- Posted October 2, 2013 by
Des Moines, Iowa
This iReport is part of an assignment:
The written word: Your personal essays
Coming to Terms with my Autism
My life at Drake University was great. But then something happened. I found out that I was going to lose my scholarship because I had used up my eight semester eligibility. I hadn’t made a major life transition since before I had come to college the first time, and I started freaking out. I knew that I had to work fast to figure out how I was going to finish my education, and I decided to transfer to Iowa State University, which is about half an hour away, and would provide me the opportunity to commute to school. Then I went to Iowa State and found out that I would lose most of my credits, and it would be unreasonable to commute to school there. I knew that this would be a huge change, and I didn’t think I could handle it. I had spent the first week after finding out I couldn’t stay at Drake crying, and that was with the mindset that I would stay in Des Moines and only be switching schools. The idea of transitioning to another town was terrifying, and between that and knowing that I would lose so many credits I decided that I couldn’t do it. That kind of change just wasn’t possible. Fortunately, I have a great church family, and there’s an awesome couple who is providing me with some money to stay at Drake for a while longer.
Despite my narrow escape into a transitional nightmare, I was forced to actually look at my reaction to leaving, and to finally understand how my Asperger’s affects my relationships. It’s been a long and hard process over the last several months, and I’ve shed a lot more tears than anyone in my life knows. This is a large part of my life that I’ve neglected for a long time, because I had the perception that acknowledging it meant making it my identity. Those around me know about my diagnosis, but they don’t see me as someone with a disability, the see me as a friend. This is primarily because I’ve learned to socialize in the environment I’m in, and I have a great support system between my close friends and pastors, most of whom are the fathers of my close friends. I have learned that within my support system I can thrive and seem completely normal, but if I am taken out of that environment I don’t feel good. I spent some time with a group from my sister church on a visit to Iowa State this summer, and even though I knew a few of those people I was still freaking out inside. I knew that there was no way I could be a part of a different social environment and feel the same way I do. It’s possible that after a certain amount of time I would have gotten used to the way things were at Iowa State, but I know the difference between being uncomfortable in a new place and having a panic attack, and I was much closer to having a panic attack.
Knowing how much change freaks me out is helpful because it gives me an accurate idea of my limitations. I know that I will probably not be able to ever pack up and move somewhere else, but I also know that while I am at home in Des Moines I will have a support system who cares greatly for me. When I was little even little changes like stepping into the shower were enough to freak me out, and I’ve grown to be able to shower every day, so I guess I should at least be thankful for the little areas of growth. Maybe someday I will be able to face change in my life without freaking out, but even if I can’t, Des Moines isn’t a bad place to live, and my friends aren’t bad people to be around. I am thankful for the opportunity I have had to confront this large part of who I am, and I think that all of the tears and struggles have been worth it in the end, because being able to better understand myself, even if it’s better knowing my limitations, will help me to make informed choices as I go through life. It’s definitely better than accepting a job far away after graduating, only to find out that I can’t survive apart from my support system.