Sunday, April 21, 2013

Interview with Lei Wiley-Mydske- Autism Acceptance

This is the Autism Acceptance Day blog's first of many interviews with Autistic people.  I am interviewing Lei Wiley-Mydske, who is 37, married with one child. She lives near Seattle.
Lei, what is your life like as an Autistic person?

I really love my life now. For a long time I was undiagnosed, or incorrectly diagnosed, so getting the "right" answers for me has been life changing. I had a very difficult childhood and most adults did not know what to do with me. I was selectively mute, and had meltdowns or panic attacks every day. Back then, people didn't know as much about autism, so I was diagnosed with severe anxiety disorder and depression. Now, I understand a lot more about myself and am learning, slowly, that who I am is okay and I don't need to be fixed. For a long time, I was just considered "dramatic" or told that I needed to "get over it" when I couldn't handle large crowds or needed time to decompress and process information. I had and still have, a lot of problems with executive functioning but was just told I was lazy or seeking attention. I lived most of my life feeling like I just had all these overwhelming character flaws. Being correctly diagnosed has allowed me to start liking who I am. My husband is NT, but has some spectrum traits and he accepts me, and I've found a community and a group of friends who accept and like me for exactly who I am. Even when I feel like I'm a "burden", they are quick to tell me that's not the case.

What is the most difficult about being Autistic, for you?
One of the most difficult things for me is how hard it is to process what I'm feeling in the moment. Social anxiety is a big problem for me as well. I am always afraid of doing the wrong thing or saying something inappropriate. I would say that the biggest challenge for me in day to day life is the fact that I can't drive because of anxiety and visual processing problems. It's very difficult for others to understand that.

What is the most joyful, fun, exciting thing about being Autistic?
I like the fact that I am sensitive and empathetic. I think that autism makes me feel things very deeply, and I like that about myself. I also enjoy being able to have a lot of time by myself. I also believe that my artistic abilities are definitely related to how my autistic brain works.

Lei, how has the Autism Acceptance Day/Month effort over the past three years affected you personally?

To me, it means trying to teach people to understand and empathize with autistics. Also, that autistic people can exist and actually thrive when we are not being forced to "act normal".

I agree! What is one thing about acceptance that would make a difference in the world?
I think acceptance is critical for self esteem and happiness. When I read the book "I Love Being My Own Autistic Self" by Landon Bryce with my son, I cried because I know that is not the message most autistic people are getting, but it should be. I don't think that most NT people truly understand how damaging to the spirit some of the messages that they give us are.

Would like to say something additional about your family?
Yes, my son is autistic and proud! I suspect that some other family members are on the spectrum as well, but undiagnosed. (My son said it was okay to talk about him!)
 I am glad you asked your son. I am doing that with my child, too, as are a number of other parent bloggers. And, thank you for doing this interview! I am honored to have had the chance to talk with you.
 Note: Comments are ON for this interview. Some interviews might have comments and others might not,  depending on the person being interviewed.

4 comments:

  1. So glad to hear your story, Lei! Absolutely lovely.

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  2. Thank you for sharing!

    Like you, I was a late diagnosis-er (age 22) and was often told that I was being dramatic, acting out for attention, and to only cry if I had a reason. Ha! Diagnosis fixed all that! Now, whenever I feel alone, I remind myself that there are others out there like me :-) It's still difficult, because for so long I was alone. Old habits die hard!

    I always thought feeling like a burden was a depression-related symptom, and not autism-related. Interesting. The more I talk with other adult Aspies (especially those diagnosed in adulthood, the more I learn about myself).

    I don't drive, either. Mostly due to anxiety/ADHD/dyspraxia. It's good to know I'm not alone!

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  3. I absolutely relate to your story, Lei, and you especially hit home for me when you said "Even when I feel like I'm a "burden", they are quick to tell me that's not the case." At 38, I still often feel like a little kid in the way—working on it! Thank you for having the heart, confidence, and trust to share your story. :^)

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