Adrianna with her cute doggo Image: Twitter/Adrianna Tan
It was just yesterday, we all celebrated World Autism Awareness Day and people in great numbers shared their contribution to the #LightItUpBlue campaign. Social media was abuzz with inspirational stories and it was hard not to be moved by them.
The developmental disoder leaves the ones affected with troubles in social interaction and communication. And the challenges they face every day are something not many can imagine.
But how is it to live in the big, conventionally 'normal' world for someone who battles autism every day? In a heart-breaking yet inspirational thread, a start-up founder Adrianna Tan shares her story. She had a meltdown on that very day, right before she penned her daily struggles.
I'm a startup founder. I'm autistic. Many things that come naturally to most of you feel very difficult or impossible for me.— Adrianna Tan (@skinnylatte) April 2, 2018
The first business deal I ever closed: the lights were so glaring I couldn't close my eyes. That's seriously all I recall.
Imagine living in a world where everything is upside down.— Adrianna Tan (@skinnylatte) April 2, 2018
The world is eerie, quiet.
You're judged on how well you can write brilliant essays — silently.
The alphas of such a society are the best quiet essay writers
Parties are too loud and concerts make me vomit or faint or need to sit down. Most of the rituals that help people bond affect me on a core level. But I have learned to do these things. It's a learned skill: like how to ride a bike.— Adrianna Tan (@skinnylatte) April 2, 2018
Eye contact is a bust.— Adrianna Tan (@skinnylatte) April 2, 2018
If you think I do eye contact ok, you're probably not looking at my nervous hands under the table *remember to look straight BEHIND the person I'm speaking to, fixate on the flower pot behind their head so it looks real!*
The real cost of masking high functioning autism, tho, is in how when you're not 'on point' it's immediately misread— Adrianna Tan (@skinnylatte) April 2, 2018
Know it all
A lot of people think 'but you turned out ok!'— Adrianna Tan (@skinnylatte) April 2, 2018
Sure, I have friends, a career and I have the general semblance of the ability to take care of myself and others.
But I can't sit in certain corners of restaurants at business meetings coz the bright lights literally make me weep
My life hack when it comes to participating in social rituals comes crumbling down if I realize the other person doesn't work the same way as most other people— Adrianna Tan (@skinnylatte) April 2, 2018
They're like invisible flash cards ("talk about a, then b!"). If you do c first I lose it
I've found that I thrive in certain corners of tech, which is why I do what I do, but if I have a new scenario that doesn't match the pattern I really struggle.— Adrianna Tan (@skinnylatte) April 2, 2018
If I have to speak at events with more than 100 people, it takes so much out of me that I have to hibernate before and after.— Adrianna Tan (@skinnylatte) April 2, 2018
Example: I won a pitching competition. I couldn't go to the 2 day long bootcamp / prep sessions because anxiety and overstimulation.
I've been to weddings of close friends and committed faux pas like immediately changing out of my bridesmaids attire.— Adrianna Tan (@skinnylatte) April 2, 2018
1, I didn't know it wasn't ok
2, Formal attire drive me crazy (materials & fit)
Now that I know, I won't commit to things like this.
It's been a journey to get here. To even be aware.— Adrianna Tan (@skinnylatte) April 2, 2018
Before, I would struggle with articulating why I felt uncomfortable. I would struggle to accept it's okay to experience the world differently.
For everyone who thinks the end goal for an autistic person is to 'be ok' (i.e. mask it), masking is terrible for mental health.— Adrianna Tan (@skinnylatte) April 2, 2018
I'm going to start exploring ways to accept myself, tics and all. Even if it means rubbing my shoelaces furiously at an investor meeting.
And you thought it was easy to overcome obstacles based on a few movies such as Barfi! or My Name Is Khan ? It's high time we all started knowing more about the disorder and have more compassion for the people along with a better understanding of their situations.
In order to raise more awareness about the same, many government bodies, nationally and internationally, are doing their part. Let's do ours, too.
And Adrianna, you are one powerful woman. More power to you!