both our strengths and our limitations respected and valued.
I joined ANI, and quickly found myself involved in the nascent autistic self-advocacy movement. After a few years, and thanks to help from other ANI members, and a few professionals who believed in me, I did eventually receive an official autism diagnosis (not Asperger’s, though that had appeared in the DSM 4 a few years prior).
My involvement with ANI, self-advocacy, and the broader disability rights community completely changed my life. It changed my entire self concept, so that for the first time in my life, I actually felt I was worth something. That I deserved to exist.
I learned both self-acceptance, and self-compassion from my involvement with the disability rights community. My first autism specialist (who decided to help me out past just the diagnosis, when I ran into difficulty with some professors, and later, other clueless nondisabled people in authority), and Disability Services on my university campus both played a huge role in this as well.
Though I spent most of the first few decades of my life in ‘flight, fight, or freeze’, I have since discovered that there is more to life than depression and trauma, and am in exploration mode as to what actually enjoying life is all about. Part of this involves a lot of reflection on how I got here, and the realization that perhaps what I’ve learned can be of benefit to others on this same strange journey through this alien landscape we find ourselves on, that Neurotypical (NT) people call “normal life”.
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