by Daniel Antonsson
As a 43 year old Autistic male, I can honestly say that I have experienced both the highs and the lows of living with Autism. The super focus that I have for my special interests can move mountains and there is almost no limit to how much time I can invest. Thinking, talking, studying or practicing does things that for me is so important. All of you out there that have these interest levels knows what I am talking about. Over the years, I have had a couple of different ones, including motorcycles, travels, martial arts, and the economy. The biggest, most long-lasting interest has always been strength training.
I started out as a skinny but athletic and naturally strong 17 year old boy and continued to go to the gym, pushing myself as far as humanly possible day in and day out. Autism was my superpower, so I never got bored, lost motivation or lacked discipline. I was a machine with a goal of being the best version of myself.
Sure enough, the results that followed over the years with that type of dedication was something extra, and even if I never competed in any strength sport, I reached a elite level strength being hundred percent drug free. I know that several people at the gym where I trained were taking drugs, but they never had the hunger or the drive that I had and they never surpassed my strength numbers.
When friends of mine where complaining about finding the force to go to the gym, I never struggled, I was always motivated to give my all. It felt great and it gave me a feeling of being special in a good way. But the
other side of the coin was less positive. I trained even days when I was sick, and I trained so hard that I never recovered fully between my workouts. I should have listened to my body and taken some time off from training.
I felt so wrong to move away from my routines. My Autism where calling my name and I could not convince myself to rest. I had to train because anything else would be a failure. My superpower that gave my so much focus and strength for free started to wear me down. My body began to be sick, where I felt worse and worse, but I kept pushing. I walked around in cold sweats and feeling like garbage. I got a horrible insomnia and my sleep routines where like this: awake for 3 days without any sleep what so ever, then sleep 7 hours, awake the next 3 days and than some sleep again. This kept repeating itself for months and at the same time, I continued my training and studying at the university to become an elementary grade teacher.
With time, I discovered that teaching was not for me. I did not realize right away that being in a position where you always are in the center of attention and you have to interpret a lot of information constantly was not for me. For some of you, this would be fine. For me, it was to much to handle. Being a teacher in elementary school is not only about teaching different subjects, it is also about child management and that is not a joke.
In the end, my body could not take it anymore and I had to stop working out and return home from the city I moved to for my studies. I ended up in a dark hole without energy and I could not do almost anything. I was lying in bed for two years straight before I slowly started to come back to life. My muscles were gone and it was hard for me to accept that my body had changed so much. My identity as this big fitness guy was gone and I had to redefine who I was. I had to find an alternative way of living and I did, but the absence of being able to do the thing I loved the most was a sorrow for me.
Life is not constant and sometimes we need to adjust to changes. This can be a big challenge for everyone, but particularly for us with Autism. Changes are not exactly our forte, but even if it is hard, that does not mean we cannot change. From my personal experience we sure can, but we tend to fight a little harder before we still do it. There are as many life stories as there are people and we all need to find our way to happiness. Many of us Autistic people have strengths that we can identify and take advantage of. However, don’t forget to take some time of from yourself and your focus. Try to have some harmony on your own terms.
Daniel Antonsson is a 43 year old Autistic man living in Sweden with his Venezuelan girlfriend and four year old daughter. He has always enjoyed writing about different subjects and being able to publish for the Art of Autism make him feel truly blessed.