My Journey with Autism, Finding Hope and my Faith

Life is a journey full of ups and downs, struggles and joys.

“I believe the real heroes are those who rebuild their lives using adversity as a stepping stone to in the midst of the chaos life has thrown at them.” -Nikki Rowe

I want to share my stories in hope to inspire and to have it be reached to as many people as possible. I am Autistic and thats going to be part of my story. I want to be completely straight with you, I dont care about likes but want to reach people without Judgement, inspire others and share stories.

Trigger Warning: Mentions suicide and self-harm

My name is Mariah and I am from Burnsville, MN. I have a twin brother and little sister. I was not diagnosed with Autism until after High School, and I didn’t even know what it was until I got into my late teen years. I spent all my childhood and most of my teen years not knowing who I was, or why I was so different to most other people. When I found out about Autism in adulthood, I felt I understood myself for the first time. I felt a big weight was lifted off of me. Let me share with you my story.

Autism wasnt researched much in girls in the late 90s. During my early childhood I was not hitting all my milestones, was developmentally behind, was in in-home intervention or OT according to pictures and by medical information I was given.I had hidden sensory needs unmet including taste/texture issues with food, I didnt eat well and dealt with stomach issues. I was labled with ADHD, Learning Disability and had of course the delayed milestones.Im simply different in development not less.I had love and still do and enjoyed being around my little brother which I included in this article. The next chapter wasn’t an easy story or journey to tell.

Personal circumstances caused my mom and dad to get divorced at a young age. My birth mom wanted to give us a better life. I lived with my loving birth mom until I was about 7 and 8 years old. My brother, sister and I entered the foster system at a young age and moved home to home. We eventually got adopted when I turned about 12.

During my early to late teen years, I was just learning about Jesus my lord and savior and I didnt know what it meant to have a relationship with Jesus. In the school system I felt misunderstood and felt left out. I was traumatized unfortunately in my new living environment most likely due to misunderstandings and personal life reasons. I was bullied, left out of group projects and PE partner games unless a teacher intervened or a rare situated happen and someone decided to be nice and included me. I was always anxious, experienced social anxiety and had a hard time approaching people and knowing what to say. I masked and memorized social scripts to survive. I kept to myself, was scared,felt alone, had trouble communicating and felt socially lost. If friendships happened it was because I was approached, but my friendships never lasted. If I tried approaching, the relationships wouldn’t last. Part of that is because I didnt know how to keep the communication going in the friendship. Some of these aspects above I still struggle with but also have overcame. Most of my friendships lasted until the end of elementary. In my freshman/sophomore year I acted out, tried to skip classes or leave class early.I lacked boundaries. I felt lost and wanted to escape into my own world and still need to escape.

During my childhood and teen years I masked alot .I tried to commit suicide more than once. I hid some of my trauma and suicide attempts. I tried scratching, cutting, strangling and threatening to kill myself.I was depressed, had depressive episodes,meltdowns, and experienced shutdowns. I was diagnosed with PTSD, Anxiety, Depression and was ashamed of who I was becoming because of the pain I was going through. I felt different and thought that was wrong.I felt like an alien on a different planet, I had bad self-esteem, I hated who I was because of the trauma from home, not being able to fit in, feeling different from society and school life. The days that made me happy were the days my favorite person at the time, who also did respite, came over. I also was happy when I hung out with my mentors.Even as a child I’ve always tried to remain loving, polite, joyful and kind to everyone I met and that’s something no diagnosis, and no person can change, that will always be who I am. I believe I was able to graduate high school because of my perseverance! I also received awards.

Since finding out about my diagnosis and how those on the spectrum can feel separated and disconnected from the rest of society, I started slowly developing a relationship with my Lord Jesus Christ and started realizing how Important it is in my own life. I felt he was the answer.It wasn’t or isn’t just a special interest, I finally felt loved and understood by someone who is loving and eternal and wanted to share that with other people. I believe we found eachother. I believe he saw me the whole time too!!! I believe he also cares about my life and Im free to share my burdens with him.What also made me feel good Is I learned he has a plan/future for me and will fulfill his will according to his plan.I believe my life outlook changed because of seeking Jesus and seeking his word.

