Autism acceptance activist and TikTok influencer Paige Layle joins Zibby to discuss her deeply personal memoir, BUT EVERYONE FEELS THIS WAY: How an Autism Diagnosis Saved My Life. Paige describes what it was like to struggle with masking her emotions and navigating social interactions throughout her childhood and what it was like to finally receive a diagnosis as a teenager. She also discusses the complexities of family dynamics and the misunderstandings that can arise between neurotypical parents and autistic children. She expresses the importance of understanding neurodiversity and autism as a spectrum and touches on the advocacy work she is passionate about.


Zibby: Welcome Paige. Thank you so much for coming on Moms Don't Have Time to Read Books to discuss But Everyone Feels This Way, how an autism diagnosis saved my life. 

Paige: Thank you for having me. I'm so pumped. Thank you for giving it a read.

Zibby: I did. I read it. All of it. I loved it. I thought I learned so much about so many things, but the way you wrote about autism actually is writing about autism is understanding human beings at all I mean, it's applicable to so much stuff, and just like the memoir parts of your life. I thought it was really great. The mix of information and story and your mom, it feels like there could be a movie. I don't know. I thought it was great. Oh my gosh. 

Paige: Thank you so much. No, yeah. There's a lot going on in there for sure.

Zibby: So why don't you tell, tell listeners about the book? 

Paige: Absolutely. Yeah, sure. I started writing the book But Everyone Feels This Way. I was, I think, 20 and 21 when I finished and the only reason I point that out is yesterday I was at a lunch and a girl said, you wrote a memoir. You're a kid. How did you write a memoir?

You are already, you're still a child. And I'm like, that is fair. I have not done very much. But the very little that I have done was weird and complicated. And I think that's an abnormal part about most peoples. lives. Most people have a great, or as in, the childhood is like the best part of their, of a lot of people's lives, the easiest part of their life, the happiest part of their life, the time when they don't have the most going on.

And it was not the same for me. So it's definitely, it's a weird to look at. But I think that not only in that way, I am autistic and that's quite different from a lot of people. But like you said. there's a lot about learning to be a person too, that comes with your childhood, and that an autistic person needs to learn and goes through as well, and seeing that whole lens and perspective.

Yeah, I'm really excited to open up that conversation. 

Zibby: You talked a lot about how you learned how to mask, that was the right word, right? How you learned how to mask and how people would sometimes be surprised to learn about autism. Well, I you weren't diagnosed until later in life, later in your teen years, but that you basically studied human behavior so much, intellectually, that you were able to sort of put on what you needed to do at certain times, regardless of how you felt inside. And that's how acting ended up feeling so natural to you. 

Paige: Right. So yeah, so much work being done all the time that you didn't even notice and I think that when you're a kid too, you think that everyone else is doing it and it is just all this work that you're doing, but it's so strange and I'm really excited to have this way to be able to finally conceptualize my feelings that I felt all this time.

I think also because as a kid, I've probably, I've been saying stuff like this. I've been talking these words probably my whole life, but now that I'm an adult and I'm 23 now, people actually will listen and they're like "Oh yeah, that makes sense". I'm like, I've been saying this forever, but no one takes kids seriously.

And I'm honestly, I think it's a blessing and a curse to have the memory that I do. And the blessing part about it is that I can take all those memories that I've gathered all my life and. put them forward to good use and do something good with them. And I, like my childhood wasn't the worst, but I remember the things that I didn't love about it or the things that I know I would do differently and a lot of them.

And I think that's something that is really beneficial as an adult now, as a growing human, seeing what I didn't get and what I need to do now to make sure that I do get that now, but it's a bridge between growing up undiagnosed autistic and growing up with trauma and really there, there are a lot of similarities.

Zibby: I can see that. I feel like your emotions were minimized for so long, or ignored, or you had that one really devastating scene, I mean it's your life, memory, where you were just crying and the living room and your dad I guess was having a long day and he was just like, you know, can you turn it down a little bit or could you just, and you're like, but I'm in here crying.

I mean, that's like, it's so hard. 

