Healthy Life: Living and thriving with autism and anxiety

“Feel good about yourself. Be yourself. Be proud of who you are.”

These are Alexander Ferla Coirazza’s words of wisdom, a Montrealer who was diagnosed with Autism at the age of 5 years old and who was later diagnosed with anxiety and depression. 

This is Alexander’s personal story, but it is my hope that you can learn from, and/or relate to, his experiences and find inspiration through his story.

Growing up, Alexander didn’t quite understand his disability, but he did notice that, compared to his fellow classmates, he had more difficulty grasping and understanding concepts. Other students in his class often questioned his intelligence, exclaiming things like “how do you not know the answer? It’s so simple!” Comments like these made him feel lonely and isolated. 

By the time high school rolled around, Alexander gained more confidence. He attended a special needs high school, so naturally, there were more resources to facilitate learning and there was a feeling of inclusion. He has fond memories of his early high school years; however, towards the end of high school, he started to get bullied. This led him to experience a foreign emotion: anxiety.

Over the years, anxiety presented itself in Alexander’s life in subtle ways, but it was only a few years ago that his anxiety had severely worsened. He shares an emotional story that marks the moment he knew his anxiety had reached its ultimate peak: He had just finished his last shift of work before his family vacation to Cuba the following day. Typically, one would be excited; however, in Alexander’s case, he found himself in a bad mood, refusing to depart the following day. In attempt to lift his spirits, his extended family went to visit him and tried their best to make him laugh and smile, but they failed to do so. 

“I was just feeling down,” he said, “but I didn’t know why.” He continued: “My body just shut down and I wasn’t communicating or responding to anyone.”

He locked himself in the bathroom, sat on the floor and sobbed. Alexander illustrates: “Do you know what it’s like to lock yourself in the bathroom and not speak to anyone? Do you know what it’s like to feel sad, but not know why? I just didn’t want to talk to anyone, but they were trying to help me.” 

This is when he was diagnosed with anxiety and depression. 

Although Alexander has experienced tough times, he’s not defined by his mental health struggles, nor is he defined by autism. Today, he’s thriving and making his dreams come true, despite his challenges.

He explains that finding his independence, connecting with others in the community and surrounding himself with family has immensely helped him find self-worth and happiness. 

He also strongly believes that following his passion has positively improved his overall wellbeing. His dream is working in radio, and while he was unable to pursue a formal education because of his disability, he still made it happen for himself. Following his own path, Alexander started his own independent radio show where his talent for broadcasting and passion for music shines. His love for radio is undeniable, and as a result, he has befriended many Montreal radio hosts such as Freeway Frank, Mark Bergman and Meghan Kelly. In the future, Alexander would love to get more involved in the Montreal radio community. 

Over this holiday season, Alexander also got the opportunity to be a DJ on No Better You’s Instagram LIVE, spreading holiday cheer and sharing joy in many homes! No Better You is a Montreal-based non-profit organization that works to build sensory rooms for schools with special education programs. This opportunity allowed Alexander to connect with people from around the world, and for that, he is extremely grateful.

Overall, Alexander wants people to know that, no matter what they’re going through, “it’s all about time and moving on… Eventually things get better.” 

Additionally, he hopes that people don’t look badly on other people, especially on those in the special needs community. He expresses that if you have autism, “many people love you, and you are not alone. Be who you are and be strong.”  

I personally think that’s some sound advice that anyone can gain inspiration from! 

To connect with Alexander Ferla Coirazza, find him on Instagram at @alexferla14. 

Melissa Migueis is enrolled in Communication Studies at Concordia University. In the near future, she wishes to merge her passion for health and wellness, or non-profit work with Communication & Media. You can follow her at @melmigueis on Instagram!

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