by Hana Gabrielle Bidon (she/her)
Personally, my biggest challenge living with invisible disabilities is not being taken seriously when disclosing them to people. When I inform people that I'm autistic, lots of people throughout my life, including strangers, former friends, and professors, stated that I don't look autistic or that I'm too "high-functioning" to be autistic. A common misconception is that there is only one look to autism: a white cisgender boy who is obsessed with trains
and/or dinosaurs and is academically gifted in a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) field. In reality, anyone regardless of their background can be autistic. People of color can be autistic. Women and nonbinary people can be autistic. People from various socioeconomic backgrounds can be autistic. Not every autistic person specializes in a STEM field or is even interested in STEM. Every autistic person you meet is different from each other. As one would say, "If you met one autistic person, then you met one autistic person."
At first glance, I appear and behave "normally" (coded for neurotypical) for the most part due to being bullied and socially excluded growing up. People may think that I am neurotypical like them, but I put on a neurotypical mask so I can make friends, get a job, and be socially accepted by my non-autistic peers and colleagues. To those who have met another autistic person, my autistic traits are quite "mild", but they can pick up on my "lack of eye contact", atypical speech patterns, and sound sensitivities. Over the past two years, I've been learning to listen to my body more and unmask some autistic traits after masking them for nearly two decades I've lived on Earth thus far.
As for ADHD, I didn't even think I might have it until four years ago.
There was a reason that I kept on losing and forgetting where I placed my belongings.
There was a reason why I couldn't study for my subjects unless I listened to instrumental music or white noise with my headphones.
There was a reason why I kept on bouncing all over the place, even as a kid and even till now.
There was a reason why I couldn't listen to lectures effectively unless I was extremely interested in the subject matter.
There was a reason why I unintentionally interrupted other people in conversations.
There was a reason why I tend to talk over people in conversations.
I wasn't a failure nor a deformed individual.
I have ADHD.
Unfortunately, it is tremendously difficult for me to receive the ADHD diagnosis thus far. How come none of the doctors and psychiatrists were able to diagnose me with ADHD? Why was I misdiagnosed with anxiety and depression? Why was I forced to take antidepressants for more than two years against my will?
Thankfully, my current therapist encouraged me to obtain an ADHD diagnosis, which I hope
to get this July. Still, I am a bit hesitant to endure another mental health evaluation since I experienced medical gaslighting by other medical professionals: doctors, psychiatrists, and social workers.
Hopefully, people like me won't have to mold ourselves to fit the predominantly neurotypical world. The world will accept and accommodate people like me.