Sarah Kurchak is autistic. She hasn’t let that get in the way of pursuing her dream to become a writer, or to find love, but she has let it get in the way of being in the same room with someone chewing food loudly, and of cleaning her bathroom sink. In I Overcame My Autism and All I Got Was This Lousy Anxiety Disorder, Kurchak examines the Byzantine steps she took to become “an autistic success story,” how the process almost ruined her life and how she is now trying to recover.
Growing up undiagnosed in small-town Ontario in the eighties and nineties, Kurchak realized early that she was somehow different from her peers. She discovered an effective strategy to fend off bullying: she consciously altered nearly everything about herself—from her personality to her body language. She forced herself to wear the denim jeans that felt like being enclosed in a sandpaper iron maiden. Every day, she dragged herself through the door with an elevated pulse and a churning stomach, nearly crumbling under the effort of the performance. By the time she was finally diagnosed with autism at twenty-seven, she struggled with depression and anxiety largely caused by the same strategy she had mastered precisely. She came to wonder, were all those years of intensely pretending to be someone else really worth it?
Tackling everything from autism parenting culture to love, sex, alcohol, obsessions and professional pillow fighting, Kurchak’s enlightening memoir challenges stereotypes and preconceptions about autism and considers what might really make the lives of autistic people healthier, happier and more fulfilling.
About the author
Sarah Kurchak is a writer and retired professional pillow fighter living in Toronto, ON. Her work as an autistic self advocate and essayist has appeared in Hazlitt, Catapult, the Guardian, CBC, Vox and Electric Literature. She is a graduate of the Humber School for Writers, and this is her first book.
- Nominated, Ontario Library Association’s (OLA) Forest of Reading Evergreen Award
Excerpt: I Overcame My Autism and All I Got Was This Lousy Anxiety Disorder: A Memoir (by (author) Sarah Kurchak)
“Because I am an autistic person who appears to have achieved some of the arbitrary hallmarks we attribute to successful adulthood — like living semi-independently, working, getting married, and performing basic social tasks without melting down in public—I am often treated like someone who should have a clue as to how others might do those things. I am not. I’m not convinced that I’ve done anything to make it to this point in my life that should be emulated by another human being.”
“Sarah Kurchak is one my favourite autistic writers, but this highly engaging and thought-provoking book is much more than the typical memoir of growing up as an outcast in a world built for neurotypicals. With humour, compassion, and scintillating wit, Kurchak probes to the very heart of what it means to be a writer, while illuminating the struggle to define oneself in the face of people determined to enforce their own inadequate definitions. Her victory in growing up to become her own badass self is both an autistic victory and a universal human one, and everyone should read this book.”
Steve Silberman, author of NeuroTribes