I’m Vincent N. Medina. I’m 21 years old, Latino, a graduate of Cerritos College with an A.A. degree in Journalism, and I’m studying for my Bachelor’s degree in Journalism at California State University Long Beach.
I am also Autistic with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Anxiety Disorder.
As a journalist whose entire job depends on his/her/their ability to talk or communicate with others, I was initially in complete denial about the possibility of being neurodivergent.
Growing up, I was different from my classmates in every way imaginable, from the music I liked — Taylor Swift, to the clothes I wore to my special interests.
While reading through a book about the Titanic for the 13th time, my classmates would mock and tease me.
I also strove to ace every test and homework assignment. My perfectionism usually paid off as I earned a 3.8 GPA when I graduated high school with the highest honors.
However, I was always the last one to finish. I remember my classmates laughing at me as they walked out the door early for lunch as they had already finished their tests.
I didn’t understand why I took so long to finish something that could clearly be completed in a short amount of time.
I didn’t know then that my good grades were also working against me.
On more than one occasion, my teachers would ask my Mom and Dad if I had ADHD or neurodivergence. My parents did the right thing and took me to the doctor.
But after learning that my grades were impeccable, my parents were told that “I was too smart to have ADHD” and “There is no way I could be autistic.”
I went 19 years without a neurodevelopmental disorder diagnosis. For 19 years, I believed that I was the problem, that there was something wrong with me.
At no point did I try to hide my true self or that I was different from everybody, but I didn’t know why I was different.
It wasn’t until a co-worker stood up in front of the entire office where I worked and asked, “Vincent, do you have ADHD?”
That was one of the worst days of my life.
I remember being furious and offended that someone would embarrass me that way and ask me if I had ADHD. But, after doing more research, I found that I checked almost every box for ADHD markers.
I finally received my ADHD diagnosis in November 2020. ADHD characteristics and autism characteristics often overlap, so it wasn’t a big stretch that in February 2022, I started to consider whether or not I was autistic.
Last semester, I was invited to my first college party! It was the first time I had been invited to any gathering outside school.
It wasn’t long before I started to feel incredibly overwhelmed when I got there.
The apartment felt like it was packed. They also turned off the lights with dim mood lighting, so I couldn’t see very clearly. As people started to drink, they began to get louder.
I remember feeling like everyone was trying to talk over each other. I couldn’t focus on one conversation, including the one I was engaged in. While the person in front of me was talking, I could also hear the dozen other discussions that were going on around me.
Not to mention the music that dominated the apartment.
My head started hurting, and I became frustrated and overwhelmed. I felt like I wanted to scream.
I would excuse myself to the bathroom to get my bearings and cool down. When I went back outside, it hit me like a strong wave at the beach, pushing me down and drowning me.
The smell of vape wafting in from outside, mixed with the smell of alcohol, felt like an attack on my nose.
When the cold wind blew in from the terrace on the back of my neck, that was the final straw.
I could barely hold it in any longer. The second the person I was talking to turned to talk turn to address someone else in the conversation, I dashed outside onto the terrace.
It was cold, but at least I could hear myself think, and there wasn’t so much coming at me at once.
I knew I was feeling sensory overload, common with ADHDers. However, from what I’ve heard from other people with ADHD, it was never this bad.
It was never to the point where they had to run outside or to the point where they felt like they wanted to scream.
There was something different with me, again.
I went home and researched sensory overload, and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) kept popping up.
I took approximately seven indicator tests, each time hitting all the markers for ASD or falling within the most likely autistic range.
I remember being in complete denial that I could be autistic.
“I’m a journalist. I’ve been doing this for almost two years,” I thought. “I’m majoring in communications. How could I have a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects my ability to communicate?”
Once I learned that there are actually very successful autistic journalists out there, my last argument of denial was out the door.
I feel fortunate that I was able to get a diagnosis so quickly. I know there are a lot of autistic people who have gone years or even have yet to receive a formal diagnosis from a psychologist.
Ironically, I received a diagnosis in April, during autism acceptance month.
During the appointment with a specialist, I had to go through basically everything I just talked about in this letter, my childhood, and differences in myself from others growing up.
At the end of the meeting, when the specialist finally told me I was autistic, I remember feeling this immense weight lifted off my shoulders.
I finally had my answer.
Why am I so different?
Because I’m autistic.
I’ve known that I’m autistic for four months, and I already understand a lot about ASD and myself.
I know why I’m so drawn to protest reporting because, as an ADHDer, I’m naturally drawn to high-intensity situations and think better during a crisis. High-intensity situations help produce dopamine and serotonin, but after covering a protest, I would feel incredibly exhausted. I never understood why until my diagnosis.
I’ve accepted that I’m autistic, and now that I’ve given my brain permission to unmask, I feel happier. I feel like I truly know who I am, and why I am who I am.
Autism is a part of what defines me, and that’s okay.
I am writing this to you because I turned 21 on July 31. I decided that if I’m going to continue being unapologetically myself, part of that is owning up to my disability.
I figured I could either hide it, run from it, or wear it like a badge of honor.