What it's like to live with autism

Telling my personal story is easy. The hardest part is trying to describe what it's like for others with the condition, as everyone's experience is so different

Share

When people used to hear the word “autism”, they would picture Dustin Hoffman’s character in Rain Man, counting cards at the casino with Tom Cruise. Now, it seems like people know about the condition a lot more, with awareness campaigns around the world bringing it to our attention. Yet autism still remains largely misunderstood.

I know what autism is like firsthand. I was diagnosed with it at the age of 13, after suffering from depression and experiencing a psychotic breakdown. A year later, in 2003, I was sectioned by my own will at the psychiatric wing of a children’s hospital. Ever since my diagnosis, I have been on medication, and been lucky enough to have incredible parents who have always been there to support me.

I had some problems during my four years of school (especially with teasing and bullying from some other students), but I did well academically. University also went well, and after five years I was able to graduate with a degree in International Development.

Today, I work part-time for a large corporation in policy analysis; it a great working environment. However, I still don’t know if I can work one day without medication, or if I am independent enough to live alone. The other problem is that Obsessive Compulsive Behaviour (OCD) is also something that tends to define parts of my personality.

I like doing repetitive things and I am obsessive for many things. I am a bibliophile, and buy endless amounts of second-hand books. I also enjoy writing a lot of electoral statistics during my spare time. I don’t know if this is something chemical, but if I don’t do these things, I feel bad, as if there is something missing in my life.

Being autistic, I also struggle in social situations. I am able to have a few close friends, and can get by in large groups, but at the age of 25 I still don’t know how to have a romantic relationship. Like many people with autism, I’m also unable to be at my best in noisy places with bright lights.

Telling my personal story is the easy part. The complex part is that each person with autism has a different story. It's impossible to generalise, making it incredibly difficult to provide support to those affected by it. This is why I think cases of autism have always existed, but only appear to have risen in the last few decades because they were previously missed or misdiagnosed.

People with autism still have many great qualities. Wherever you are on the spectrum, it makes you tenacious. You have to work harder to achieve things, but you grow stronger by doing them. You also think differently about certain things, and in this day and age, standing out from the crowd, even if it’s considered “crazy”, this can get you further in today's world. Even if they have many challenges, many people would never want to be normal, because they see their autism as a sort of gift.

Of course, many people who have autism also have mental or physical issues. But at the same time, it’s not surprising that many organisations are trying to recruit people with autism. 

In my opinion, we need fewer normal people and more people who think outside the box. People who speak with the heart like I am doing now, but who also think with their head.

READ MORE:
Kellie Maloney has always been female
The upsides to being a bit of a loner

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Call Handler

£14500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a Sales Ca...

Recruitment Genius: Support Worker

£14560 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company offers unique pers...

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Zoe Sugg, aka Zoella, with her boyfriend, fellow vlogger Alfie Deyes  

What the advertising world can learn from Zoella's gang

Danny Rogers
Rachel Reeves is the shadow Work and Pensions Secretary  

What are we voting for? No one knows

Stefano Hatfield
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor