When I was 21 years old I was diagnosed with autism. This is quite late, especially because my family and I already felt that there was something different about me since I was little. I just lived totally in my own world, and I didn’t even notice when people were talking to me. I found the whole world around me just one big, confusing choas.
In elementary school I could really feel I was different from the other kids. I saw all of them play and laugh together. They interacted with each other in a very natural way. They were all extroverted, while my whole world was inside my own head. I just stood there not knowing what to do, and I didn’t understand anything of the whole world around me. In order to fit in I started to study the other kids, their language, their behaviour, their manners, everything — and then I copied it in similar kind of situations. This did help me to fit in with my classmates, but my responses where quite limited, since every situation is different, and often I just didn’t know how to respond. I didn’t know how to communicate with people at all. Once I even tried to express affection by kicking a ball into someone’s face.
But I’m highly intelligent and have always been very aware of my quirks and difficulties. I’ve always been self-analyzing in order to find solutions and make my life esier and more manageable. Since I was little I created a whole survival strategy to keep myself standing in this society and to keep my life running more smoothly. I have overcome many things, including my own poor communication and the bullying I went through on a regular basis. And as a result, my self esteem has grown. I went from a highly frightened person who was hardly reachable to quite an outgoing individual who knows what she needs to have good and pleasant life.
For many years I’ve given lectures about autism in the Netherlands, with the goal of raising awareness. I’ve become very passionate about helping other people with autism and their family members and friends. I want to keep passing on the things that helped me, and what I have learned about myself.