Paige: Mm hmm. I thought it was, I thought so too. It's so strange even at the time as a kid, I'm like, this is weird, right? This is not fair. I even say it in my book. I'm like, my dad tells me to go away. And I'm like, you're not supposed to tell me that. In my heart, I felt like my father wasn't supposed to do that. I felt like I needed comfort. I, and it just, it was very strange. It didn't happen. But that's the thing about growing up, I guess, is learning, like, I guess you always know or at some point you learn that your parents are people and that they're just regular humans. But I guess as you go, you learn that they, you really learn who your parents are and what their priorities were.

And, you know, they did, every parent probably does their best, right? But it's important to look back at it. 

Zibby: That's true. I feel like you have to though, at some point, kind of mourn the loss of what you wish you had. 

Paige: A hundred percent. I think that that's a big deal for sure. I think also like that's a lot of autistic adults too.

A lot of us like more typically like kiddish things sometimes. Like you may see autistic people like really into Disney for a lot longer than others or really into like more childish things for a lot longer. But I think that Part of it is for a lot of us, we didn't have a safe childhood, even if you had like the greatest space ever growing up, it can, it's really tough just being autistic in the life.

And I, I would argue it gets easier over time as you age because of you can start to control some of your surroundings like being a baby and being autistic and having all the sensory issues is awful. It's so uncomfortable all the time. So it's, yeah, a lot of autistic childhoods are really in pain and it's sad, but it's also beautiful to see how a lot of us grow up and are able to be just even a smidge bit happier.

Zibby: Wow, that's sad, happy and sad. 

Paige: I'm like, yay, happy endings, but yeah, also, also, yeah, not the, not the loveliest thing, but you come out of it. Everyone has their, I don't know, their thing. I like to think, like, everyone, everyone has a story that would make you want to drop to your knees and cry and scream at the world.

And that's why I just want to be nice to everybody. Because you could say that for everyone. And this is just a small little bit of mine. And it's really, it's so surreal sharing it with people. Because it's, it's just It's my, I'm just a, I'm just a little gal from a small town and now I'm sharing my life with people and it's bizarre that It matters to anyone or, it's that my life is how I found similar to some other people's and I couldn't believe it.

I never could believe it. And it's so bizarre having my life out there and just seeing just what I think and what I say and what people around me thought and said. I just love people. I think that's the coolest thing that all of our experiences are what really teaches the rest of us and sharing, what happens actually helps a lot of people.

I had no idea that would happen and I'm so excited to see where this book, where it could go. 

Zibby: Welcome to being a writer. 

Paige: Yeah. Thanks. It's wild. My first one. Yeah. I said it. I guess you only have the first one once. So I said to my team, every time I mess up, I'm like, it's my first time. Don't worry.

This will never happen again. My first time only happens once. Hopefully the next time, if there is a next time, which I would love for there to be a next time. I love writing. I've always loved writing. I think that's what helped me too. When I was a kid, I used to write in journals all the time. So I have so many journals.

From being a kid. I have all that like stored in my head too, from just seeing it, all the stuff I wrote down as a kid. 

Zibby: So you might as well get started on your next one. 

Paige: Might as well just get going. 

Zibby: Yeah, I mean, you're already behind.

Paige: Yeah, at this point I am. Absolutely. This one isn't even out yet. they probably signed on for a movie. No, I'm kidding. Oh, it's just, yeah, it's, it's wild. It's unbelievable. It's yeah, it's, it's so cool. 

Zibby: One thing that I really think you did such a good job of, and I read a lot of books about. Parenting and neurodiversity and all this kind of stuff, but I feel like you explained it so well, how autism is not a disorder. It's not a disease. You can't like come down with it. I mean, obviously, but that it's literally the way, like you, you break down the science in very concrete terms. So it's like, Oh, well, yeah, of course there, you know, 

Paige: I love science and that's my favorite thing. Cause science makes you go, Oh, like, of course that makes sense. Right? I think that part of what people, like what makes people angry at each other or weird about each other is just a lack of understanding. Really once you understand the bread and butter of it, like you said, Oh, that kind of makes a lot more sense. I think I love talking about science.

That was one of my favorite parts. 

Zibby: So at the end of your book, not to give anything away, but people know this because this might be how they know you to begin with, but at the end of your book, you talk about how you found Tik Tok during the pandemic and started posting and then it got kind of out of control and all these people were, I mean, compared to tick tok, you're, this is going to be fine.

You know, this book release, you're going to be like, Oh, whatever. 

