Diversity is the Opposite of Fear
By autiblog| Published on April 21, 2021 | 6 Minute Read
*Trigger Warning: bullying
Infancy is the most critical period in a person’s life. We spent our whole youth learning and playing. The things we experience during our childhood shape the adults we are to become. Hence the importance of safe environments while growing up. However, neurodivergent folks may have it harder to thrive. Autistics are more vulnerable to suffer bullying. Recent data show that we have four times the likelihood of being bullied. As an autistic individual who has been bullied, I cannot help but shudder with horror. I thought I was the only one. And yet, the whole educative system was witness and accomplice.
Every bullying story is different; the consequences, however, are all the same. Bullying leaves scars that last forever. As kids, we didn’t have the autonomy to make decisions. If that had been the case, I wouldn’t have chosen to study at school. Instead, I would have followed butterflies to see where they go, or I would have pampered wild dogs. But society expects you to study. I didn’t have the diagnosis back then, but I don’t think it would have mattered. Every single day of primary and secondary school, I woke up in fear. I still have nightmares. How am I supposed to forget if I can’t rest? I wasn’t safe, and nobody helped me.
Moreover, I didn’t even know that I needed to cry out for help. I tried to reach out, but nobody seemed to hear. My few attempts were futile, and my voice mute. Nobody seemed to care. Over time, I started to internalized those messages. I thought I was defective. I thought I was unlovable. Something must be wrong with me. The fear of rejection is still lurking behind my back every time I have to speak. It will accompany me for my whole life. Nevertheless, I am not responsible for not being able to stand up for myself. I was just a kid. We only need to protect ourselves when the world is violently threatening us. Read it again: we only need to protect ourselves when the world is violently threatening us.
Every single day of primary and secondary school, I woke up in fear. I still have nightmares. How am I supposed to forget if I can’t rest?
I know I was vulnerable. But the educative system made me thought that it was my problem. The adults turned a blind eye and chose to minimize my struggles, saying things like: “In my school years, we had it worse”. Soon, it became something I had to deal with, even though I didn’t have the tools. Why is always the focus on the victim? All in all, belittling the importance revictimized me while it gave the bullies a free pass or impunity. How is this possible? How can we allow violent dynamics to start at school and only see them as a problem when they pervade into adulthood?
The schoolyard should be a safe place for everyone, a place where all children can express themselves and play without fear. Thus, a kid brought up in an environment where the difference is accepted will become an adult that respects others and otherness. This is precisely why it is vital to start with early awareness and education. As grown-ups, we are responsible for what happens at the schools. It is not just kids playing; it is kids mimicking violent adults who will become violent adults themselves. To break the slippery slope, we need to create anti-bullying protocols and let kids know that they are not alone.
Childhood traumas determine your adult life. Bullying leaves scars that last forever. We have created a society that doesn’t respect otherness. I was different, and it shouldn’t be something to be ashamed of, and yet I have always felt defective and inadequate. However, the late diagnosis of autism finally set me free from those fears. Yes, I was different, I am quirky, so what? The world is diverse. In human history, all civilizations have always been clear that education is a powerful tool since it creates free citizens. And we cannot talk about freedom if it does not include autistic people.
About the Author
Late diagnosed autistic woman. I advocate for mental health education. Scientist and feminist in my free time.
You can follow me at @autiblog on Instagram.