December of 2014, I was officially diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (Aspergers Syndrome). Initially, the diagnosis came as both a relief and a burden. On one hand I’ve always felt and was made to feel different. On the other hand I felt called to help make a difference.
So on March 8th, 2015 I stepped out of the shadow and shared my diagnosis with my church and my community. Since that time I have shared my struggles, my strengths, my story with the world through blogging, radio and TV interviews, and speaking engagements. I share my story not because it is special. There are many adult autism-self advocates who have been advocating far longer than I have. They are pioneers, influences, and heroes to people like me. I share my story because they inspire me to somehow inspire others.
My very first book I am Strong: The Life and Journey of an Autistic Pastor, was just released through Electio Publishing. on Tuesday January 24th. I look forward to sharing my story beyond various blogs of 800-1000 words. In celebration of the book’s release here is a short excerpt from the opening chapter.
The world I was thrust into was different than my world of books and silence; this world was more than me. It was more than the me that I was most naturally. The world was big, loud, and active, but I was small, quiet, and reserved. The world I was invited to be a part of was so dramatically different than the real me that it felt like it was just too big. “More than me” is a way I would describe it to myself. The world is more than me. Eventually, I would learn that the only way to have a fighting chance of surviving in this world that was more than me was to learn to be more than me. In other words, my survival was dependent on learning how to be someone I wasn’t.Middle school can resemble a jungle of wild, untamed animals that, given the right opportunity, will devour each other for the mere sake of establishing dominance. At least that was what it felt like to me when I was thirteen years old. Middle school is sometimes an experience that many kids try to wish away, but for me, it was an experience that made me wish myself away.If I knew then what I know now, I would not only say that I was obviously autistic, I would also say that I was probably severely depressed because I didn’t know what was wrong with me. I didn’t want to be around anyone, and I didn’t want to be around period. I didn’t know what suicide was at that age, so I don’t think that was ever an option, but what I did desperately want to do was to disappear, and for the most part, I did go away. In middle school, the social pressure of being the “shy” guy finally became so heavy that I disappeared. The real me disappeared into the abyss of depression and anxiety, and it would be nearly three decades before he would be rescued.