I’ve always known I was a little different. First grade was tough for me. After second grade, the Catholic school I had been attending told my parents that I simply “didn’t fit in.” It hurt at the time. I’ve always had trouble with my self-esteem and that didn’t help. Fortunately, it led to an opportunity. I was able to attend a home school enrichment program that welcomed people like me. During my time there, I gained a lot of self-esteem. I didn’t judge myself for all my little quirks — in fact, I embraced them.
After attending the program for eight years, I began to have a desire to try attending the local high school. I enrolled during my sophomore year, and at first, it seemed things would be OK, but they took a turn for the worst during my junior year. I began getting involved with a youth group my “friends” attended. Looking back on it, I am able to see how they were really just bullies. They didn’t accept me for me. I always had to try to fit in, but more often than not I feel I was only included in the group because I gave them someone to laugh at.
The bullying went on for about two years. I finally snapped because they were bullying my Catholic roots. It’s hard to describe, but after hearing so much negative talk, I began believing what they were saying. The youth group leaders were what I call “fire and brimstone preachers,” meaning they used fear as a means of converting one to their beliefs. As a high schooler who had struggled with self-esteem issues and “fitting in” for quite some time, I was particularly vulnerable.
I was hospitalized for the first time during my senior year. I was diagnosed with a nondescript psychosis. I still don’t exactly know what that means, but after eight years of being on medications that felt like they were ripping away at the very essence of who I was, I had about six to eight months that I felt like I was back to my old self. Sadly, after encountering some unexpected life stresses, I had to be hospitalized again. In February of 2019, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
This diagnosis makes at least some sense, however, I have been thinking about it and I feel that there has been another factor at play all along. I have a growing suspicion that I may be on the autism spectrum. I have at least some of the traits of someone with autism. The sensitivity to sounds, light and smells. The triggers I have when simply being asked to help out with something. I’ve always gotten so frustrated when my dad or mom has asked me to put away my dishes or empty the trash. Even when I know it isn’t a big deal, I still get very triggered, and I have never really known why.
I began questioning whether I may be on the spectrum originally because of the inspiration from a young actress named Kayla Cromer (who has autism) who plays a young woman with autism in a show called “Everything’s Going to Be Okay.” There was a scene where Kayla’s character Matilda became extremely frustrated with herself and hit herself in the head. That is something I have done in the past. It’s sad to admit, but it’s true.
I related so much to that scene that I Googled what it meant to be an adult undiagnosed with autism. I came across numerous blogs and youtube channels of people who had gone undiagnosed for years. To my surprise, I related a lot to the internal realities they have experienced throughout their lives. The feeling of not fitting in and always feeling some kind of disconnect really got me thinking.
I feel I shouldn’t jump to conclusions or just diagnose myself, but I have found other people who struggle with things similar to what I do outside of the bipolar diagnosis. I think if I were to be diagnosed with autism, it would help me to understand myself a bit better. And, just as a fun fact: apparently bipolar disorder and autism often come as a package deal.
There are always more questions to ask and answers to be found. Life is quite a journey. It’s hard at times, but it’s worth the ride.