At the end I learned I was just simply different ,nothing wrong. I believe I wasnt made to fit in, but to stand out.I’m different, not less and loved by my savior. I related the Chosen series message when it comes to choosing to follow Jesus who changed my outlook.

“I was one way and now I am completely different. And the thing that happened in between was Him.”

-The Chosen

I researched and read about my condition and about Jesus Christ. I used my own experiences to showcase how I felt was best and to share it in the light of Christ. I believe Jesus revealed himself to me through difficulties. I learned that I have a savior who loves me and wants my belief which involves my attention and dedication following him.

After fear of Judgements, years of hiding my pain. I finally decided to share this story. I learned about Temple Grandin and related to her ways of thinking and learning. She mentioned how most of us are hands on,visual and sensory based thinkers and learners. She mentions animals which I love and can understand and she talks about how It takes a ton of processor space in the brain to have all the social circuits which is why we may be less social. She quotes,

” I translate both spoken and written words into full-color movies, complete with sound, which run like a VCR tape in my head. When somebody speaks to me, his words are instantly translated into pictures.”

-Temple Grandin

Lets get into talking about how autism is similar animal behavior. The thing is I dont think in a language, and animals dont think in a language. Its sensory based thinking, thinking in pictures, thinking in smells, thinking in touches. Its putting these sensory based memories into categories.

-Temple Grandin

I then found out about Kerry Magro when he friended me on Facebook and all these other people who friended me who was on the spectrum. They were advocating, succeeding and making people happy but I wanted to take myself to another level or a different path. I started learning and believing wordly success is different than biblical success. I wanted to support others and wanted to seek my Lord and savior Jesus Christ and share it with others. Ever since then, he has changed my whole life around mostly on my heart and on my perspective on life. He mentions in the bible he is a loving God.It doesn’t mean that I don’t struggle. It means I believe I know where and who I can also give my battles too. I believe he fights for me, can renew me and can deliver me from troubles in this life Im a conqueror.

I believe there is more to life than this.

I’m not exactly where I want to be yet but I’m thankful for where I am right now today. I believe I’m in a spiritual journey. I still struggle with some parts of my Autism but also believe it is a gift.I have a imperfect relationship with my savior (I’m still growing and learning),I have a part-time job working with children with Autism and is a great place where I get the chance to show God’s love and also give insight to others since I’m also Autistic. If this job doesn’t last long term, I know there is more opportunities out there.I have new mentors and people in my care ,loved ones and friends who care about me.I enjoy listening to music, drawing,sharing the gospel, attending amusement and water parks and talking about Autism to bring acceptance and awareness. l enjoy playing sports through Special Olympics. Good news to mention is I got chosen to play in the USA Orlando games for softball in June 2022.I’m very thankful.

Society needs to always remember and understand we are just different. I believe there is nothing wrong being Autistic.My Autism gives me a different view on life,helps me be lovable, honest, vulnerable, very sensitive, passionate, spiritual and could be partly why I love my belief in Jesus so much and talk alot about it as well. I believe were supposed to use and share our gifts and talents.I also believe I can share Autism in a positive way, I just need to be given that opportunity.

Whether you are Autistic, are a parent, a relative, a friend. You are NOT alone. Mental health issues are common being on the spectrum and believe they need to be addressed. I suggest seeking a mental health professional knowledgable about Autism and mental health. I suggest finding a community that you can relate with including your interests, reaching out to understanding and accepting family and friends.There are services out there too.Like I mentioned, I also believe in faith and seeking the lord Jesus Christ.

“Faith isnt the ability to believe long and far into the misty future, but it is simpily taking God at his word and taking the next step.”

-Joni Erickson Tada

” Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others.”

-1 Peter 4
Photo credit: Images provided by the storyteller.

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Mariah Kay. S.