Do you know someone with autism? Have you ever wondered what it feels like for them? As a 16-year old with autism, I know how it feels. Autism is my life, and it is something I have.

I am not ashamed of it!

My mom recently told me that when I was 4 years old, I asked her why kids called me weird. I realized from a very early age that I was different. I don’t know how to describe this feeling, and to be honest, 11 years later, I forgot how I felt when I was 4. But I can imagine my confusion with why I was different, and then understanding the word “autism” and what “autism” meant. After I realized I have autism, I wanted to hide it from everyone because I was embarrassed.

In the past, I’ve been asked about how autism makes me feel and how I cope with it. Sometimes I really don’t know. There is no “main feeling” when it comes to this disorder. Sometimes I can be happy, joyful, funny, respectful and outgoing. Other times I can be mad, frustrated, irresponsible, upset and reserved. It all depends on a number of factors. Sometimes the most random or silly thing shifts my mood. Examples include when I don’t get my way, when I am stressed with homework, or for no apparent reason at all. Within a minute, my mood can just change. I still haven’t found out the reason, yet. If I’m mad, little things can also make me feel better. For instance, hugging a stuffed animal, getting told a joke, or being able to let out my tears of frustration or sadness with my mom.

I have sensory difficulties that make me feel uncomfortable and agitated. Too many noises or too many things happening at once is very difficult for me. I need lots of hugs and hard squeezes to help me make my body feel “OK.” I can see how it’s weird when I randomly go and ask my parents for a hug in the middle of a store. Sometimes (in private) when I want a hug, I squeeze so hard that it makes others physically uncomfortable. I try to squeeze more gently now, but sometimes I can’t help myself.

I have found many ways to cope with autism. On the professional side, for many years and still now, I go to a clinical psychologist and child psychiatrist. Also, I see a speech and language pathologist at my high school. In the past, I have gone to speech, social groups, occupational therapists etc. On the personal side, my favorite way to cope is to use my heavy blanket. It always calms me down!

Autism makes me feel many ways. I feel different from others, and I think I feel my emotions stronger than many typical people do. Certain things can make me have strong feelings very quickly. As I write more, I will talk specifically about many of the things that cause me to think and feel the way I do.

This story originally appeared on The Mighty and you can view it HERE. Follow Ethan on Journey Through Autism.