One very consistent issue that adults on the autism spectrum find themselves dealing with is their own very sense of self worth and belonging. Indeed, due to the struggles that autistic adults face every day, many of them find themselves struggling with feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, and a complete lack of belonging. And frankly, given all of the issues that adults with autism have to deal with on a daily basis, be it their own mental health issues intruding into their lives, the lack of support most autistic adults receive after graduating high school, or other external factors such as social unawareness, joblessness, or even discrimination, it’s incredibly easy for them to lose hope and confidence in both themselves and how feasible it is to live in the world with other people.
Indeed, many of the people who have joined the reactor room have shared similar sentiments about what their life was like before they were approached by Spectrum Fusion and joined the Reactor Room. It's very telling to hear them describe how they felt about where their life was going before they joined, compared to how they feel now.
Many if not all of the Reactor Room participants share similar feelings about how their life was before they joined up. They expressed dismay at how they felt their efforts to improve their lives were in vain, how they felt they did not fit properly into society, and how they felt isolated and alone. For example, one gentleman by the name of Chris, who worked with Spectrum Fusion when it was still based in Australia, expressed his frustrations with life before he joined the organization.
“Before I met Heidi,” he explained, “I was trying a lot of different aims to improve my life but all of them were to no avail. I was feeling a lot of emotions but none of them were positive.” He also explained that he felt like people often had the “wrong impression of him” and stated that he could not feel comfortable around other people and that he felt like he was forced to “walk on eggshells” everywhere he went to avoid offending other people or getting into trouble.
Most other participants professed similar feelings of being trapped or persecuted or dejected and helpless. One woman aired her grievances about how the system tends to ignore adults who aren’t immediately recognizable as being severely autistic, stating “unless you were low functioning you weren't diagnosed, you were just put in the 'hard to work out basket.'” She also stated her distress with some of the incorrect public perceptions of autism that caused her pain in her daily life, such as how she was “really offended by [the idea that] ‘autism equals no empathy.’” Another woman revealed her deep state of mental distress from a few years back, saying “I thought I was going nuts. I thought I had to go into a mental institution because I didn't understand anybody and people didn't understand me.” And yet another man indicated the pressure of feeling different and excluded from the rest of the world, saying “It puts a lot of social pressure on you because you feel like you're different. You feel like you don't fit in. Just knowing that your brain doesn't work the same way as everyone else's.”
And the stories continue in this way. One reactor room participant by the name of Marcello described his difficulties with bringing himself to socialize with other people. Thankfully, and also tellingly, he expressed that things had begun to get better for him now that he’s joined the Reactor Room and started socializing with the community that has formed around Spectrum Fusion; a common sentiment among people who have gone through the reactor room program. “Normally in regular society,” he said, “I couldn't talk to somebody. It's hard for me to do that.” He went on to say, “But here I have built a relationship with these people... I feel more comfortable and more safe... It makes it easier to attach and to learn. My disability makes it hard for me. Thankfully it is a safe place to learn things”
Another member of the reactor room named Matt expressed his anxiety before joining the reactor room. He mentioned how he desperately wanted to be able to “stand on [his] own two feet; to be out there and self-sufficient,” but that before he joined the Reactor Room, he had no idea what he wished to do with his life and wasn’t sure what direction his life was going to go in, especially after he graduated college. However, he said that he “had a better idea of what to do the more [he] interacted with Spectrum Fusion,” and was now more confident because he not only knew what path he wanted to take in life, but that he also felt more capable and confident that he could achieve what he wanted.
Other members have described similar sentiments about the positive impact that Spectrum Fusion has had on their mental health and their lives at large. One mother, who wished to remain unnamed, spoke about her daughter saying, “Since we came across Spectrum Fusion it has made a big difference in my daughter's life. Things seem to make a lot more sense in her life.” Another Reactor Room participant compared his life before participating in the program to how it is now and said “there’s absolutely a difference, if nothing else emotionally, because it’s definitely felt like it’s actually put my life in a certain direction… before the Reactor Room I was absolutely directionless and I was not going anywhere fast.” And yet another participant expressed joy at being a part of the Reactor Room. “It felt nice,” he said. “It felt like I was [a part of something] bigger than myself.”
It’s clear to see that at the absolute minimum, Spectrum Fusion does a lot to build the confidence and hope of people who join. The mental health effects of being a part of Spectrum Fusion have been positive across the board. By providing support, community, and a sense of belonging, as well as a more defined path to achieve their goals and an avenue into integrating with the rest of the world, the Reactor Room participants feel more confident, more hopeful, and less anxious and depressed than they did before they joined the organization.