Our guest blogger, Tom Hewitt, speaks openly about his Asperger’s and how his diagnosis changed his life for the better in this week’s inspirational blog.
Asperger’s has – and continues to – affect me in various ways, both negatively and positively. From finding everyday conversations alien, to being in environments that make me feel both panicky and uncomfortable, it can often be a daily struggle to keep all of my anxieties in order.
As an individual who, aged 18, was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, I can appreciate the difficulty and challenges that people like myself will encounter in life. I have observed in the past on a number of occasions where I have been involved in situations involving others behaving negatively towards myself, because I believed that they didn’t understand who I was and what it is that makes me both different and unique within society.
I have been involved in various scenarios, where I have unfortunately been the brunt of various calamities, including: unhealthy relationships, losing friends, being harassed, being misunderstood, humiliating others (including myself), and failing at simple everyday tasks that neurotypical people may take for granted. This I believe is because others had not given enough thought and consideration in understanding what Asperger’s is and its behaviours. I have had people in the past say to me that don’t look autistic; that there’s nothing wrong with me, and I’m an emotionless robot.
I must confess that I have struggled many times in the past with a number of social events and conversations, because I have found it hard to recognise the distinctive expressions and behaviours that other people display or express, or, my senses such as hearing and seeing, have become overwhelmed. I still to this day have trouble going into big buildings or supermarkets such as ASDA, because I find the environment to be overwhelming to the point where I could have an anxiety attack.
Four years ago, I was diagnosed with Generalised Anxiety Disorder, (GAD), a long-term condition that causes a person to feel anxious about a wide range of situations and issues, rather than one specific event. Most days I feel anxious, and I often find it a struggle to feel relaxed. As soon as I manage to solve one anxious thought, another may appear about a different issue, which in turn becomes a vicious circle of worry.
So how do I cope with all of these conditions? Well, if someone or something is bothering me or making me feel anxious, I ask myself this: “What good will it do if I continue to feel angry, worried or frustrated at this for a long period of time? I’m not going to let this linger and keep me upset for the duration of my day. I’m either going to take myself away from the situation that’s stressing me, or I am going to do something else I enjoy that will help calm myself down.”
Never be afraid or feel embarrassed to talk to someone you know and trust about your issues, because it can make the world of difference to your own wellbeing in the long term. By relieving and putting your stress out in the open, you are then able to explore what is troubling you, and work out ways in which to improve and manage the predicament you are in and hopefully feel better. I found that for me personally, a mixture of counselling and medication, really goes a long way to helping me feel more control of my life, and understand what is or was troubling me and how I could work to manage this going forward.
Despite the difficulties I face on a regular basis, I do find that Asperger’s has been a blessing in some aspects of my daily life, especially as I’ve grown order. Although I may struggle with everyday tasks that many of us would find normal and easy, such as cooking, routines, cleaning, DIY and putting appliances together, I learn more about myself with each passing day, and I am proud of the person who I am today. I enjoy writing, and working in an environment where I feel valued and respected. I am a firm believer in giving back for all I’ve received, which is why I help support college students reach their full potential.
To those out there who know a person on the spectrum; please try to be considerate and patient with us. We may take a bit longer to process our thoughts and emotions, and yes we may struggle with things you find easy to do, but to us in theory, we find them challenging, but we are always learning about ourselves each day, and we are trying our best to find our place in this world, so please give us time and understand that we are giving our all.
My message to others on the spectrum is to be proud of who you are, and never let anyone tell you that you can’t succeed in life. Life is too short to live with regrets, and every day, I wake up with the mind-set that Asperger’s is a part of me whether I like it or not, and I accept both the positive attributes and flaws about myself. Remember: Autism / Asperger’s is a blessing, not a burden, so embrace being different and go out there and be you.