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Self-Diagnosis Is Valid, Your Experiences Are Valid

My name is Melissa Lushington, and I’m a self-diagnosed autistic individual. I don’t get to say that out loud to people, due to my concern of being viewed by people as invalid. This is an issue that affects many people in the autism community who are self-diagnosed. People who especially self-diagnose through platforms such as TikTok are often discredited and discouraged by others. “While states and some organizations decide whether TikTok poses enough danger to warrant a ban, I want to sound the alarm about an online mental health risk that’s even more chronic and not limited to TikTok: an epidemic of self-diagnosis, fueled by social media, that’s leading to improper treatment, missed treatment and the trivialization of serious mental health conditions.” Chief Medical Officer Varun Choudhary M.D. states in an article published by U.S. News.

Despite what negative critics may believe, self-diagnosis is valid for people like me who identify as autistic. Especially, when you consider the reasons why people self-diagnose in the first place. According to an article published by AutismBC, one of the reasons why self-diagnosis is valid is because doing so requires extensive research saying, “Many of us have spent years considering whether or not we’re autistic before we say anything to our loved ones. Don’t assume self-diagnosis was made without thought or care for the weight of what it means to be autistic. Being publicly identifiable as autistic is not easy.”

“I’ve compiled here a comprehensive defense of my hypothesis as to where and how I fall on the autism spectrum.” Myranda Uselton states in a blog she wrote for an organization called The Art of Autism about how her extensive research allowed her to identify as autistic, “My hope is for this post to solidify my decision to identify as autistic, gather information for my family members and loved ones who want to learn more about autism, and provide support for others who are or suspect they may be on the spectrum.”

Another reason why self-diagnosis is valid is because a professional diagnosis might not be helpful for everyone as explained by AutismBC, “Since it takes so much time and money to get one, a lot of autistic people have to weigh whether or not it’s worth it for them to get a diagnosis.” This can easily be supported in the following source where a woman named Rakshita Shekhar shares her experiences with clinical psychologists who discredited her beliefs about being autistic by saying that she’s too full of herself, and one of them even misdiagnosed her with a disorder called Social Communication Disorder. She realized how much time and money she wasted on clinical psychologists and decided to be content with her self-diagnosis by saying, “After three more hurtful psychiatrists, and lots of wasted money, I finally made peace with the fact that I am autistic, and my self-diagnosis would have to be enough.”

Another reason why self-diagnosis is valid is because being autistic is not a choice. As stated by AutismBC, “If someone exhibits a lot of autistic traits, they haven’t “decided to be autistic.” They just are. If they self-diagnose later in life, their autistic traits might emerge more with time. This could be because the person feels safer to be themselves, and like they’re able to explain their behavior to people around them.” This is something that I can personally relate to.

When I was first told by my mom that I could be autistic and I did my research online and through school documents that confirmed I’m autistic, I learned overtime the many ways that I’m autistic through the extensive research I’ve done about autism that’s part of my job description as a monthly blogger for the Verge of Independence Project: Multimedia Autism Advocacy Non-profit Organization. I learned that I process information slower than other people, and this can easily make following instructions a challenge at times.

I learned that I have sensory issues that affect the way I eat my food, this means that I eat my food a particular way and the foods I eat are mostly plain. I learned that I often don’t understand social cues, and that means that I can’t tell at times when I’m doing too much or too little in my social interactions with people. I even learned that sometimes I don’t have a filter, and that means at times I will say things that I shouldn’t be saying. Why would I ask for this? Why would I choose to have difficulties in understanding instructions?

Why would I choose to be so picky with food that even pizza can be a challenge, because I don’t like tomato pieces in my pizza! Why would I choose to have difficulties in finding a middle ground when I approach things in life? My brain often has a black-and-white mentality wherein it’s either one way or the other. Why would I choose to be autistic, when it consists of so many challenges for me to deal with? Also, why would I choose to be part of a community that has a history of prejudice, stereotypes, and hate crimes?

I don’t choose to be this way, I just am this way and with the new understanding I have about myself and autism, I do the best I can to take care of myself as well as accept myself just the way I am. I also do my best to encourage other people to do the same, as an autism advocate for the autism community.

I’ve explained in a blog post that negative statements about self-diagnosis can make many people feel invalid. Statements like that can make someone like me feel invalid, but one thing is important to always remember: if you meet one autistic person, it’s just one autistic person. This means that autistic people are autistic in their own unique way, and every autistic person’s lived experience is valid. Your experiences are valid.

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