Autism Unveiled Week 2
Who am I?
How often in my life have I pondered this question? Many terms could describe me after all. I am a married man. I am a lifelong movie lover. I am a writer. I am a newspaper man by profession. I have also lived 17 years with a diagnosis of what was then termed Asperger Syndrome.
That last status is to many the important one. After all, autism forms the lens through which I view the world. It is the status which explains my behavior patterns. When I blow up or say something I didn’t mean, high functioning autism makes that behavior make sense. I would lie to say this status hasn’t impacted my life. Just the opposite! To try to say how it has affected my life challenges me as it is my life. I am never without its presence in my life.
But at the same time, I strain to believe I am just this mental pattern. No, I am far deeper and more complex than that.
I am a married man. I take great pleasure in this fact. I concede I struggled to reach this point but the struggle was a meritorious one. I might not be the most “normal” in the area of expressing my feelings but I found a love that understands me. I care so much for my wife and live every day for her.
I love movies. Since I was a child, the cinema has been my cathedral. It is a magical place where I escape to other worlds and live the stories of others. Roger Ebert, one of my heroes, described film as “a machine that generates empathy.” He was right. When I watch a movie, I experience emotions and joys I could never know any other way.
I am a writer. Since I was a small child, I have told stories. At 13, I started writing screenplays. As an adult, I might have trouble finishing but I am always writing. I live to write. I am currently deeply engaged with a blog project on my experiences as an HFA. I dream of one day finding a book I penned on the shelf. I doubt it’ll happen–quality of writing eludes me–but this dream carries me.
I work at a newspaper as a page designer. This job provides me with a great deal of joy. I love to start with a blank page at the shift’s beginning and end with every inch filled. I’ve grown up reading newspapers and in my spare time still browse the archives of old newspapers. To know my own work sits in the archives I peruse provides me with immense satisfaction.
But then there is the other status. I don’t know exactly how I feel about it. On one hand, it has complicated my life. I constantly have to double back and explain what I actually mean. I am awkward in social situations. I blow up with anger when I don’t comprehend things. Sensory stimuli aggravate me beyond the norm. These are the bad things about it.
There is good though. I am passionately devoted to my hobbies. I throw myself completely into whatever task I perform. Because I am not “normal,” I am extremely sensitive to others who face discrimination. I’m not prejudiced. I live my life intensely.
I face challenges but I refuse to give up. My disorder might be an obstacle but we all have our obstacles. I won’t let this condition define me alone. At the same time I won’t deny its existence. I don’t hide who I am. I live openly with autism and I’m doing fine.
Ultimately I am a complex soul and I accept that. I am someone who wakes up every day and faces this world with the desire to be better. Perhaps that’s all I can and should be.
Austin Shinn, Arkansas, USA
Austin Shinn is part of the six-week advocacy project Autism Unveiled Project commencing on April 2, 2015, World Autism Awareness Day.