Fifty-two-year-old actress Daryl Hannah says that she was diagnosed with autism as a child and struggled with “debilitating shyness” as an adult in show business because of the disorder. “I’ve never been comfortable being the center of attention,” said Hannah. “It’s always freaked me out.”

Autism is a developmental disability that is usually diagnosed in early childhood — before the age of 3. People with autism have problems with social interaction, language, and behavior. Symptoms vary dramatically from person to person, depending on where an individual falls on the autism spectrum.

Hannah says that she hid her autism from Hollywood producers and was able to keep it under wraps because she refused to do interviews and talk show appearances. She says that she rocks back and forth incessantly, but has learned to accept and cope with the disorder without being ashamed anymore.

“I’m a grown up now,” she told People magazine, “I’ve learned a couple of things that really would’ve made my life easier if I’d known them 20 years ago.”

With a new understanding of what autism means in the grand scheme of things, Hannah has come forward with a new lease on life. She owns a farm in California and is an environmental activist.

“Life is too short to stress the small things anymore.”