One thing no one taught me growing up is just how long it would take for me to know myself.
How I wouldn’t be aware of certain aspects of myself, my personality and identity. Whether that’s being oblivious to the fact that I was a lesbian until I was 20, only just realising at 23 that I am Autistic, or knowing that it will take years for me to learn what my physical health conditions are.
I’m still learning about myself in so many ways. For years, I’ve known that I’m not neurotypical. I was diagnosed with Depression and Anxiety at 18 and I remember thinking, “well now I have a reason for not feeling right”. But as I explored what those labels meant, developed coping mechanisms, and started on medication, I could always feel like there was something else ‘wrong’ with me. And I want to say now, there is nothing wrong with being neurodivergent. But sometimes trying to find the right words to describe how I felt years ago is difficult, and I wasn’t aware of the right words at the time. I felt ‘wrong’ and that’s all I knew.
I’ve always felt different. The outcast, unwanted and unliked by everyone. No matter how nice I was or how much I did for people, how I changed myself to fit their tastes, people would always misunderstand me. Call me weird, cancel friendships with no notice, tell me I wasn’t doing enough when I couldn’t have tried any harder.
Since 2016, I’ve thankfully slowly developed a circle of friends and other people in my life who do understand – and even when they don’t, it’s not a negative thing. They are patient, kind, and allow me to feel comfortable leaning into my weirdness – and I hope I make them feel the same way. These positive relationships have given me the time and space to explore who I am as a person. When you’re weighed down by negativity it can be all that’s on your mind. It can cause you to detach yourself from who you are in order to cope with your surroundings. That’s why, over the past few years, I’ve began to come out as different things.
As I mentioned above, in 2018 I came out as a lesbian. Without my relationship with my best friend and the support system I had around me, I may not have felt comfortable verbally or even mentally exploring my sexuality.
Now, following a very difficult 18 months, I’ve had the space to really think and introspect. Because of this, I have finally been able to find a label that encompasses a number of issues I have. Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). I am not going to get into the nitty gritty about what issues I have that fall under this label. I’m still exploring what is and what isn’t part of being on the spectrum and I don’t want to say something that may be incorrect, misinformed, or offensive. But, I’m comfortable enough to recognise that the label fits and that it’s part of my identity.
I do know that if it was not for the people I have around me today, I may never have looked into this. I grew up hiding and surviving and now I am in a place where I am loved unconditionally by open-minded and kind people. Their love has allowed me to actually become who I am, which then allows me to improve immensely as I become more authentic and kind to the world.
My experience reminds me of a quote from The Good Place:
I argue that we choose to be good because of our bonds with other people and our innate desire to treat them with dignity.
Simply put, we are not in this alone.Chidi Anagonye, The Good Place
Our bonds with others have the ability to make us better people. Part of that is becoming more self-aware and caring for your own needs, identifying yourself as a person who has value and deserves kindness. Someone who deserves to know and express their true self and be loved by others.
I no longer feel so unwanted by the world. While I have a long way to go in unpacking things, I know that I am surrounded by patient, kind, and supportive people who will be with me as I do.