"I have stopped pretending to be normal." - Alijah

I’m Alijah (Instagram: @‌bees_cool_) and I am almost 16 years olf. I am non-binary, and I had my autism diagnosis in 2020, but I’ve always felt different. I have a love-hate relationship with my autism, mainly influenced by the people around me.

I have been bullied a lot, because I was different and didn’t fit the norm. I felt so lonely, I tried to conform as well as I could, but it seemed as if people could feel I was different. After some time I allowed myself to dress differently, and to act the way I wanted. This period in my life was very hard. I reached a low point while living in Amsterdam, I became depressed and anxious. My teacher noticed this, and sent me to therapy. After six months of therapy nothing had changed. I thought therapy was stupid. It didn’t work for me. When I moved to Hilversum, I felt worse and worse.

I believed something was wrong with me, until my new therapist suggested I might have autism. I thought, ‘Oh, this explains so much’. Once diagnosed, I could gather information and research autism. It helped me learn about myself, and feel less lonely. I finaly had an answer on why people thought I wasn’t ‘normal’. I have stopped pretending to be normal, and make sure I always tell people I have autism, whether they might think I’m ‘backward’ or they might accept me.

My tip for others with autism: DON’T LIVE FOR OTHER PEOPLE. Live your life for you! You don’t have to pretend to be someone else, to make other people comfortable, or in order to make friends. It has taken years before I stopped mirroring/masking, but at times I still catch myself in the act. You have to live life for yourself, because nobody else will do it. Be proud of yourself, you have come so far.

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