A section of my turned-in essay – “Leading With Courage” in April:
Some emotional challenges that I need to overcome are my strong dislike for change and excessive worrying. School means things will not always go as I expect, and those triggers cause my anxiety level to rise. For example, when the bus arrives late, a substitute teacher suddenly appears in a class, people start wearing random Spirit Week clothing, or pop quizzes come up, they destroy the calmness and order I want. The canceled class mountain trip was more anxious for me rather than disappointment because it was an unplanned change, which I expected myself to leave on a certain date. Worrying and anxiety do not seem to be abnormal until I start to show horrible physical reactions, such as rubbing and scratching my hands and arms until layers of skin come off, shortness of breath, elevated heart rate, spinning or pacing around when I am standing.
I have tried to deal with this challenge by establishing my own rules and routines and live according to them. Ever since tenth grade, I have made myself wear the same shirt each weekday – Pink shirt Monday, candy Tuesday, dots Wednesday, turtle Thursday, and MAK Friday. I also settled in a food routine of buying egg pancakes for breakfast at the same stand every weekday as well; I have to use a prime number locker with a prime combination and write the date in roman numerals in every class. I feel compelled to carry out these principles, and the preserved order helps me to not let small triggers make me anxious throughout the day. Hopefully, by inventing more guidelines for myself, I can organize my life and deal with anxiety in more constructive measures.
Many traits of my personality and behavior resulted in my assumption of being autistic. I was never diagnosed with autism officially, despite being suggested by my middle school teacher and some classmates. I have a strong need to explain my own behavior, which made me have great suspicions of myself, motivating me to read books, characteristics, and relevant research. According to Stephan Sanders’ research, autism is observed to be four times more prevalent in boys than it is in girls (Sanders, 2015). Girls are frequently on the less disabling end on the spectrum, and they mask symptoms with better social imitation skills, more active imaginations, and greater social interactions compared to the male stereotype of autism. This gender bias has caused ASD to be overlooked and misdiagnosed in women, even though they need help as well (Gould).
Current research also show that comorbid diagnoses are common such as anxiety, depression, OCD, and eating disorders, appear in 80% of autistic individuals (Kim, 2013). It has been a relief for me to know that autism may be a better explanation of why I am highly anxious and depressed so often, and knowing that it is part of my personality so I am not disordered makes me feel secure. I would be an entirely different person if the autism was taken away from me; in other words, autism cannot be cured like a normal cold or disease. However, because many people do not have understanding and acceptance for autism, including my own parents, I am forced to fix and alter myself to adapt to the chaotic world by taking more courage.
Instead of wondering about the reason behind my problems, I should focus on what I am sure is true about myself. Because God loves me and He accepts me, people’s opinions and the diagnoses about me do not matter as much as what God thinks. Through Jesus’ death and resurrection, I am not condemned, and God sees me as His “treasured possession” and puts Christ’s perfection to me as if it is my own. Autism is merely something invented by people to classify people with a different brain structure. The diagnosis of autism gets very vague and subjective when it gets to the relatively high-functioning end of the spectrum, and I can choose to not let DSM-5 label and judge me according to its own rules. Only God’s opinion counts for me, so I do not have to do things to make me look good or conform to others, and I can find intrinsic motivation to genuinely enjoy doing things, not so I can fill up the emptiness inside. I will never have enough courage and strength myself to achieve perfection and face the troubles, but through praying for more hope and peace, I believe God will provide what I need to overcome the challenges.
Gould, Judith. “Gender and Autism – NAS.” Gender and Autism – NAS. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Apr. 2016.
Halladay, Alycia K., Somer Bishop, John N. Constantino, Amy M. Daniels, Katheen Koenig, Kate Palmer, Daniel Messinger, Kevin Pelphrey, Stephan J. Sanders, Alison Tepper Singer, Julie Lounds Taylor, and Peter Szatmari. “Sex and Gender Differences in Autism Spectrum Disorder: Summarizing Evidence Gaps and Identifying Emerging Areas of Priority.” Molecular Autism 6.1 (2015): n. pag. Web.
Kim, Cynthia. “Autistic Women: Misdiagnosis and the Importance of Getting It Right – AutismWomen’s Network.” Autism Womens Network. N.p., 16 Dec. 2013. Web. 03 Apr. 2016.