Paige: Isn't that weird? I'm so excited and I'm releasing a book and I have all these opportunities that are really amazing. Then I'm so excited. It's a, it's really it's quite different from the TikTok stuff, but I think that I'm in a way, I guess, kind of glad that I got that out of, I don't know, first.

And so now I can be a little bit more, I know a little bit more of what I'm doing and also be a little bit more professional and cautious moving forward. Now, yeah, being an adult. But yeah, blowing up on TikTok, that was weird. Not my ideal. Not my vibe, honestly. Not my vibe. It was not. I, I was, I don't know what's going on.

But can I be honest? I was, I had, you ever heard of 

Zibby: Yes. 

Paige: Yeah? 

Zibby: Yeah. 

Paige: So that was a thing like years ago and I don't know. I think I'm funny sometimes and I'll answer stuff and I guess some of my things were okay, and I had a, I had, like, a lot of followers on when I was, like, 12, and I, right, I don't, I shouldn't have been on social media, but I guess everyone was okay with it, and I was, like, this is weird, and I used to remember my teachers what's whenever they'd have like cyber talks about like cyber security, they'd always point me out like Paige, you're, your name, you search up Paige's name, she comes up, she's on there.

And I was always so embarrassed. And then I got Instagram and I got a few like thousand followers on Instagram. And I'm like, what's going on? Like, what is this? I don't understand. And then when it happened on TikTok, and it went big, I was like, okay, I guess, you know what? I mean, I've grown up the reason why this is so shocking, I think, is I've grown up a lot of my life being autistic.

A lot of people don't like me. A lot of people in my real life just haven't vibed with me and It's so strange that strangers do. And because strangers do, I finally, I think TikTok was the thing that was like, okay, Paige, figure it out. I know you hate people like watching you, even though I am an actor. I love that I can't see anyone in the, in the audience.

That's my favorite part. I'm like, you just got to suck it up. I think now, and you got to do it. You got to do it for the people. You have to talk to all of these people that, share the same experience that you have, that you've been trying to push away for so long that you've been experiencing. Look at all these other people that are also, like, feeling the little bits of pain that I have been feeling my whole life.

But it's, I think it's cool now being, maybe just the safety of being an adult and being able to navigate those spaces freely and safely and, well, not freely, I guess, but you know. 

Zibby: I think it's so funny that you keep referring to yourself as an adult, which obviously you are. Which obviously you are. But when you're like, I finally got to this part, and I'm like, do you understand that most authors I talk to who are like 60 years old are working out these things?

You know, they still are not feeling like adults. 

Paige: I feel so, yeah, I guess, but I am the oldest I guess I've ever been. I try to remind myself like, yes, you do feel old because this is the oldest. Very true. But I feel like ever since I was a kid, I felt old. So maybe that's part of it, you know, or that they always say, yeah, the mature, the mature young gal.

I was mature. I also did cry a lot as a kid, but I was always, I.

Zibby: That really got to me. I mean, that you were crying like every day.

Paige: Every day. I feel it was awful. I hated it. 

Zibby: You still cry or you're no. 

Paige: Oh no. I'm, which is great. I mean, I do. I mean, I'll cry lots of times. Now I cry way more from being happy. I cry so much from happy stuff, which is a lovely thing about being autistic that I get so happy even at just little things. Um, it's really beautiful. But yeah, I used to I used to cry all the time It was so.. No, no one likes crying and that like sobbing dry heaving hyperventilating crying. Like that's not fun. That's so poopy and I had a I had so many talks with my parents as I was growing up I had to try to explain to them as I was growing up like I'm not being dramatic.

I'm not trying to be, because they called me like I, I remember I, I had like shirts that would say like, spoiled brat, spoiled rotten, you know, all that stuff. Like, you're so spoiled. You're such a drama queen, all that stuff. And they'd say all those things and like, shut up, stop crying, shut up, get over it, whatever, like, quit it.

You're making it worse. You're making me angry. I'm like, when you say that, It makes it worse. I'm crying more now because you're yelling at me. And when they first, like, when I first could say that to them, it was like, they were so shocked. They couldn't believe it. I'm like, is that not common sense to you?

