Imagine waking up one morning expecting a perfectly normal day, but then everything just goes incredibly wrong. I don’t just mean small things like spilling coffee on your shirt or missing the bus; imagine these are major devastating events that shake you to your core. Most people would struggle to survive, but imagine it as a person with autism.
I was on my way to work on a typical Thursday morning to work my 8-to-3 shift. Halfway through my shift, I received a text message: my dad was being placed in hospice care. I knew he was sick, but the reality that he was dying hit me as I read that message.
I didn’t know what to do or how to feel. Why was this happening? I’m not even 30 years old; there’s so much more I need my dad to teach me. I couldn’t hold back the tears as my heart broke. I loved my dad, and I didn’t want him to die.
I arrived home that night to a letter in my mailbox filled with even more devastating news. The Social Security Administration was discontinuing my benefits, benefits that I desperately needed to survive. Panic set in as I thought about all of the bills that I could barely pay even with this money. There’s rent, a car payment, utility bills, and debts I’m paying off. How would I be able to afford food or basic necessities?
I burst into tears, filling buckets as I broke down. What awful thing was going to happen next? How much worse could this day get? How much more could I really take?
This moment could have broken me completely. I could have started drinking. I could have allowed depression to consume me and push me to isolate myself, miss work, and cut off the world. I could have even taken my life. However, I did none of these things. I refused to give up.
I started looking for positives in my life to pull me back out of the darkness. I still had my job, one that isn’t too bad and pays well. I still had my girlfriend, who, although she lives in another state, I knew would continue to love and support me. I also still had resources to help me out, like the owner of my favorite restaurant who offered me a part-time job.
As I shared this day with my therapist, she shed tears as well. She couldn’t believe I handled this day so well, a day that would have broken most people, even people who don’t struggle with autism like I do.
“You are strong. You survived.”
I am strong, and I did survive. I pushed through and survived that terrible day. Although losing my dad still hurt and I’m still coping with that, I spent lots of time with him in his final days and was able to say goodbye. I’ve found ways to supplement my income to both cover my bills and make extra money. My girlfriend has stood by me through it all and continues to show her love every single day.
I am strong. I survived.
Next time you get hit with a devastating day that you didn’t expected, imagine yourself finding the strength to push through. Imagine yourself standing tall, thinking it through, and managing to survive. We all suffer from time to time, whether we have autism or not. We need to remember though that we are all strong and that we can all survive.