This I Believe

Melinda - Monroe, Iowa
Entered on May 23, 2006
Age Group: 18 - 30
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I believe that I am okay. This has not always been the case, nor was it an easy emotional standpoint to reach. Five years ago, after over a decade of social difficulties, I was diagnosed as having Asperger’s Syndrome, or a form of autism.

I have never felt like I fit in socially. From the moment I stepped into elementary, I didn’t know what to say, when to say it, or when to keep quiet. I didn’t like my first grade teacher’s name, so I didn’t bother learning it. For the whole year, she was “teacher” – or “Ms. Teacher” if I was feeling polite. I had one friend, whom I rarely spent time with, and discovered books in second grade. I became an avid reader and had even less time to try to understand the social workings of my class.

In Junior High I made friends with a tight-knit group of girls, and I felt like I might be on the road to being normal. But those days involved sleepovers and trips to the mall. I did not like sleeping away from my home or being in places with a lot of people. High School came and went. I was successful in school academically, traveled abroad, and graduated, always feeling like a fraud.

I felt as if I was an actor in my own life. I spent hours at my girlfriends’ houses, talking about everything under the sun. But what no one knew is that I would create lists before going to their homes with discussion points and things to say, clever comebacks that I might need to use. I could mimic entire conversations, so that I might have the same conversation with three different people, because thinking of what to say on the spot was difficult. As I left for college, I could not think of how I was to survive in the dorms.

And indeed, I didn’t. I couldn’t handle living with another person. It was that disasterous year that led me to a psychiatrist and my diagnosis Asperger’s Syndrome. After that appointment, I felt as if a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders. It was not my fault that I couldn’t find comfort in conversation with others, that I enjoyed staying home more than going out, that I couldn’t stand to be touched or be in crowded places.

Now I feel good about who I am. I will never have many friends, but I don’t feel a need for them. The few I do have understand my difficulty with social situations and help as best they can. I don’t wish to not be autistic because it is who I am. My only wish is that someday my little sister, who is also autistic and entering the hard world of junior high, will one day understand that she is okay just the way she is. Because it is wonderful to finally feel okay.