Unboxing My True Self: A Journey Through Autism Resilience

April 26, 2024
This story took place in United States

Pledge to Take Action

In the past few days, my phone has been a constant source of joy, buzzing with messages from friends and colleagues who are celebrating my television debut. I am the proud star of a commercial that I helped create. 

A commercial that was inspired by my life experiences. 

A commercial that lets me express who I am and how far I’ve come. 

A commercial that is a testament to the strength of neurodiversity.

My journey didn’t start here though. Throughout the twists and turns of my life, I’ve faced an array of challenges that have left an enduring mark on who I am today. As a young girl, I was often described as quiet and introverted, finding solace in the adventures shared with my cousin Lisa. However, when she relocated, my world shifted, setting me on a path marked by unexpected hurdles and profound growth.

It was my mother who first noticed the subtle changes in me – the dwindling circle of friends, my growing inclination towards solitude, and the difficulties I faced with coordination. At just 14, I was handed a diagnosis that would become the cornerstone of my journey towards understanding and managing my mental health – Autism Spectrum Disorder, accompanied by depression and anxiety.

Thus began a therapeutic odyssey, a journey marked by countless therapy sessions and numerous setbacks, including multiple hospitalizations for anorexia and depression. Among these, the memories of a particularly harrowing stay in a psychiatric hospital just days before Christmas remain etched in my mind, serving as a stark reminder of the enduring struggle against anorexia.

Despite never receiving special education support during my school years, I persevered, finding solace and expression in subjects like art and English, even as I grappled with fitting in socially. Fueled by my mother’s unwavering belief in me, I pursued higher education, eventually earning degrees in culinary arts and food service entrepreneurship from Johnson & Wales University.

College life brought with it a fresh set of challenges, but it was also a period of personal growth and self-discovery. With the guidance of a special needs counselor, I embarked on the journey to obtain my driver’s license, recognizing that independence was key to staying connected with loved ones. This milestone, achieved through sheer determination, became a symbol of my resolve to navigate life on my own terms.

Stepping into the world of higher education meant stepping out of my comfort zone, with making friends proving to be as daunting a task as it had been in middle and high school. Yet, it was my unwavering passion for music, particularly for the band Hanson, that provided a lifeline amidst the uncertainty. Attending concerts solo, despite my anxiety, became a catalyst for forging friendships with fellow fans, leading to enduring bonds that continue to enrich my life.

Another significant turning point came through embracing regular exercise, which not only bolstered my physical health but also became a source of confidence and resilience in my ongoing battle against anorexia and body image issues. Today, my daily workouts with Peloton serve as a testament to my commitment to self-care and well-being.

Despite the obstacles I faced, love found its way into my life when I least expected it. Meeting my current partner at a local bar trivia night was a serendipitous moment that blossomed into a meaningful relationship.

Job interviews posed yet another hurdle, but a chance encounter at a networking event introduced me to Spectrum Designs, an organization that welcomed me with open arms and embraced the real me. Today, I run the social media for Spectrum Designs. I take pride in being a beacon of inspiration for neurodiverse individuals, proving that with the right support and determination, anything is possible.

When it came time for us to rebrand, I was invited to join the meetings and provide my input. In these meetings I wasn’t just a token or a gesture, I was a valued voice.

Reflecting on the flurry of congratulatory messages on my phone, I’m transported back to my beginnings. Two decades ago, the thought of co-writing and starring in a commercial would have seemed like a distant dream.

Now, as the face and voice of the company, it’s incredibly fulfilling to realize that my voice, which once felt unheard, is now resonating with so many.

My journey, marked by trials and triumphs, stands as a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the transformative power of acceptance and support. As I continue to navigate life’s complexities, I strive to inspire hope in others, reminding them that their neurodiversity is not a limitation but a unique gift waiting to be celebrated.

Pledge to Take Action

You May Also Like