My name is Poppy, I am 21 years old, I work at a fast-food restaurant, and I am Asperger’s. I was born in Australia and my special interest is horses. I like drawing and playing video games in my spare time. 

What is the greatest challenge you have had to overcome in your life?

Trying to navigate the world around me as someone who is autistic. Trying to process everything and blend in when I’m so not meant to be fitting into society. Every day is a big day even if I am sitting at home with a cup of tea, reading a book. I’m thinking about what kind of tea I’m drinking, the feeling of the book, the smell of the book, the smell of the air outside. And it’s just so tiring. 

I’m still trying to figure everything out. Especially now that I just started working, trying to listen to people giving me orders. I’m pretty good socially. I think I’m pretty good. One thing that my team leader at work pointed out, that I was really good at is breaking the ice. At my last job, we went around to peoples’ homes selling solar power. They always had a pet, or a lovely garden, or a cute outfit and I would break the ice with them talking about that. I was very proud of myself for knowing that, considering that I struggle with socialising. I know that I can start conversation and keep it going.

How did you initially react to being on the spectrum?

With family, they noticed at a very young age, and tried getting me diagnosed for school. But because I wasn’t “troubled” enough it, they didn’t think I was “autistic enough” to be officially diagnosed. I don’t feel any hatred towards my family because they were trying. They didn’t just stick me into the deep end and say ‘swim’. 

When I was 12 and my parents got divorced, I started going through the process of puberty, I didn’t have a full understanding of it (my autism) and when I went along in school I struggled so much socially. I hated socialising at school because when I tried really hard to fit I hurt myself a lot. People just used and abused me. Especially the men, well boys, they weren’t men. I got along with boys a lot better, it’s just the way I am.

But every time I would become friends with a boy, they would want to date me. Sometimes I would feel the same way. Sometimes we tried to sort that out sometimes it didn’t work out. But every time I became friends with that boy, it always pretty much ended up that we dated or we stopped being friends. There was no in-between. That was really hard. I never got on with girls, I didn’t understand social cues or how to react to things. 

Did your reaction change toward the challenge?

When I got out of school and I moved out of home, that is when I started to understand myself. I found my own space, and I did research and began to learn and understand more about being autistic. 

My partner has been one person who helped me. Sometimes we go into the city. It’s loud and there are people moving around, and they would ask simple questions like “What do you want to eat?”. I used to be so overwhelmed that I had a bit of, not a ‘meltdown’ but ‘shutdown’. It’s quite like a “freeze state”, so I would stop and freeze and they wouldn’t understand. It took us some time to get through. Now when they ask the same question, I’ll grab their hands and say, “Make a decision for me I can’t make a decision I’m too overwhelmed”. I think that communication and the understanding that they have helped put into my life has helped me to overcome my struggles.

What did you ultimately learn? Good or bad?

There’s nothing scarier than trying to do omething on your own. Getting professional help is important. Also knowing that men aren’t the only ones who can be diagnosed with autism, women are as well, and just as valid. 

I think there is something to be said for positive internal mindset. Understanding how to deal with yourself is important. Don’t ignore yourself, don’t push your true self down, it only hurts your mental health and your way of life.

People think that being autistic is quite negative. You see a lot of ‘Karen mums’ and videos on Facebook saying things like ‘it’s so hard having an autistic kid. They’re always having a meltdown in public!’ People must understand that we’re not all like that. There are some people who are but not everyone. Being a woman in the autistic community is even harder because autism was based on men having it. So, women were just told that we were ‘quirky’. There is no dominant binary male or femaleness to being autistic, you just are autistic. 

I also learnt that many people aren’t as understanding as I had hoped or expected. I want people to talk about autism and know more about it. I want people to find clarity and understanding. 

Do you often tell people about this challenge? Why or why not?

I do but it also depends on the situation. I usually mention it for context, like if I’m out trying to make friends or get to know co-workers. I want people to know to be more patient and understanding with me.

Would you go through it again for the same outcome?

I was born this way there is no way I can change that. If I wasn’t autistic, I wouldn’t be who I am now. I wouldn’t be Poppy.