Monday, December 30, 2019

I'm 22 years old right now (will be 23 on April 15th so less than 4 months away now) and I was born in Savannah, Georgia but grew up in a small city an hour away called Hinesville until I was 13, which is when I moved to Minnesota and I've lived in Minnesota since then (2010 so 10 years in either may or June).

I am  Currently I'm a caregiver in a group home for people with disabilities (aka healthcare/medical work, the home I work in serves 4 residents), to answer do I like what I do is a bit mixed because healthcare has never been an interest of mine (I took this job somewhat spontaneously, I started in September 2018 so been at it for almost 1 year and 4 months), finance is my career "passion"/interest (which I have dabbled in so far, for the 2018 tax season I worked at H&R Block as a professional tax preparer and loved it) so while this job doesn't align with my long term interests and goals it has been extremely rewarding to me in multiple ways.

I would say that one thing that surprises people once I tell them is that I wasn't born male, I'm transgender (female to male/FtM, I've been on testosterone for over 4 years and 3 months now) and I'm very lucky to have had a mostly positive experience with disclosing that to people, it's been very rare that I've had negative feedback/harassment about it compared to how often people are supportive of it (or even just neutral/indifferent) and I recognize the same unfortunately can't be said for many others like me.

 I would say I consider my biggest accomplishment in life has been how far I've come in life, all the progress I've made in different facets of life despite circumstances dealt to me (my life story I'm pretty open with but for the sake of the interview won't open up that novel right now 🤣), in particular 2019 has been an immensely progress-filled year for me socially (as in I made a good chunk of social skill progress this year, particularly with women)

 How do I want to change the world or myself seems like a bit of a broad/open ended question but as for the world I'd say I try to educate others on diversity of topics related to me such as being transgender and having autism by sharing my life story, since I'm very quiet/shy/reserved by nature I don't see myself ever becoming like a big public speaker and therefore I see it as even if it's just educating a few people here and there it still makes a difference. As for me, I'd like to continue trying to overcome the severe social anxiety I face with women (one of the big hurdles I've focused on this year) but aside from that I don't think I have anything else I really want to work on right now.

I wish more NT people knew that nearly everyone (whether or not you have autism) has or exhibits at some point autistic traits in their lifetime, however it's the severity of those symptoms and the frequency and how it impacts the person's life and the origin of those symptoms that distinguishes what is autism vs things like "oh it's just an awkward phase", in essence to understand more the validity of autism and the impact it has on those who experience it rather than brushing it off as if it were something that's easier to overcome.

I was diagnosed in January 2011 at the age of 13 (not long before turning 14, this is prior to the change the DSM made to using the umbrella term of Autism Spectrum Disorder/ASD and I often still reference my autism as my original diagnosis of Asperger's) and the forms of intervention I've had since then include therapy and pharmaceutical medications, for therapy once I found a therapist I liked and could connect with and as long as the appointments were consistent I do think it was a big help, for the medications I was on a variety that changed over time (anti-anxiety, antidepressant, mood stabilizer, sleeping medication) and I know medication is a bit of a hot topic in the sense of people are opposed to it as well, personally I'm not opposed to medication because I see it as sometimes people are born with or develop conditions that create an imbalance in their body so if medication can help that then by all means take it if you think it can truly help you, however I ended up transitioning to using marijuana medicinally instead which I think has given me equal (if not greater) benefit than pharmaceuticals did (not to be cliche there).

What do I tell others on the spectrum? Honestly in the past year I've been focusing on my autism a lot and letting it get so me negatively so sometimes that affects my outlook on things but overall I'd say that it is possible to make progress, it is possible to achieve goals you have (even if you don't achieve the exact result you want or getting there the same way) and while this is advice I really should listen to myself, while everyone is different in general I believe for autistic people any social progress will take us. Much more time than NT people it really is true that patience is key, that our results will come in time if we can wait it out and continue putting in the effort (which for me is hard because I definitely don't have a lot of patience, I never have despite trying to work on it)
  How I got diagnosed: When I met my brother's mom (after my dad introduced me to her) and began to get to know her, she was the one to notice and have me begin therapy to receive a diagnosis and she later told me that it's not that she thought that anything was wrong with me, just that she saw I was very different than other teenagers my age and that I seemed to struggle a lot socially and was awkward to the point of social detriment. The way I received my diagnosis was after a few therapy sessions my dad and my brother's mom gave me a book (I've always liked reading, I get into phases of reading and then not reading much for a while and at that time I was reading a lot) and told me to read it and after I read it (the book was Look Me in the Eyes by John Elder Robison, very good book I highly recommend it) they asked me what I thought of it and they told me I have the same condition the author has, Asperger's and after that my brother's mom bought me like 8 or 9 books on autism so i could learn more and I read them all and once I learned more about autism I learned more about myself, I finally felt like I understood so much more about myself and my life and to this day knowing about my autism helps me navigate life and express my needs.

When I first was diagnosed i felt neutral over it, then for a while I was somewhat excited thinking it was a cool and unique trait to have, but as I've gotten older and the struggles i face due to autism become more prevalent, lately I've felt more resentful towards my autism and sometimes wishing I could be NT because even though autism is part of what makes me unique and who I am, I just wish I could know what it's like to not struggle so much socially and with anxiety.  Considering I was diagnosed at 13 and will be 23 in a few months and due to my detailed long term memory I can remember my symptoms beginning around the age of 3, that 10 year gap between 3 and 13 I don't see as huge but I do think that if I were diagnosed as a child then maybe today I'd be even farther along socially and possibly have less or even no social anxiety (such as with women).

The obstacles I've faced in life can turn into a very very long story but some of the more significant events (aside from autism) are my mom passed away in 2007 when I was 10 (my first tattoo out of currently 7, is on my left forearm and is dedicated to her as well as my 7th/most recent one is also a tribute to her), my dad over the years became abusive (emotionally/mentally, verbally, physically) to the point where I eventually entered the foster care system (which turned out to be a blessing for me in the end), a brief (almost 3 week) episode of homelessness last year (which was part of what nearly drove me to suicide), a myriad of smaller things here and there or reoccurring things such as the social anxiety, and while in the moment of something I do face stress I think deep down I try to think of everything I've already overcome and how far I've come and that if I can push through whatever I'm going through right now, to stay optimistic and try thinking of positives, that nothing bad lasts forever and eventually things will get better (which again for me is sometimes hard to hold on to since patience is not a virtue of mine)

 With being transgender although I'm lucky to have had a mostly positive experience, it does still pose a great risk to my safety in a sense so even though I'm open about my transition i still have to be careful who I disclose it to, as for race/ethnicity I'm half Puerto Rican (aka among the Hispanic demographic of people) by my dad's side of the family and then white by my mom's side so I'm mixed, however I got my mom's very fair/light skin tone so even though I have naturally dark and very curly hair and dark brown eyes I basically look like a regular white guy, and considering the unfortunate state of American society today it's twisted to say that I'm glad I took more in appearance after my mom than my dad because I know if I got darker skin like my dad and his family that I'd instantly be that much more at risk to prejudice that many people of color face in the country today, and as for my autism I feel lucky to say that I don't think anyone has really ever belittled me over it

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