Coming Out with Autism
By Eva Angvert Harren, Core Coach and Educator
Often when we get into recovery we think, “Oh, THAT’s what’s wrong with me! Now that I know what’s wrong with me, I know how to fix it.”
If I use the 12 steps and do what they tell me, I’ll become a better wife, mom, daughter, friend…a better whatever! That great awakening happened for me in 1990.
The support in the 12-step programs is incredible, and many participants of these programs create a life beyond their wildest expectations. It works!
And, what if there is more going on? What if you spend a decade in The Program and still have not succeeded to develop friendships, feel a bond with others, or even that you belong to the fellowship?
What if you spend two decades in recovery and you are still alone in the fellowship?
“Oh, sure, I’ll call you.” “Let’s go out for dinner.” “You’re invited to my party.” “We’re going to the movies; do you want to join in?”
These are conversations I was not invited to participate in. I was painfully aware that, not only was I an alcoholic, I was outside looking in; I was different and could not for the life of me figure out why.
The greatest struggle was with the thought “What’s wrong with me?”
To finally get the verdict “You have an Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD)” should have settled it.
However, then there is step 2: telling people, owning who I am, truly, honestly, without shame…or with shame and facing the feelings of shame, embarrassment, or inferiority, a sense of being damaged goods or mentally ill.
It was easier to “come out” saying “I have alcoholism” than it was saying “I have autism.” Why is that?
Because, when people talk about you and say “Watch her; she’s an alcoholic,” the responses can still be, “Well, yeah, but she’s so funny,” or “I know, but she’s running a hell of a business,” or “That may be true, but she’s still so good with people,” or other responses to that effect.
When people talk about you and say “Watch her; she has autism,” people’s responses are more like this: big eyes, open mouth, silence, and then, “Really, oh that’s what’s wrong,” or “Hmmm, I thought there was something funny about her,” or “Oh, that poor thing.”
There is nothing about being funny, running a great business, or being good with people. Just this empty look with an “understanding” comment about how hard it must be.
I know I am not obligated to tell anyone in the same way you don’t tell people you’re bipolar, alcoholic, or have cancer. It’s a personal thing, I know!
However, in my case, with my business, it affects where I now put my focus. I have alcoholism, and I have autism – a double whammy. And I have a keen understanding of what that feels like.
I want to attract others like me so I can share my gifts and solutions.
When I got the verdict, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), at 58 years of age with 26 years of sobriety, it all made sense. That was the missing piece.
Now I found myself asking, “Was I an alcoholic because I was born with autism, did I have autism because of childhood trauma, or was it all PTS?” In other words, was I just a trauma survivor who had chosen to self-medicate until she became a drunk?
There are no experts out there who can answer that question!
If I have learned one thing on my journey to a wonderful, successful life with husband, children, and a thriving business, it is this: the “why” does not move you forward!
The moment I could accept my past as it was, had been, and will be remembered as, I could leave it behind, accept my “condition” and find the gifts, “come out” and be…me.
It’s funny to think about how hard it’s been to tell people.
That’s the common fear, “What are they going to think about me?” Well, what are they thinking now?
Who cares?! What people? They are not my friends anyway! They don’t call me, invite me, or check in to see if I’m alive. And, yet, I still worried!
That doesn’t mean I walk around town saying, “Hi, I’m Eva and I have autism” any more than I would say “I’m Eva and I have alcoholism.”
However, it means that I own all of me, including my brilliant brain, which doesn’t always agree with me. I have learned and experienced the wonderful feelings that come with Radical Self-Acceptance!
My life has become more exciting than ever, because…I “came out.” I enjoy the wonderful people in my life today, the ones who take me as I am with a sense of humor and compassion!
The price is worth the prize. Radical Self-Acceptance gave me the freedom to be…me!
I found my place in the world, the place that only I can fill. And so can you!
If you have autism and feel isolated, damaged, inferior, or even depressed and suicidal, I want you to know…You’re awesome, you’re brilliant, and you matter!
There is a place in this world that only you can fill, a place that needs your exact gift and wisdom.
The world needs that gift to evolve, and if you don’t share your Self with us, you rob the world of a piece of the puzzle that moves mankind forward.
Don’t keep us stagnant, don’t hold us back. We need your perspective, your humor, and your brilliance.
We need you! We need you to be…You!
If you want to know more about Eva and her Core Coaching, visit http://www.EvaAngvert.com