It’s different. Being Autistic; it’s different. The term neurodivergent; it literally means to differ in mental or neurological function. It seems as if from the beginning, we are supposed to feel separated from the pack. Funny thing is, we do not really need anybody to make us feel different, we can do that ourselves.
The first time I remember truly feeling that I was different, I was in my kindergarten class and one of guests we were having one day was pulling out a chair and it made this horrible, nerve tingling sound. It was almost as if a light switch flicked on and my whole body felt like it was vibrating. A shiver went down my spine and I dropped to the ground in one profound and dramatic motion. My body was under attack and the culprit, my ears. My world turned black. All I could do was cry.
It’s not like anybody could know what was wrong with me. I was undiagnosed at the time. The only clue we could have had other than the torture I felt would have been my own fathers’ diagnoses. The problem: he’s black. No, the problem isn’t with his skin color, it’s with the culture black Americans share. Only 25% of African Americans as opposed to almost 50% of Caucasian Americans seek help. Never really seeing mental health professionals and most if not, all symptoms pointing to something important ignored both lead to a bigger mystery for their children to face when the same symptoms appear for them.
My poor teacher after about fifteen minutes of doing everything in her power, had nothing left but to call my mom. After almost 10 minutes of tight hugs, soothing arm stimuli, and a smooth tone, we were able to bring me back from the distant reality I was so desperate to be saved from. I don’t think I ever needed some doctor or neurotypical person to remind me I am different. The reason: there’s no way my body would ever let me forget.
My family and I suffered for almost 3 years because we could not find any answers. Answers we would have been much closer to if we just had a simple piece of information. Even though we had to wait, we were one of the lucky ones. There are people who can go undiagnosed their whole lives. My dad is 55 and has finally made his official appearance to the spectrum only a few years ago. As a people, we have a lot of stigmas to fight but for the sake of our future generations, the seeking of mental health HAS to be one of them. Otherwise, we leave kids like me, my dad, and thousands of others defenseless against the struggles they are fated to face in their future.
written by: Nia Dyer