The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

‘Know that you are not alone’: Cassidy details living with autism

Ivy Rose Ball
Michael Cassidy is a senior at MSU who wants to share the realities of living with autism.

I always felt like I was different growing up. Nobody else seemed to struggle with socializing or fixating on certain topics to the extent that I did. Nobody else seemed challenged by maintaining eye contact or appeared unsure of the appropriate facial expressions and body language to use at that moment because they could do it so naturally.

In retrospect, I should have realized before the age of thirteen that I have Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Contrary to popular belief, autism is not a disease or an illness. Vaccines, milk or an abusive childhood do not cause autism. It cannot be cured, nor is it infectious.

Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder. It affects the way that I communicate and socialize with others, and how I think and process the world.

Due to the different variations and symptoms, no two autistic people are the same. However, in honor of Autism Awareness Month, I invite others to step into my shoes and gather an understanding of what it is like to live on the spectrum.

Every morning, regardless of what day of the week it is, I do the same routine. I wake up, wash my face, brush my teeth, clean my glasses, comb my hair and get dressed. Any drastic change to this routine and my day is ruined before it even begins.

Without intentionally sounding narcissistic, I will say that the reason for this is that I must be in control of everything. I need a routine and a schedule to offer some form of consistency in the chaos and insanity that is known, simply, as life.

When things fall apart, even if there is nothing I can do to prevent the failure, I take it personally.

However, this need for control pales in comparison to the horrors and struggles of social interaction.

Social interaction is draining for me, in a literal sense. The mere act of talking to people, the anxiety of not knowing what to say in advance or how the conversation might turn out is both emotionally and mentally draining for me.

To make matters worse — my speaking impediments. Often, I speak too loud or too fast, struggling to pronounce words as I try to keep up with how fast my train of thought is moving.

This would not be too much of a problem, if not for the fact that I love speaking to others. I like that I have friends and family who share my interests and allow me to occasionally voice whatever problems are bugging me at the moment, even if doing so feels like a chore for me.

Part of the reason that I enjoy speaking to friends is because of how hard it is for me to make new ones.

The problem with talking to strangers is having no idea what I can talk to them about. I am taking a stab in the dark, blindly choosing dialogue options and hoping that I make the right choices.

However, the struggle of social awkwardness pales in comparison to controlling my emotions.

Autistic people are not known for their emotional maturity, and I am no exception to this. I suffer from extreme mood swings, frequently going from zero to 100 in a second. One moment, I can be bouncing off the wall in excitement, but the moment that something goes wrong, I am engulfed in anxiety, stress and anger.

With anger comes meltdowns. Once it starts, I am unable to see rationally or calm down because all I can focus on is what is wrong, not how I can fix it.

I lash out, I scream, I hurt myself. Anyone who tries to calm me down is taking the risk of becoming a target of my anger. The best thing to do is to leave me alone until it passes.

I am not proud of this part of myself. I hate it. In fact, there is a lot about myself that I hate.

I am incredibly self-critical about myself. I know that I am socially awkward, but I have no idea how to fix it without removing a fundamental part of who I am. I know that my negative emotions are unhealthy and immature, but attempts to deal with these emotions bottle them up for a later, more explosive outburst. I use sarcasm and morbid, cynical jokes to mask my insecurities and voice my negative feelings in a way that provides emotional relief to me.

However, despite my struggles, I truly believe that I am one of the lucky ones when it comes to autism. I can function in society in a somewhat independent way, I can overcome adversity and challenges in my life and I have a group of friends and family who love and support me, warts and all.

Not all people with autism have these advantages. Some are unable to function on their own without others to care for them. Others are unable to make friends.

Who knows how many autistic people have families who do not accept them for who they are and are trying to “fix” them?

For those of you who have it worse than me, know that you are not alone.

About the Contributor
Michael Cassidy
Michael Cassidy, Staff Writer
Michael Cassidy is a senior communication major. Michael is currently a staff writer for The Reflector.
View Comments (2)
Donate to The Reflector

Your donation will support the student journalists of Mississippi State University. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Reflector

Comments (2)

All The Reflector Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • J

    Joyce NixApr 12, 2024 at 2:31 am

    I admire how you have been able to be in charge of your life. Being on the Reflector staff is a tremendous achievement. Congratulations!! You are a very special young man.
    We have an autistic person in our family and I understand the struggle he has as a young child. I too understand how important it is for our child to have a daily routine.

  • N

    Not everyone agrees with you.Apr 10, 2024 at 2:49 pm

    “Not all people with autism have these advantages. Some are unable to function on their own without others to care for them. Others are unable to make friends.”
    Then I say this as politely as I can that you can’t speak for them or me for that matter when you say that autism can’t be cured when indeed there have been countless developments in treating autism. It really doesn’t add up when people claim that neurodiversity speaks for everyone on the spectrum when neighter side can please all. You may want acceptance I i’d like to leave the spectrum.