It does get better

I am feeling positive. Now you might be thinking okay that’s great but nothing special. Well for me it’s incredibly special. It began this new year. I have finally felt a sense of acceptance that I’d never felt before not necessarily from others but myself. I have previously mentioned feeling like this in a post before but I’m feeling reflective. It’s been a month since I started this blog and it’s been one of the best decisions. I want autistics and non-autistics to know that though it doesn’t seem like it and there will be ups and downs. It does get better in time.

So let’s start with the beginning. Some of you may know from reading previous posts I was a mute until 4. Not that long but for my parents that was too long. My mum has told me that I used to hang on to door frames in order to not leave the house. It was a nightmare to get me out the house she said “my grip was so strong”. In nursery they ‘assigned’ me a buddy. Their purpose was to make me social it took a while but I went from playing alone to dealing with the company of others. At the age of 6 my statement of SEN hadn’t been renewed and I deemed able to function. I don’t remember much from this young, which is why this bit is so vague.

In primary school I was very blunt and rigid in my thinking. People were scared of me. I had a group of friends but I suspect more out of intimidation than true friendship. I found it really hard to connect with people. I remember one time people use to sing a song with my name in it that used to really annoy me. So my brain thought I want them to stop so what do I do? Well I decided that I would say to them if you continue to sing it I will pull your hair. Technically I was threatening them, I mean it’s not the most menacing threat in the world but still a threat. I, at the time, did not know this to me it was reasonable because I said the consequence that would happen so why not follow through. There was another time where my bluntness came out. I was at the park with friends for my birthday I think. Anyway this boy kid comes over and asks why he wasn’t invited and I said “because your (insert name here)”. Basically saying because you are you. Again to me I was just being honest, this has become a family joke in our house but at the time for me it was just stating facts. I had no awareness that this was an offensive thing to do or that it could potentially hurt his feelings. Primary school in general I was quite in charge from what I remember, people were too young to have a go back at me and because I had powerful points of view and ideas I was in charge (or at least that was my perception).

When I went into secondary school however, I was actually a little fish in a big pond. All the reputation that I built from primary school for being strong and a leader was quickly squashed by the change of building, people, expectations. The act of socialisation that was expected was unobtainable for me and I was floundering. In my form I was friends with two girls for a bit then all of a sudden as quick as a click of my fingers they had turned their backs on me. They’d stopped talking to me and I was becoming isolated. I had no friends. When I say this it’s not an overreaction, I had zero friends. I spent lesson time sitting by myself, no one to talk to, no one cared if I was there or not. Breaks and lunchtimes I spent my time trying to find people who would put up with my presence. One of the girls who I used to talk to decided to take a real disliking to me, she would call me the frog from crazy frog. For those of you who don’t know it was the most annoying song in the world and an ugly looking thing. She would put my name of the board as crazy frog when the teacher wasn’t looking, really just kept going on at me about it. One time another girl came up to me and said she wants to fight you. I had never been in a fight before, though people always assumed I was aggressively I’d never been physically violent like that before. I tried to give some bad talk back because I didn’t want injustice to win (I very much needed justice to happen). So the girl came over to me and was like ‘come on then’. Now everybody knew that whoever threw the first punch was the most culpable. My reason for not punching however, was simply because I was frightened. She was bigger than me and I knew she would destroy me in a fight. So I kept said over and over again like a record “I don’t want to touch your dutty (dirty) face. I need to wear a glove to hit your dutty face”. Not the most inventive comeback but I wasn’t that creative with insults back then. In the end we did not fight but this wasn’t going to be the only time that I was confronted like that.

Later on in my school years another group of girls had taken a dislike to me, surprise, surprise. One moment that really scared and affected me the most was during a P.E lesson. We were playing rounders (simply put girls’ baseball) and I was fielding. There was a girl that I knew from primary school helping with keeping score and I was talking to her. One of the girls batting for the other team said “stop cheating to me”. I replied “fuck off” this was not one of my best decisions. The girl was not happy to put it lightly. At the end of the lesson I was walking back to the changing rooms and the girl and about 9 others came towards me. They stood in a semi circle around me and began saying ‘who do you think you are?’, ‘what did you say to her?’, etc. I was crapping myself, all the other students had gone to change, teachers were putting away equipment, I was alone. I begged for my life. I just apologised and apologised until I was out of breath. Again I was lucky that they left me and walked off. I think they were satisfied with seeing me beg because really I could not take on 10 girls, no one could.

