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Taking Off My Mask

My experience with autism has been a journey which started when I received a diagnosis at three years old. At the time, I didn’t know what my condition was. I would have meltdowns and breakdowns, and I would not know why I was having them so much. My parents had to fight to get me the help that I needed including therapy and medication.

In school, I mostly had trouble making friends. I would get bullied a little bit in middle school and high school. I would try to be like others and do everything the other kids were doing, but it never worked out for me. Sometimes they got me in trouble, and I would have more trouble making friends. By the end of my sophomore year of high school, my depression and anxiety increased to the point where I would blame my disability on them. I felt like there was a beast controlling me and I felt like wearing a mask to hide who I really was.

One day in college I heard that Disability Support Services was having a program for students with autism to meet up and share about their lives with autism. The program focused on how to make friends as well as how to manage stress and anxiety. When I attended this program, it opened my eyes to many things. I learned how to manage my anxiety better. I learned the proper way to make friends. When the pandemic hit, my anxiety increased when I thought that I was no longer going to be able to attend the meet-ups.

When I learned that the classes shifted to a virtual format, I continued to attend the spectrum support group meetups. I just went with the flow. Little did I know that my anxiety and self-esteem were improving. The program has taught me that even though I am stuck at home during a pandemic, I should never be afraid to reach out to peers and the resources available to me. This has helped me feel even better about myself. I started to accept myself for who I am and remove my mask.

I am appreciative of my parents and family members who have taken great care of me. I am grateful to the ASD Adult Achievement Center for teaching me the proper way to handle disagreements at a job, at school, or at home. I am thankful for my circle of friends and circle of support in college, including staff members who taught me to always be myself no matter where I go. Now I am starting to feel better about myself, and not hesitate to take initiative.

I would like to end this by saying that even if you are having a tough time, always keep your chin up, and take things one step at a time. If you are a kid or adult with autism do not be afraid to reach out for help from the support resources within your community. They want you to succeed and they will help guide you along the way. Without the support of the Disability Support Services program at my school, I would not be where I am today. They taught me to take my mask off and show the world my true self. I look forward to what the future holds for me.

Cyril Simon

The views expressed in this paper are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the views of the NLM Family Foundation.

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