Ever since I was four years old, I can remember having severe anxiety. Pulling almost all of my hair out, needing my mom constantly, and biting off my little finger nails. I pulled all my hair out on the left side of my head in kindergarten, not even knowing what I was doing.

Since I was about eight years old, I absolutely loved being behind the camera, and I knew that I wanted to become a model. Skipping to a couple years later, to about 7th grade, my anxiety got higher and higher while my head looked lower and lower to the ground. At 11 years old, I was diagnosed with OCD and severe anxiety. After years of being badly bullied and being homeschooled, at 15 years old I was diagnosed with autism. Being diagnosed with autism didn’t come as a surprise to my family or me. We knew something was going on, and felt almost relieved now knowing what it was.

Being behind the camera has really helped me through my autism.

It has helped me have more confidence in myself! Confidence can be a hard thing to accomplish, but being behind the camera in front of the photographer and doing different, crazy things has definitely helped boost my confidence. The different poses, outfits, and makeup can be very unique! I was always a head down, quiet talking, gets-red-in-the-face kind of girl. Being behind the camera made me realize that it’s good to love yourself! Loving yourself is one of the best things you can do, and it’s one of the most important ways to get through life.

Photography has helped me realize it’s okay to be you.

Growing up, I always compared myself to other girls. I would say “I wish I looked like her,” or “I wish I had her hair,” or the worst I would say, ”I wish I was normal like her.” I now realize, it is MORE than okay to be me! Even though I face different struggles and challenges, I am more than happy being myself.

photo wall
Image via Beth Cath

Photography has helped me discover who I am.

Who am I? I’m an outgoing, pose striking, loud laughing 17 year old! My challenges do not define me, and never will. Discovering who I really am is probably one of the best things that’s happened to me, because when I was first diagnosed with autism, I had no idea who I was.

My autism did not stop me from doing what I always dreamed to do; I knew what my dream was and that if I wanted to pursue it, I would have to look past it. When I’m behind the camera, I feel anxiety free. I feel like nothing has ever been wrong, and it’s the best feeling. Having autism may be a huge challenge, but I will not let it define my strength.

Feature Image via Madison Holmlund

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