It’s been a year since my first blog post, “The First Step”, on processingproblems.com. I remember feeling the competing emotions of fear and relief when hitting “publish” that first time. In fact, I didn’t publicly announce the advent of my blog (via Facebook) for a couple days after initially publishing the post because I was so nervous about how it would be received by people who knew me that I wasn’t sure I wanted to risk putting myself out there so personally about a diagnosis that was quite new to me. There’s still a negative stigma associated with autism, and I was reluctant to “out” myself in case people connected to me subscribed to those prevailing stereotypes and would consequently view me differently or as “less than.” I guess it was a similar reservation that I felt when publishing my blog post on my former fitness blog about my battle with anorexia as a young runner and the eventual release of my memoir, PR, a detailed account of my affliction with the disease. It’s a shame that mental health issues and developmental disorders are still are stigmatized when they are so common and not the fault of the affected person. I do think we are slowly making progress in the mental health movement to shift these attitudes and perceptions, but there’s a long way to go, especially in today’s climate of hatred and violence.
I must admit I was pleasantly surprised at the overwhelming support and acceptance I received from people connected to me on Facebook, old friends and new, when I divulged being autistic in that first post and how it affected me, my comorbid struggles, and my reflections and feelings about receiving this new layer of self-understanding. It was so heartwarming in a time of confusing and mixed emotions in response to a radically new self-concept at the age of thirty. It’s reassuring and validating to feel applauded for your openness and accepted for who you are and where you are in your journey through life. I am eternally grateful for the outpouring of love and encouragement I received on that first public admission as well as on all of the subsequent highs and lows I’ve written about and shared over the last 365 days. I am forever feeling quite alone in my struggles and isolated in my relationships with others, so the online media of a blog has helped me connect with other people that I’ve lost touch with or would otherwise have not met, which works to provide me with the interactions I so need.
As such, this post serves as a thank you to all of you readers who have silently read my blog or reached out and shared your thoughts or reactions throughout the past year. My gratitude for your support knows no bounds. I hope that at least one of my posts or sentiments in a post has resonated with you in some positive or helpful way, be it because you can relate, because it articulated something that impacted you, or because it made you view autism or the other mental health issues I discuss in a different way. I love hearing your own stories and reactions and answering your privately messages questions. I hope to continue writing about my journey, my life experiences, my process of self-improvement and growth, and my healing from trauma and broken self-esteem. As I’ve expressed numerous times, the very act of composing these posts is therapeutic for me as it provides a way for me to connect with my thoughts and feelings, assign words to them, and interpret them in meaningful and useful ways. I have a near constant barrage of ideas, emotions, memories, anxieties, etc. swirling around in my head, weaving a jumbled knotted web of confusion. Writing forces me to confront this overwhelming tangle and follow one strand through its length, slowly uncoiling and undoing its messy interwoven relationship with the bevy of other strands. Writing helps me uncover my true feelings and discover ways to address the problems I identify. It also provides a great cathartic release for difficult emotions and painful memories that otherwise stay trapped inside, festering into a toxic headspace.
It’s gratifying to reflect back on where I was last year at this time because I’ve made a lot of progress. Although the challenges were numerous and I certainly stumbled at times and fell short of my goals, I’m so proud of my sustained effort to work on myself and feel better and the improvements I’ve made. Even when daily progress is so gradual that it’s barely detectable, in aggregate over a year, the improvements are seen as giant leaps—a result that feels worthy of self-praise even for someone so prone to low self-esteem and self-criticism. I’m committed to continuing to pursue greater self-awareness and clarity, and I’m excited to feel the manifestations of this progress in improved quality of life. Thank you again to everyone who has been a positive contributor on my journey over this past year. Please continue to reach out and connect with me. Your support is amazingly powerful in my life; what may seem like a trivial message is deeply meaningful on the receiving end.