February 28, 1981 – April 19, 2020
Alexandra Vivanco was a mother, a wife, a friend, an ECE teacher and an advocate for Autism. In high school, Alex and I were part of the same group, but never really got to know each other, in fact, we had trouble finding common ground at times. Funny enough, we would find out years later that we both had a very similar social experience. Last year, at the same time as I discovered autism as a possibility for myself, she began posting about her own journey post diagnosis on Facebook. Finally, I got up the courage to message her, and she revealed to me so much about myself in her own words.
She told me that she always knew she was different, that she never really felt like she fit in anywhere—like she was in the outer circle, rather than the inner circle. She wasn’t bothered by that, particularly; she felt like she was wise beyond her years, and preferred her time alone.
Alex was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder in June of 2018. After her diagnosis, she learned about masking and realized that her outer appearance didn’t match her inner appearance. Like many of us, she experienced disbelief from those around her. Even her family doctor, post diagnosis, questioned its validity because of her ability to mask. She jokingly told me “If only she saw the inside of my house!” So, after at first hiding her diagnosis, she began a deep soul search and re-evaluated her life. Though her process, she gained the courage to open up more publicly.
“…so many of us as children suffered from being undiagnosed. There was no awareness back then, but Autism did exist. [I wanted to be open about my diagnosis] to be there for those who need support, like yourself, as you are coming to realize you may have autism.”
Obviously, she had a wide variety of amazing traits: she was full of empathy, curiosity and self awareness. I remember her telling me that on one hand, she could manage two preschools but on the other, hidden challenges with executive functioning made cleaning the house and staying organized overwhelming.
True to both of our struggles with managing time, commitments and probably a slight aversion to socializing, we tried a few times to get together, without success. Knowing I wasn’t alone was a huge comfort to me, and I hope to her too.
Alex died on April 19, 2020 at 39 years old from a brain aneurysm. I will remember her for so many reasons, but her courage to live her truth hasn’t left me since she left this earth.
I hope I can find a satisfactory way of honouring your memory some day, Alex. But for now, this will do.
For those of you wanting to give, you can support her family through this GoFundMe.