Being Myself by Corina Becker

No one ever mentioned autism when I was a kid. They mentioned things like learning disabled and gifted, but that was towards my brother. Mother tells me that they told her I was highly sensitive A.D.D. and dismissed her concerns as hysteria of a desperate mother. Well, if you knew my brother and his very aggressive behaviour, and then with a younger girl, you’d be something of a desperate mother too. They even told her that my brother would never learn how to read, and that he didn’t need to. But Mother is a teacher, and so was smarter than the doctors and taught my brother to read. It wasn’t that he couldn’t read, it was just he didn’t want to learn to read. Mother says that I was her little angel, following her around, offering to help. I remember the world being a curious place, sometimes scary, sometimes wonderful (actually, it still is). It was also very confusing, and I’d do my best but even now the embarrassment of messing up occasionally comes back to haunt me. Like I was supposed to know something that no one talked about. Other girls, I supposed, pretended to be princesses. I don’t really know, not many would play with me after school and I would call up everyone I knew. So I played and pretended and made up my own stories by myself. Because no one else was playing with me, I could be anything that I wanted to be. My dolls became mermaids fighting demons in the depths of the ocean, and since I didn’t have enough fins to slip over their legs, they were a different species that weren’t restricted to the tails of a fish. I had gotten the idea out of a comic book. When things got too confusing, I would pretend about myself. See, I knew I was different, that I didn’t act the same way or talk the same way, and I didn’t play with children the same age. Well, not all the time. I did play Power Rangers and Sailor Moon with some other girls, but it was kind of awkward at times. I knew I didn’t quite fit in, and tried to figure out why and how. For a while, I was convinced that I was a changeling, a kind of fairy that is switched for a real human babe. Changelings usually don’t fit in human society, and usually live unhappily until they run away to rejoin the other faeries. I thought that one day, I’d run away and find where I really belonged.

I grew out of believing I was a changeling, but I found a place where I was accepted when high school started. Even then, I wasn’t a part of the social whole, but found a little area off the side with a few very good and accepting friends. Most of the time, we’d talk, or sit in silence as we all read. Very rewarding friendships, which I still treasure today.

All the while, I thought I was a little strange, a little unexplainable. It bothered me sometimes, that I didn’t know what was wrong. For most of my educational career, I thought that something shouldn’t be wrong with me that I shouldn’t need help in school, that I should be able to do the same things as the others. I felt like a failure, like some sort of monster, because I would work so very hard and get completely different results. It’s very frustrating, when you think that people think you’re lazy and can’t do things you know you can. I decided to show them that they’re wrong, and after some stumbles and study experiments I learned to figure out when I needed help and how to ask for it. It’s hard to admit I need help. I didn’t want to look like I was cheating.

Gradually, I realized that I wasn’t cheating. As long as I only used the services that I needed, it was okay. It is okay to need help and it’s okay to be different, even when the world seems to be giving the message that it isn’t. And then I was diagnosed, in 2003, my last year of high school.

I have to say that being diagnosed with Asperger’s was pretty significant. Of course, I barely knew what autism was at the time, but I grew up in the library and it wasn’t too hard for my family and I to start researching. But it was a relief to know that there were explanations, that I wasn’t imagining myself troubles, that I wasn’t being lazy. Also, that there were things that I could do about it and understand myself. And I realized that I wasn’t alone. I’ve met with other people with Learning Disabilities, and autistic people, all sorts of people, and it just belongs.

People are not who they are if not for their experiences. While I experience my ups and downs, the hard times and the good, I would not change a single thing in my life. Quite frankly, life isn’t fair, and it isn’t easy. But it’s not worth it if it wasn’t. And I’m like everyone else: unique.