“By openly talking about autism and neurodiversity together, I hope we can create a more accessible society.” - Marleen

My name is Marleen, I’m 28 and I know that I have autism for about a year now. In 2019 I graduated from Copenhagen Business School, with a Master of Science Advanced Economics & Finance degree.

In 2021 I moved back to the Netherlands, after living and working in Copenhagen for 4,5 years. I didn’t feel all that good, to put it mildly. The covid-19 pandemic reinforced that feeling. After a few months, I went to a mental health institution to ask if I might have autism. That turned out to be the case, which means that my brain processes information and stimuli differently than 99% of the population without ASD. My whole life I have felt extremely stressed, over the smallest things. Issues where others had no problem with, could make me feel extremely stressed out, tense, anxious or insecure. I now know that this is due to being autistic.

I have analyzed and copied the behavior of others for 27 years. My brain over-analyzes on a daily basis and relaxing or unwinding is difficult. As a result, I’m exhausted a lot quicker than “neurotypical” people. I’ve had to accept that I can’t do as much as what I would initially like to do. If I don't set firm limits, I will outrun myself out of enthusiasm, inquisitiveness, perseverance and willpower.

I’m proud of my growth, compared to one year ago. Unfortunately, social affairs, interaction and communication with others, remain difficult. Even when I meet with friends, especially in a group, I feel tense. As fun as it is, it costs me a lot of energy. What I especially struggle with, is having a conversation about autism and neurodiversity with “neurotypical” people.

However, I would like to say to everyone that it’s important to have that conversation. That’s also why I’m participating in this photo project.

In a society that is geared to the average “neurotypical” person, my behavior sometimes leads to conflicts. By openly talking about autism and neurodiversity together, I hope we can create a more accessible society. A society in which we can all be the best version of ourselves!

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