Bridgewater senior Raymond Alexander

Bridgewater senior Raymond Alexander

In My Own Words

Everyone Has the Script Except You

Bridgewater, Va.- In this edition of “Veritas” we are talking about topics associated with mental health. For college students, mental health is an important aspect to success. Here at Bridgewater there are many resources for students to get help with their mental health. In other words, this edition is bringing awareness to mental health.

I would like to say that along with awareness there needs to be acceptance. Today’s society has a stigma towards those that struggle with mental health. Accepting and understanding them is a step towards a better society.

For myself, there has been a better campaign for autism awareness, but there could be better acceptance. The awareness of autism is growing just like the people diagnosed with it are. However, being aware of autism and knowing what causes a person who has autism to have a meltdown are two different things. Being able to understand it is just as important as being aware of it.

Autism has been described as an “invisible disability” and living with it, there are times where I do feel alone and invisible. All I ask is for people to accept me. Understand me.

I was diagnosed when I was in high school. I was labeled as high functioning, but I do not like the labels. It gives the impression that I do not struggle and that I do not need help. I prefer the term low support since there are times where I do struggle, and I do not necessarily have that support or help from others.

The best way that I can explain what it is like having autism is that it is kind of like being in a play where everyone has a script except you. You take a longer time than everyone else to learn how to act and behave and what to say. Autism affects development as well as how the brain processes the environment and there are times where I still feel like I have not developed like everyone around me. There are times when I still feel that I am trying to learn the script so that I can fit in.

The first thing to know is that autism is a spectrum, and no two people show the same symptoms and traits. Portrayals in the media are not always the best. There used to be “Rain Man” as the only portrayal. Now there are television shows like “Atypical” and “The Good Doctor.”

Some of these portrayals usually fall towards the stereotypes of having autism. Sheldon in “The Big Bang Theory” in the early seasons displays stereotypes for example.

I have trouble expressing myself verbally. One area that is particularly hard for me is having conversations on the spot. This means that I struggle with conversations that I did not plan for.

Something extremely hard for me is expressing my feelings. I rarely talk about how I am truly feeling; I am better when I write out my thoughts and feelings.

However, I do have feelings, I just express them in different ways than is expected. I am able to feel even if some people tell me I cannot and that is my problem.

One thing I do not have trouble talking about are movies. Movies are my current fixation, or my special interest. Many people on the spectrum have certain topics that they know a lot of information about. My topic is movies, and I can talk for a long time about everything I know about certain movies.

Social interactions is the aspect that is hardest for me. I am not very good at taking hints so I need someone to be forward and direct with me. Trouble reading body language and facial expressions were two areas that I have gotten better with, but still struggle with from time to time.

Words of assurance are a must for me because I have trouble knowing where I stand with others. For example, I have immense struggles knowing if I am friends with others.

I usually cannot tell unless I hear them refer to me as their friend. Even maintaining relationships is hard for me. If I do not see people on a regular basis then it becomes hard for me to reconnect and reach out to them.

I used to have trouble with sarcasm, but now I am a little better, though sometimes I still cannot tell if someone is using it. I have problems starting conversations, and real struggles knowing when conversations are supposed to end.

For the most part, I am usually nervous when I am speaking to someone even if I know them well. Asking someone a question or for them to do something is another aspect that makes me nervous.

What should be known is that my brain works hard in processing the world around me, so if I am talking to you just know that I am working really hard at trying to keep up. Do not take it personally if I am not talking.

It is usually due to being overwhelmed, and this happens for me mostly in group settings. In group settings I struggle to know when it is my turn to talk, and when I do think of something to say the time to say it in the conversation has already passed. It is like my brain works on a delay.

Being overwhelmed is something hard to understand. When my senses get overloaded I become overwhelmed. It could be any of the five senses.

Imagine hearing the noises around you at the same volume and you cannot filter out some of it. This is when sensory overload and being overwhelmed happens to me. When this happens I become withdrawn.

When I go through sensory overload it can be caused by crowded places, being in a place with loud noise, or being touched by another person among other things. For instance, the textures of some foods cause overload and this limits what I eat. It is not a preference like some people have insisted it is when I try to explain it to them.

I will become irritable, or absent, having trouble interacting and sometimes have outbursts when I am having an overload. It is just that my brain processes the world around me in a different way than others.

To combat this, I stick to a certain schedule in order to have some control over my environment. I will usually do some things at the same time everyday. If my schedule somehow gets interrupted or changed, then a great deal of stress comes over me. I cannot handle change to a schedule that well sometimes.

For the most part I feel as if I’m playing a role trying to hide my disability from the world. In doing that I become very exhausted. Hearing people say for me to be “less autistic” or use autism as a derogatory term makes me feel like there is something wrong with having autism.

Throughout my life it has been tough for me to accept myself and I still struggle with this to this day. I tend to see myself as different from everyone else. I used to feel ashamed about being autistic, but I am starting to be more open about my diagnosis.

I have come to realize that it is a part of who I am but it does not define me. Even though I have gotten better at accepting myself I still tend to feel different.

This causes me to feel lonely at times, even if I am out with a group of people. Feelings of loneliness contribute to my depression; most people that have autism experience clinical depression.

Don’t get me wrong, there are times when I want and need to be alone, but there are times when I want to be around others but I feel like there is no one there for me who understands me.

On campus I feel like there could be more of a support group for people like me, like right now there is only counseling and I feel like there should definitely be something more for others like me.

So please keep in mind that I, as well as other people that have autism, am doing my best when I am talking to you. Sometimes though, I have some trouble and need support. All I want is to be understood and accepted. After all, I’m human too.

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