I am a 39-year-old with Autism Spectrum Disorder (formerly Aspergers) and I have two children, one with autism and one without. I have a good job, I take a nice walk every day and I help a lot of people around the world but you know what? Sometimes I still feel completely worthless. Sometimes I still feel totally alone.
The truth is that we all feel this way sometimes. For those of us with autism or really, any other special needs, this feeling comes far more often. Sometimes we feel like this way more often than we feel good. I know I used to. I wasn’t always a grown up with a family and a job. I was a child with autism too and I felt so very alone then. I felt like I wasn’t nor would I ever be valuable to anyone. I felt like the world wouldn’t even notice if I was gone.
I still feel like that sometimes. I felt like that just the other day. As I sat there I thought… I’m just going to tell the world I’m done. I tried, I did my best but I failed. I gave it my best shot but I still feel worthless. And as I sat there, staring at my television that was off, I thought to myself, “I don’t even have anyone to talk to about this.”
Like every other day when that happens, I wanted to tell the world I was giving up. I was done. But like every other day, I thought to myself, no, I can’t do that. So I went to bed.
Here’s the thing, I have talked to hundreds, if not thousands of children with autism who have felt this exact same way. They’ve told me the exact same things. For the hours and hours I’d talk with each and every one of them, the most reassuring thing for each and every one of them, the one common denominator between them all… was me. I was the one that helped them to see that they weren’t alone. Perhaps I couldn’t convince them that they weren’t worthless, just as no one can convince me when I feel that way, but I could show them that they weren’t alone. All I had to do was be there.
Here I am, right now, to tell you that you are not alone. I started this big thing where I have this opportunity to help all these kids and the world praises me for it, often far too much. I’ve been in the news and on television and the radio and I am given this wonderful opportunity to help kids see that they’re not alone.
So why do I continue to have these days where I feel totally worthless?
Now I’m back to where I started, debating with myself over whether or not I should ever even write this, should I hit the publish button? Will I let down everyone that looks up to me? Will I disappoint all those kids who think that I’m some symbol of positivity for them? Will people look at me differently? Will people judge me as silly or foolish or even selfish for having done all this and still feeling so down?
But then I thought back to all those kids I’ve helped. They didn’t feel alone anymore because they came to me and we talked. But what about all those kids that don’t come to me? They’re still out there, feeling worthless and feeling alone. What if they’re sitting there, staring at their off television, feeling like there’s no one they can talk to? Debating on whether or not to tell the world “I’m done” just as I do on those days.
I’ve decided the message is more important than what anyone else might think. I’ve decided that… as much as this is about me, it’s not about me. I’ve decided that I have nothing to be ashamed of and I have nothing to hide. I should not be afraid to admit that it’s hard sometimes. Really really hard.
I can’t explain to anyone why I feel that way sometimes. I just do. I can’t answer people’s questions nor can I rationalize it when it happens. I feel stupid and guilty and selfish and worthless and alone all at the same time and it takes absolutely everything out of me when it happens.
I have autism, I have days where I feel worthless and alone and I am writing this to tell you that if you feel this way too, you are not alone. It doesn’t have to make sense. You don’t have to explain to anyone why you feel that way. No one should ever try to make you feel guilty for it.
I am a grown autistic man with wonderful kids, a good job and I can say, completely without ego or bravado, that I have changed the world for the better, at least for some people and still, to this day, I still sometimes feel completely worthless and alone.
You don’t owe anyone anything, not even an explanation for your feelings. It doesn’t have to make sense to them or even to you. You don’t have to feel guilty or ashamed about it.
Please believe me. You are not worthless and you are absolutely not alone.
And if you don’t believe me now, come back and read this again tomorrow.
I’ll still be here.
We both will be.