Normally I blog about my Tourettes... well it is a place to blog about Tourettes after all... But today is world autism day, so I think it would be good to tell everyone a bit about my experience with growing up and living with autism.
Before my Tourettes even developed, there was 'something' going on with me, my Mum just couldn't put her finger on it. Even as a baby, I refused to look at people, didn't follow my parents if they left the room, screamed if someone tried to hug me and I was fascinated by strange things, like the adverts on the TV.
As I got older, Mum noticed I didn't communicate with other children very well (if at all) but the doctor just passed me off as 'shy'. At home though, I spent a lot of time lining up counters, or cars. I wouldn't even have a bath without my animals lined up along the side!
As with my Tourettes, it didn't become hugely obvious until I hit the dreaded puberty age 11. I started to withdraw into myself and became quite agitated and anxious about what might have seemed like nothing to other people but to me felt like life or death. The death of my Granny in late 2000 just worsened my withdrawal (and my tics). I regressed a lot, going back to behaviours such as rocking, hand flapping and finger flicking. These are called 'stimming' behaviours.
I got bullied severely at school. It was partly my undiagnosed autism and partly my Tourettes/ADD/OCD mix that caused this. It was one of my random Touretty outbursts which first got me in trouble as I shouted, 'I'm riding a pony' in a strange squeaky voice. Needless to say, I was shocked because I didn't know what my TS was back then, and the bullied circled right in on me.
For the next four years (until I had a nervous breakdown and left school with ONE GCSE) I was called a freak, a retard, pushed, shoved, kicked, smacked and in one case, nearly set on fire. The teachers were no help, as their suggestion was 'if you stop acting so odd, maybe they'll leave you alone'. Science class was the worst as other students would threaten to throw corrosive acid at me. I was also regularly used as a target in classes. Because of my hearing problems I was told to sit at the front, which was perfect for aiming pens, pencils and even metal pencil cases at my head. Usually my own pens, pencils and metal pencil case which they had stolen off me earlier.
I struggled for 4 long years after school. Eventually I was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, Tourette syndrome, mild ADD and severe OCD. Despite this, there was no support offered, and it felt like someone had just said, 'congratulations, now go away'. Eventually my mental health deteriorated to a point where I did some things I am not proud of, and ended up in a psychiatric hospital. While I was there, a company called Brookdale care found me and offered me a place in one of their homes as they knew that I wasn't actually supposed to be in the hospital. (It was that or live rough... I would have preferred the latter personally...)
My problems weren't over though as one of the residents bullied me constantly, my mental health deteriorated further and my rage attacks got worse. Eventually, I said, 'THIS IS ENOUGH', stood up to the bully (didn't care that I got in trouble...) and got moved to the more independent house next door.
Ever since, and I am not going to say that I have had NO problems, I have lived in the independent house. I am getting stronger and stronger both physically and mentally, and I am actually getting ready to move into my own accommodation in about 6 months.
Autism is a misunderstood and complex condition. It is important not just to read my experience (which I hope to get into a book someday), but to read as many books as possible about the condition as we are all incredibly different. People with autism have personalities and emotions like everyone else. Some people with autism CAN lie and understand basic sayings (but only after a lot of training!) and can learn sarcasm. Some people with autism find a long term partner and have children. Others are stuck in care for their entire lives. We, as people with neurological conditions ourselves need to make others aware of these people so that the mistakes of my past are never repeated.
I am proud to be autistic