Wasn’t just the girls in my school that didn’t like me the boys didn’t either. The boys had a variety of animals that they said I looked like: monkey, horse, donkey, rat, reindeer, I think there was one more but can’t seem to remember. For donkey they used to make the donkey noises as I walked down the corridor. At break and lunch I used to sit in the corridors and stare into space thinking why was I so different? Why am I so hated? Maybe subconsciously I was sitting there as a cry for help but teachers would go by and do nothing. I understand from working in a school that it’s quite easy to miss things but if I saw a kid like me doing that I would find out about it. But no for me I was unlucky no one noticed they just walked by. I didn’t tell anyone because I didn’t think I was being bullied. I had a very set thinking about bullying and I was like but I’m not getting beaten up and just couldn’t associate that word with what was happening to me I didn’t have the self awareness. So I stayed silent I accepted that this is what I deserved. Now I warn you this next bit is something quite raw, I used to walk home and think if a car hit me that would be fine. I used to walk slowly across the road, almost in slow motion, but when a car came I left it till the last moment and quickly would speed up to cross the road. What made me speed up was the thought of my family who I loved and who loved me they didn’t deserve that. Really that might have been the only thing keeping me going and I like to think that the logical part of my autism would save me because the illogical thought of thinking why not hit me would be counteracted by my logical thought of what would happen if that happened.

Things got better in school. Kids got older, more mature and soon got bored with teasing me, lucky for me. Don’t get me wrong I still wasn’t liked but people decided not to actively express their dislike for me they just left me alone. This meant I could just about get by. I left high school with just one friend, who I still have now, everyone else I found it too difficult to think of them in any environment except inside school. I think that’s what I really used struggle with back then and still a little bit now. I see people in one environment e.g. A school but placing them in a different environment e.g. Shopping centre did not make sense to me. It involved too much change and differing of interaction.

University was challenging but for different reasons. I did a drama degree, some may find it surprising that an autistic person would choose a degree surrounding understanding and interpreting people but I like to go against the ‘norm’. I found it hard to deal with the unstructured nature of it. Having to see people all the time, living in halls, being away from home, no familiarity. People used to ask me like 30 mins before they were going out if I wanted to. That’s not enough time to prepare, I would think my hair’s a mess, I want to shave, shower, but this isn’t my designated day to do that, what should I wear, I’m relaxed in my chill out clothes, who’s going, where are we going? Just too much! Not only that I mean mentally prepare get into a socialising mindset, my mindset was in relax mode I need time to plan the event in my head, almost like a rehearsal in my head. Also doing a drama degree was hard. I love drama and its teachings (a whole lost dedicated to that will be happening in the near future). However, I remember there was a session with an external person doing a practical workshop. I got really nervous because there were like 60 students in a room walking around the room doing weird things. I got self conscious and my anxiety really hit me. I said I felt sick and sat out for a bit. During the break of the workshop I spoke to another student on my course and got really frustrated with myself I hit my head really aggressively like a nutter and the lecturer said to me stop hitting yourself. I felt so stupid that as a 20 something year old I couldn’t cope, I felt pathetic. Though eventually after this happened I only had a few shutdowns and walked out with a 2:1 something I was extremely pleased with.

After all of this I went straight into my job in a school. Now I’m doing new things all the time. I’ve just decided to do speed dating for like the first time ever in March (will post about that too). I mean I could never have imagined that when I was younger. I’ve gone from pretending to have confidence and intimidating others to feeling so small and pathetic and alien to excited about what is going to happen what other journeys I’ll have. Accepting myself. I will always have down days where I go I don’t know what I’m doing but I’ll just think I can deal with this. If I dealt with the bullying where it felt like I would never be liked by anyone to the point where I have friends I know I’ll be fine. So it all those who think it doesn’t get better. It really does. In order to feel happiness you have to have felt sadness. And in some ways the worse the sadness surely the more appreciation you’ll have for the happiness.

Probably one of my longest posts sorry. I mean 20+ years of life is hard to condense. You’ll be a champion if you manage to get to the end.

Thanks for reading. Hope you like it. Peace out!

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