That if you yell at a kid, they're gonna cry? Like, come on, man. I'm, I'm a kid and I know that. You're 35. Like, dude. It's just, I couldn't believe it. Do you think I want to cry like this all the time? This is so awful. It's so not fun. Yeah. I, I don't know. Yeah. I don't know if the last, my parents generation, just, that's what my parents say, though, that they learned differently.

I'm like, maybe, maybe you did. Maybe you did. I also think that people are, maybe, maybe you guys just, maybe you guys just weren't super into it. Raising kids. And that's fine. That's fine. Yeah. Yeah. I'm alive and I'm here and I'm doing great. And they were great. 

Zibby: I loved how you wrote about your brother, Graham.

So awesome. Are you still really? I'm still, you just finished the book, but you know, I love your relationship with him and how you described him as like, then in high school he became like so cool and he was the one who was like, you don't need all these people to like you. Like you don't have to go to this party if you don't want to. Tell me more about him. 

Paige: Well, he's always been, I don't even have confidence, the word, because I don't even, I don't think he's been confident, but he's been, I think just, he is such a good person. He's never had a reason to walk into a room and be weird at all, to feel any kind of way.

He walks into a room with like, always with a smile on his face and he's just happy to be there and excited to meet people and just happy about life. It was so silly growing up. We were so different and compared a bit, our parents really tried not to compare us, but we were quite different though.

Graham was always the athletic one. He played hockey forever and he wasn't that good at school. And I was the one that was really good at school and I wasn't a big sports person. And I was also the one that was more dramatic, right? I cried all the time, but I also was in theater and I was acting and Graham was when he was little, he was always shy and then just a shy little, little kid, shy little nice kid.

And so we were so different. But I think now, honestly, he's old now. I say old, but he, he's, he'll be 21 in two months, which is not that old.

Zibby: He's ancient, you know. 

Paige: Yeah, he's, I cannot believe it. It's wild. He used to be seven. It's just wild. Yeah. It's so weird. But yeah, now, now he's old. I don't see him as often.

That's for sure. I think that he's not too sure what he's doing right now. I think he's at, he never knew what he was really going to do after high school. And now it's after high school and he's like, Hmm, what am I going to do? And so he's figuring it out, but I haven't seen him. I haven't seen him in a minute, which is unfortunate, but we're busy.

Zibby: So you talk in the book about your love of acting, which you already referenced, now. Is this, like, where do you see, not that you need to know, but because you seem like you're as mature as like a six year old anyway, where do you want your life to go? And how much of your life do you want to be about advocacy for autism?

Versus living your life, doing something else, versus, you know, are these the things you're wrestling with? 

Paige: These are such great questions. And this is, yes, these are the biggest questions of my life. And I think I've never known what I wanted to do, ever. I think that I've been acting forever. I love it. I truly do.

And I, I've always thought whatever job, uh, whatever job I have, I'm, it's going to happen naturally. It's going to go, it's going to have to, because I have a lot of loves and I can't choose what to focus on. And I really want to, I really want to live life. I really want to be happy. I really want to be stress free most of my days.

And just like go outside and breathe the air and go, Oh, I've done everything I need to do today. Like I want that way more often than I've had before. I spent like a lot of my, my teenagehood too. Like I had four jobs on the go and I was dancing competitively and I was, I was go, go, go, go. Why? Why did I do that?

I hate that so much. I never want to do that ever again. That was awful. I don't want to be busy. And like, it's, it's great to like, make a lot of money now and then, you know, retire and do all that when you retire. But I'm also okay with like, making a little less now and living a little bit easier now and just living easier after, I don't know, too much hard, I guess.

Maybe that's just how I am right now, entering my 20s. Maybe this is my little break, my little moment of, Okay, figuring out who you are, what's happened, getting back to you, getting back to the things that you were ashamed of doing because you were a teenager and scared of other people, and then maybe, I don't know, maybe I'll be different in a few years.

But I know that right now I'm sticking with what is calling me. 

Zibby: Mm hmm. That's great. 

Paige: Like, yeah, people want to, people have a lot, there are a lot of people out there with a lot of important perspectives and opinions and relate to me a lot. And there's a lot of autistic kids out there that I don't want to grow up like me.

And, Every time I talk that changes a little bit even if like one one kid. That's wild, that one kid could have been me and that could have changed my life. So That's the goal and I hope that this book is another resource that someone wouldn't have found otherwise I maybe couldn't have yeah I hope that this helps somebody if I I think if I read this as a kid, I would have probably freaked out because it's my brain, but it would have been really beneficial and into my parents too, I think.

