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This Is Who I Am (And Will Be) This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

By , Arlington, VA

I am one of those somewhat-rare people who live in a constant state of being overwhelmed, and for whom little comes easily. I am autistic, which means that for me, social interactions are a Rubik's Cube of signals and tones and connotations. What's more, most of the time, the world is too bright, too fast, too loud, too close, too rough. Because of my disability, I have failed at every stage of my life, and I will likely continue to fail in the future.
And yet I am still here.


This, I think, is the most important idea that I can impart to you about myself. I am flawed. Deeply. There have been times when it has all become too much for me, and I have fallen apart. I, however, have always come back newer.


In ninth grade, I became depressed and anxious. I could barely summon the energy to drag myself out of bed, and I was unable to fall asleep without my mother sleeping next to me. I couldn't laugh, and the sound of other people's laughter made me angry. For a whole year, I forgot what fun felt like. I wanted to die. One evening, I locked the bathroom door and stared at a bottle of Tylenol PM for almost 45 minutes.


I didn't take the pills.


The reason I didn't take them was because I was—I am —strong. I'm stronger than my depression and I'm stronger than my anxiety. I'm so much more than the two of them, and they do not define who I am. I'm more than my autism, too, but that's a little trickier. It's a part of me, and I have to make peace with that. It is inextricably entwined with everything I say and am and do. It is me, but I am not it—not just it, anyways. I'm more than that.


I'm me.


One of the most disconcerting things about depression is the feeling you get when you do something you used to enjoy. It's an eerie absence of feeling, nothingness turned into a foreboding vacuum by the knowledge that you should be feeling pleasure. I am slowly learning to enjoy my hobbies again, cautiously familiarizing myself with my passions once more. Recently, I felt safe enough to read my favorite book: Slaughterhouse-Five. I read once again about Billy Pilgrim and Roland Weary and poor, doomed Edgar Derby, but more than that, I read about the war, and I read about the death, and I read about the terrifying nature of infinity.


I cried.


I, however, was also able to stop crying and move on, carrying the soul-shattering words and truths and images within the book in my heart. I will read more now, maybe Romeo and Juliet, or The Divine Comedy, or Seraph on the Suwanee, because now I know that my own mind can turn against me, and I can fail in every possible way, and then return. Like Sylvia Plath said in The Bell Jar, "I listened to the old brag of my heart; 'I am, I am, I am.'"
I am.


And I will be again.




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