November 2022, I went to my school’s Teaching and Learning Support classroom and while in tears told them I thought I was autistic.

This revelation changed my life. Since I was seven my mum has told me I have Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), which manifested in not being able to wear wool, wear jeans or even drink anything fizzy because these things physically hurt me. However, I did independent research and I slowly realised that many of my behaviours were because of my undiagnosed autism. I know now my SPD was simply autism. And I have been able to unmask in certain scenarios and become more of my true self. Sadly, there are still situations where I feel as if I can’t.

Self-stimulatory movement or stimming is a trait found in neurodiverse people and it brings us comfort. For me it involves flapping or clapping my hands, rocking, repeating words that feel nice in my mouth, and skin picking, among others. These are things that relax me, or I use to show my excitement or happiness. This in certain situations, has consequences for me. When I go through airport security there are lots of people, lots of noise which are things with which I cannot easily deal. So, I stim to try and calm myself down, but this looks as if I am hiding something to seem scared. This is on the more serious end of the spectrum, but I face social humiliation daily as I stim in class, or at lunch at school. It is isolating for everyone else to be sitting still and calm, but you need to stim to self-regulate leading to stares and laughter. I have found solace in older peers who are also neurodivergent, and they have given me tools, advice, and a shoulder to cry on when it all gets a bit much.

Crying is a normal human reaction to many things. You cry when you don’t get the grade you wanted, or a pet died, or you’ve been broken up with. Most people can remember the last time they cried. For me its is a daily occurrence. I have cried four or five times a day for completely different seemingly disproportionate scenarios. In the last few days, I have cried because my fork was crooked, I didn’t understand one of the many maths equations we were doing, and because I had been asked one too many things at the same time. This is because my emotions are bigger, and I have less control over my reactions to them. Again, the social aspect of crying in the middle of a maths lesson is one that is not desired and one that I have gone through many times. But they are my emotions and although they are exacerbated by my autism they should still be respected just as anyone else’s would.

Before my realisation I believed that I was weird, freakish, out of place and unlovable. I go through a lot every day that neurotypical people wouldn’t think twice about but I now know through social media, family, and teachers that I am me. I like reading. I was born in August. I like cereal without milk. I am autistic. This is me. And anyone who is reading this and doubts that they cannot be themselves, I have one thing to say.

No matter what, just live your life.