Asperger · Autism · My Autistic Experience · Student · UOIT Mental Health Services

My Autistic Experience: My Most Difficult Time

Here is a story that I tell for the benefit of others. There is no need to worry about me, for while this period of time was difficult, it is also over. Do not feel bad for me either, because going through this difficult period of time afforded me many tools that allow me to thrive today.

I do have one request. My telling of this time period will give sufficient information that people who know me well enough would be able to identify me. If this post gives you enough information that you know who I am, please keep it to yourself. I use the name oeruli because it allows me to tell intimate stories about my life for the benefit of others while maintaining anonymity. The name behind the mask is one I want kept to myself and those who I personally assign my trust. I suppose we could talk about it on an individual basis, but please be careful. It would be embarrassing if you misidentify someone else as me.

And with that, my story begins:

Before going to UOIT, I spent 2 years at the University of Toronto where I studied Engineering Science. High School was too easy for me, a joke practically. The pace was too slow for my capabilities, and so I was eager for the challenge that Engineering Science provided.

I was also struggling to chose between studying biological science and studying physics and engineering. Both were very interesting to me. Engineering Science seemed the ultimate compromise, and after the first two years I could go into the Biomedical Engineering option.

All of this seemed perfect for me, but I struggled with it. I treated it like high school and was punished for it with barely passing grades. I didn’t give it the effort it deserved, and so I only made it the first year before I was transferred out of Engineering Science and into Core 8 Engineering.

The summer before that academic term was when I was told of my autistic condition, and if you have read my previous blogs you would know that I did not take it very well. It was with this news that I went on my summer trip to Europe on a group trip. I went on the trip and while I found it enjoyable, this revelation swam in my mind the whole time. Keeping this knowledge to myself was challenging, but I managed the whole time, which is a good thing. I do not stay in contact with any of the people I was on the trip with. The memory of the trip leaves me feeling bitter when I think of the individuals who were on the trip.

The trip was also the time where I first went to night clubs, and as I have posted in the past, I hate them with a fiery passion.

With these memories, and with the revelation of my autistic condition, I went to UofT and studied engineering. With these distractions and with my underestimation of the challenge of the program I was enrolled in, I struggled. As I struggled, I felt I lost my identity and I questioned my capabilities as an intelligent mind.

Evasively I thought about suicide. A while ago I would have never admitted this, because I was so evasive about it that I wouldn’t have even believed it if someone thought I was contemplating the deed. My mind is quite the trickster that way, clever and well trained.

After the first year of Engineering Science, I was transferred into Core 8 Engineering. After my experience with the System Biology course, I was turned off of biology. The professors (while I imagine they are excellent researchers) were  not very good teachers, so bad that I lost interest in biology for some time and selected Electrical Engineering instead of a branch that would lead to pursuits in biological science. I continued to struggle with that and flunked out in the second term. Somewhere in the second term of second year I must have given up.

So how did I recover from this? I was councilled into going into UOIT and trying biology instead of engineering. I did as was recommended and went to speak with UOIT’s recruitment manager to procure my place in UOIT as a biology student.

First year science is the same for all science students for the most part. Everyone does biology, chemistry, physics, math, and some computer programming. My second round through university was considerably easier than my first. UOIT presented a lesser challenge than UofT Engineering Science, but having learned the material in the past one time gave me an advantage.

Then I realized just how much of a grasp of mathematics and physics I really had. Engineering Science gave me a lot of trouble, but it promised to give me a strong foundation that would help me in all other pursuits.

Turns out it delivered on that promise.

UOIT allowed me to refine my skill at math, physics, and computer science, but UofT forged them in the first place. The second time around I was surprised with how good I was. I understood the material and learned better techniques for remembering and applying it.

It wasn’t only math and science either. Through the gauntlet of Engineering Science, I learned to give oral presentations. Engineering Praxis was my favourite course in Engineering Science. It was about taking the knowledge from my other courses and applying it as an engineer. It was about seeing the world as an engineer does, applying knowledge and gaining new tools. The professor of that course is probably my favourite professor of all time. From him I learned to think like an engineer, and from him I learned how to present like an engineer.