Zibby: Yeah. 

Paige: Then as I look at my mind and what's going on. 

Zibby: Aw. Yeah. You said you weren't going to cry. 

Paige: I know. What am I doi Yeah, no, big cry. Always. 

Zibby: I cry all the time. I've cried twice today. I cried just, like, saying goodbye to the bus this morning. You know. I'm like, haha. Yeah. 

Paige: Sometimes. Sometimes. 

Zibby: And people just live with their emotions a lot closer to the service.

Paige: Yeah, boom. Yeah, I've always been a very sensitive person, I guess. But, yeah. I live big. I got big feelings. 

Zibby: I, I think you're so right. I think people get so caught up in numbers, like how many people are reading this book or how many people, right. If one person read this book and you affected their life and they were grateful to you for the rest of their lives, like what a gift is that, such a gift.

Paige: I saw something about, like post, it doesn't matter if you've got seven subscribers or 7, 000 posts, you don't know, do your thing anyway, because there was this one guy, I guess he had like, Two subscribers and he was getting 10 views on a video.

But one of those views was Oprah and Oprah brought him on and changed his life. No way. And ever since I heard that story, I'm like, Oh, well I, it could be Oprah. So it doesn't matter if one person sees it, that one person could really. It could, it could be the person. It could be the person that needs to see it.

You never know. 

Zibby: Oh my gosh. What about parents who are listening, who maybe they know their kid is autistic, maybe they don't know, maybe they suspect, maybe they have friends of their kids who are autistic, and what do you want them to know that they don't know? 

Paige: What do I want them to know? Hmm, I want them, I want them to know about autism, I think, in the grander scheme of things, overall.

Every autistic person is so, so, so different. That's like, that's like one of the biggest things. Not only are we so different from everyone else, but we're so different from each other. And each of us is, you know, our own person with our own personality, with our own likes and dislikes and our own favorite things and least favorite things.

And, you know, we're all just, we're all people. We're autistic people, but you know, we got to go through all the same other stuff that everyone else does too. We just got to do it. You know, with a little bit of extra juice, but yeah, I think that, uh, I hope that if anyone reads my book, that they find it helpful understanding a little bit more of the, like the inner workings of an autistic mind and like what's going on with, uh, like the thought process of an autistic person or like the reactions of an autistic person.

And I think that there are some things, hopefully if any parents, I mean, I, I'm sure that there are parents that. understand what my parents were going through a little bit and having a kid like me and not knowing what's going on. And I hope that they read this book and they go, Oh my God. Okay. I know what to do now, or I know what not to do now, or I know how to make this better in just a little way.

And I feel it. I feel, I feel it. It's just going to be little things, but these little things are going to keep coming and keep getting bigger and keep changing so many people's lives that then it'll be everywhere and autistic people everywhere will be just a little bit happier and be treated a little bit better and I'll just keep being it and I hope that, I hope it never stops.

Zibby: I love that. Paige, I'm so impressed with you. The book was fabulous. It's really good on so many levels and I really enjoyed it. I'm going to be giving this to a lot of people and recommending it and, you know, bravo to you. I mean, oh my gosh, written at age 21. That's pretty awesome. 

Paige: Thank you. Thank you very much.

I appreciate talking with you.

Zibby: I wish you all the best, and I love that you're like, I just love people and want to help them. I mean, how great is that? How great is that? It's amazing. I wish more people were like you. 

Paige: Aw, thank you. Thanks for having me. Thanks for chit chatting with me about it. I'm so excited.

So excited for it to come out and people to, more people to see it. Yeah. Yeah. Very, very, very wild. 

Zibby: I hope you, I hope you have plans to go to lots of schools and things like that. Are you doing that? 

Paige: That's what I, yeah, I would love to. I would love to. Yeah. My, my school board's host building is like right next to my house.

And I'm like, I might just go in, hello, remember me? I, hello. We'll see what happens. 

Zibby: Yeah. Yeah. You should definitely. Kids are really going to benefit. 

Paige: That's great. Thank you so much. 

Zibby: All right. Thank you. 

Paige: It was great talking to you. 

Zibby: Great talking to you too. 

Paige: Bye. 


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