Self-acceptance as a late-diagnosed woman with Janette Bundic
I identify as person first and then autism second. So, I prefer to be referred to as someone having autism or a woman on the spectrum rather than being called an autistic woman.
I have been bullied my entire life for being different. I have a learning disability and I also battle anxiety and depression. I went through so many phases growing up without realizing that I was on the spectrum. It wasn’t until I had a severe anxiety attack that my aunt thought I should see a doctor and from there I was diagnosed with autism. I wish I had known about my diagnosis earlier. Knowledge is empowering and I could have had the opportunity to access the help and resources I needed years ago, had I known.
In elementary school, math wasn’t my strength and still isn’t. My peers picked up on that and they would tease and taunt me for not understanding multiplication tables right away. To overcome the teasing my mom taught me songs so I could learn [multiplication tables] faster. The teasing continued but it was less because I learned how to do the multiplication tables faster.
The thing I like most about myself is my soul because I love and accept everyone in this world for who they are in hopes that I will be loved and accepted for who I am. I have three accomplishments that I’m most proud of. When I was sixteen, I won awards for screenwriting, best actress, and best filmmaking for my film “Escape Sonata” at Action on Film Festival 2015 in Los Angeles. My second most proud moment would have to be when I was 19 and won a Visual Artist Award Scholarship at Close Look Got Talent 2018. My third most proud moment would have to be last year when I won an Autism Scholarship in recognition of being on the autism spectrum for my essay about my life on the spectrum.
As a young woman, I would say my greatest challenge would have to be feeling vulnerable while being taken advantage of sexually when I was 18 years old. The guy knew I had autism and even asked me if I was on the spectrum. At the time, I didn’t know; I found out later that year. Even though he suspected I had autism, he still took advantage of me and my vulnerability.
It doesn’t matter what the situation is or how traumatic something is, just remember you are bigger than it and you can conquer anything (like fear or anxiety) because you are brave and courageous. Don’t ever forget that, no matter what. Also, remember if you always believe in yourself, you’ll go far.
If I had known about my autism earlier….
I would have been a lot easier on myself growing up. I probably would not have been so critical of my schoolwork, or work in general. I would have been more understanding, and I probably would have asked for more help in school. I would probably have gotten a reduced workload and maybe split my grade 12 year into two years instead of cramming it as I did back then. Although I did get honour roll in grade 12 and successfully graduated high school, I was stressed like a sick dog. If I could redo grade 12, I would definitely do that year in two years. Looking back on it now, I feel proud for accomplishing the honour roll and for graduating high school despite my invisible disability and challenges.
I would like to believe that I would have advocated for people on the spectrum by writing speeches or by speaking out about myself and others on the spectrum at school assemblies. I would have made speeches to my church as I sometimes MC there for Greek Day. I would have made an effort to raise awareness for not just myself, but for lots of people on the spectrum throughout BC and Canada.
I would have never left my first counsellor. I only left her because she suspected that I had autism, and some of my family members and I didn’t want to believe her. I didn’t realize that autism is a spectrum. I saw a false representation of autism on some TV shows growing up, which caused me to be offended [by her suspicions]. When I was diagnosed at 18 by a doctor and wanted a second opinion, I did, and the second doctor confirmed it and helped me realize that even a “normal-looking person” can have autism. He helped me realize that autism is a blessing, and I should look at it that way rather than the way the media portrays it. After I got my official diagnosis, I returned to my counsellor and continued seeing her regularly, which is something I still do, because it helps my anxiety and depression tremendously.
I would not have watched shows about autism or any media that portrays autism because, looking back on it now, it was done in such a way that it was almost making fun of the autism community rather than a tribute to the autism community. I mean, I don’t have a monotone voice, and I can give eye contact, and I don’t need to act “Autistic-like,” whatever that means. Some fake articles say that if you don’t stim or act “Autistic-like,” you’re going to have burnout. That’s not accurate because I don’t need to stim or act “autistic-like,” and that’s why for so long, I didn’t believe anyone who said I might be on the autism spectrum. Some may say the reason why I’m not “acting autistic enough” is because I’m masking to pose as a neurotypical. I say that’s false and not correct either because I’m an individual first, and I have autism second. Having autism isn’t my whole life. I’m also an artist, creator, daughter, sister, granddaughter, auntie, Godmother, and friend to many. I like to look at autism as a small part of my life. Autism is more like my guidepost on how I think and feel and my ability to create beautiful art.
If I knew I had autism earlier, I would have followed my gut more and not hung out with the wrong crowd or get taken advantage of sexually in my first college experience. I would have stood up for myself with my principal [in high school] and If I knew I had autism at the beginning of that year, I would have told her that I simply learn differently and I need extra help and extra time on certain assignments. Bottom line, I would have fought for myself more instead of relying on my mom to help fight my battles.
Art is healing for me because…
Art helps me process my autistic burnouts.
Whenever I have an autistic burnout or in a moment, I can’t distinguish what reality is, my art heals me and frees me because whenever I paint or create, I end up finding a new understanding within myself about what reality is or what is rightfully true and meaningful in my reality. Then, after healing myself through painting, I can understand why I was upset.
I learn something new about myself.
Sometimes when I paint or create, my painting acts as a guidepost to my future or past self and gives me the answer I didn’t know before or will know ahead of time. It’s kind of like a fortune-telling time machine filled with answers I didn’t expect I would know. Or maybe the Universe or God is trying to tell me something when I paint or create in a mysterious way that I may uncover for myself without fully realizing it at the moment.
“My Chaotic Brain” by Janette.
I can connect with others.
My art is also healing for me because my goal with my paintings and spoken word poetry videos on YouTube is to connect out with my community while helping others and raising awareness for AutismBC, Crises Centre of BC, and the MS Society of Canada, which will heal my soul as I’m healing others. Ultimately when I’m healing others, it, in turn, heals me as well because I’m not the only one benefitting; everyone is benefitting.
My paintings, videos, and poetry truly heal my soul because I create based on how I feel to help myself and others. When others look at my paintings, experience my videos and take in my poetry, they know where I’m coming from, and through that, they are healed as I am because they realize that they are not alone. I, too, have gone through many experiences in life, some good and some bad and some in the middle. Either way no matter what the experience is, my point of creating is to remind myself and others experiencing my art is we can conquer anything, no matter how big or small. We got this.
“Hurt People Hurt People” by Janette.
It helped me fully accept my diagnosis by making me realize that it’s ok to be special, unique, and different.
Art helps me understand myself better as a woman and all the challenges I face as a woman and as a woman on the Autism Spectrum. It helps me to fully understand the baggage that I may be carrying from not knowing that I was on the Autism Spectrum for most of my life. It also helped me fully accept my diagnosis and helped me realize that it’s ok to be special, unique, and different. It just means I’ll be a true artist because I feel emotions more than most people, and I can connect with my emotions better when I create.
Thank you, Janette t. Bundic for being so open with our community! Stay tuned to our social media for more from Janette!
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