Community and Belonging

Written by Allie Mason for Grit & Flow #ThePositivityProject

Growing up, I often felt that I lived in a world that didn’t make sense. It seemed as if everyone around me had been given an instruction manual to life, whilst I was left challenged by the simplest of things. Although I excelled academically as a child, I struggled to maintain friendships and became overwhelmed for no reason that I could discern. These experiences frustrated me, and they frustrated those who cared about me. Little did I know that, as a 23-year-old woman, I would finally be diagnosed as autistic and the jigsaw pieces of the puzzle of my life would fall into place.

It has been a revelation to realise that my overwhelm was caused by sensory overload, or that my difficulties in social interaction are due to my brain working differently to the other people in my environment. For me, a diagnosis has led me to proactively engage with others within the autistic community, as well as the wider disabled community. It turns out, there are more people out there who experience the world as I do! I’m not alone anymore. Talking and sharing similar stories has been such an affirming experience, liberating me from a negative self-image and empowering me to be proud of my neurodifference.

Whilst it is important to acknowledge that being autistic has made life difficult for me in many areas, it is also true that it has blessed me with some valuable abilities for which I am grateful. Throughout my academic experiences, for example, I have noticed that teachers and peers alike comment on my unusual observations, astutely making connections that the allistic brains around me hadn’t ever considered. I really enjoy being able to make that contribution to a discussion, when others will nod along as I speak and afterward say, “do you know what, I had never even thought about it like that!”.

I truly believe that there are a community and place of belonging for all of us. It may take time to find them, but when you do, it is worth the journey that it took to get there. It doesn’t matter if you are autistic or allistic, neurodivergent, or neurotypical, there are others in the world who think like you and with whom you will one day have the most intellectually stimulating and identity affirming conversations of your life. Being patiently persistent is the key!

~~ Thank you, Allie, for sharing your fantastic story and amazing perspective! Thanks for being #BepartoftheSolution

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