So while I had a tough time, I came out of it better. I struggled through the process, but through that struggle I was forged into a better, more capable person. It allowed me to reassert my identity, and it allowed me great opportunities to flourish. Despite the challenge and difficulty, I would not trade it for anything.

So don’t feel bad for me. I’m fine now. I’m better than fine. I went through a tough time and emerged stronger than before.

But again: if you know who I am, please keep it to yourself. Be so kind as to do me that courtesy.

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8 thoughts on “My Autistic Experience: My Most Difficult Time

  1. I was inspired by your post. Im a first year engineering student already intimidated by the program and scared by the profs. I was a good student in high school but I’m not even sure if I want to be an eng. my father is, my older brother too and my family thinks that I need to be one.
    It took you a while before you found your way……maybe I need to this is too.

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    1. Perhaps. I know from experience that engineering can be very challenging, but I also know that I did not give it a fair shot. If I did give it a fair shot, I would have graduated the Biomedical option of Engineering Science two summers ago. The ultimate compromise, where I could use knowledge of biology, physics, computers, and applied science to conduct research and find new ways to help all people.

      Interestingly enough, despite my change of program my objective is the same. Not only this, but I am still conducting myself that way. I use biology, physics, computers, and applied science. I conduct research and find new ways to help people. Sure, I struggled with engineering and went into biology instead, but I retained my engineering skills and continued to take physics. I kind of miss engineering, actually.

      One of the best things to happen during my engineering days was in my Systems Biology tutorial. The TA explained to us that the reason we taking Systems Biology in Engineering Science is because they want people who understand both biology and computer programming. That was something I took to heart.

      I would recommend that you give your first year of engineering a fair shot, and when I say fair shot I mean give it your very best. Since you are already in the program, I believe you owe it to yourself to do the best you can. Perhaps you will enjoy it and decide that you want to be an engineer. If you decide otherwise, you will at the very least develop skills in math, physics, computers, and engineering design that may help you in the future. Engineering is a noble profession, and the skills that it tries to teach are very useful.

      If you are struggling, there are many people you can talk to. The professors seem intimidating at first, but if you go to their office hours and work with them and get to know them you will realize that they are good people who want you to succeed. You can also talk to academic advisors about any academic challenges you are having. Outside of academics, you could also talk to the people at UOIT Student Life, who are there to help you with with various needs.

      Good luck with whatever it is you decide to do.

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      1. Thanks for taking time to respond Oeruli. I appreciate your advice. It seems that I’m more concerned with being forced into engineering than with the program itself. I’m a good student, would like to think that I’m smart too, I think I can do it. Im not sure if I want to.
        I now read all your posts here. Great that you decided to write. Keep going.

        If at first you don’t succeed; call it version 1.0

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for sharing your story. While I can’t relate to it directly, it’s intensity resembles a period of my life where my struggles were similarly painful. I also considered suicide, I also searched deep for my calling, I struggled with my condition which was new and intimidating for me. I was also initially in a different program. The difference was that I was ” placed” into it as it was my family’s idea of my career and happiness.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Out of curiosity, what program were you placed into, and what program are you in now? Also (if you are willing to share), how is it that your parents thought your original program was the best fit for you? I don’t imagine they would have placed you into it if they knew it was a bad fit. Hopefully your new program is working out better for you.

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      1. I’m not at uoit anymore. I was in electrical engineering. My father inspired to be one and pushed my sister and me into it. My sister takes social work and I’m in pre-med. as you can see, this is pretty far from our original programs. My father isn’t happy with her or me.

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        1. Indeed it is. I am sure that someday your father will understand. Parents like to mould their children into little versions of themselves, and sometimes I think in that sense as well. I like to think that if I were ever to have a child that I would want to raise them to be like me, but people will be as they are. It is just a matter of patience and understanding for everyone.

          I hope premed is a better fit for you, but also that you got some use out of your time with engineering. I know that I gained many skills from my engineering days, but I also gained an appreciation for math, physics, and computer science that is lost on most biology students. I hope your experience was not all difficulty, that it was worth the pain to some degree.

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