Hi! Thank you so much for reaching out with your question. I'm so sorry to hear that you struggled for awhile before you were able to get a definitive diagnosis. On the one hand, a clear diagnosis can bring a sense of relief, and on the other hand, autism is a life-long challenge with no specific "cure," which can cause all sorts of emotions to pop up as you try to figure out how to manage things moving forward. It sounds like you already have overcome some difficulties in your life since you mentioned being independent and on the right track with school at this time. I don't doubt that you can do the same with the social aspect of your life as well. It just may look different from other non-ASD peers.
Here are some things that may be beneficial as you are learning about your strengths and your limitations with Autism:
1. Gather as much support as you can from others. The more you are able to find support in your family, friends, co-workers, classmates, therapists, school staff, etc, the more solid your foundation will be to move forward. Remind yourself that you do have support and that you are not alone.
2. Gather as much information that you can about your diagnosis from legitimate sources such as international, national or regional Autism awareness organizations. The following are just a few resources:
- Association for Science in Autism Treatment
- Autism National Committee
- Autism Network International
- Autism Research Institute
- Autism Society of America
- Autism Speaks
3. Many times, there are local meetup groups with others who also struggle with similar issues, such as socialization. Some of these groups are in-person (contact local agencies for potential meetup or support groups), and some are online. One example of these actually can be found through BetterHelp's groups which include social support groups and recently there was a group which explored neurodivergent patterns which can be helpful for individuals with Autism. As difficult as it might be to reach out if social interactions cause anxiety, it may be well worth it in the end to identify strategies through a group of individuals with similar challenges. One step at a time.
4. You are not "just" your diagnosis. There are so many other things about you that are worthy of developing and noticing. I would challenge you to identify your strengths as well and to be mindful as you go throughout the day as to where you can apply your strengths, as well as where weaknesses pop up. It may take a bit to come up with a good balance of socialization, independence, learning about yourself and being able to manage progress and setbacks. But it is doable.
5. Be patient with yourself. Learning about your recent diagnosis can take some time and will take some perseverance in understanding how your brain works and what tools will/won't be helpful. You may have to experiment with some intervention tools and strategies to improve upon your strengths and gather more information to help yourself. You are a work in progress, and you can figure this out in the same way that you figured out how to become independent and to get on track with school. Don't be afraid to ask for help from trusted supporters, or to reach out for help professionally to process what your diagnosis means for you and to explore potential strategies for becoming more successful in working through Autism-specific challenges.
I hope this was helpful, and wish you the best of luck! You got this!