Before I was diagnosed, when you thought I was just like you, you tried to tell me a) that I could be anything I wanted to and that b) words would never hurt me if I didn’t let me.
That was before you knew I was autistic.
As soon as you knew, that’s when the trauma began. It’s when I began to be verbally abused by teachers, ableist parents and children who would copy their parent’s actions. I became the trouble maker in class because I wouldn’t communicate or sit in the way you wanted me to. My way of communication didn’t matter, which was strange because you are a world that prides yourself in learning different languages, but you didn’t want to learn mine.
To some, I was a marvel, constantly used as inspiration porn because I “hadn’t let my autism hold me back” when as a matter of fact, if I wasn’t autistic I might not have achieved half as much.
I was nineteen when I realised the lesson of “you can be anything you want to be” was a complete lie, when I was fired for being too anxious. The reality? I didn’t verbalise the same way as my neurotypical boss, I didn’t use the right facial expressions and I couldn’t overcome burnout and chronic fatigue to be the bubbly extrovert they wanted me to be. I didn’t get fired because I was anxious, I got fired for being autistic.
In 2016, your world pushed me to attempt suicide. I had no support system, no one I could turn to who would understand and no one who could fix the issues I was facing -everyone I knew was neurotypical, you see, so how could they fix the issue of their world not being accessible to me? That year I learned that the second lesson was a lie. Words do hurt, and so do actions. I heard every whisper about me and my personality, saw the eye rolls and the laughs. I shouldered the comments of “everyone gets tired, it’s not a case for special treatment” when pressing burnout and the implications of masking to fit social standards meant I needed different accommodations. It took from the age of 16 to 21 to realise this would never get better: I would face ableism wherever I went. I would face it from the people who were nice to me, the people I called friend, and family.
I was a traumatised child having grown up in an ableist system, now growing up to venture out into the even more ableist society. I was not meant to win.
In my late 20’s I honestly tried. I became an activist and advocate for my community and I began trying to educate people and push for better accommodations. My advocacy lasted a few months before I gave up in defeat, as my words were used against me and I would have to prove myself as valuable before anyone would even begin to care about what I needed to survive. I became a nuisance because I was being so obviously different as I was trying to not mask -but it seems neurotypicals would rather you use a trauma response to get by then understand. I ended up quitting a lot of things, and received the response that it was expected of me to quit. I’d hung on for so long, screaming into the abyss and it was only when I’d fallen that neurotypicals would admit they knew I needed help all along.
Nowadays, I cannot fight for myself. I’m a burntout shell having survived 20 years of ableism and trauma. I battle pain daily because I don’t have the accommodations to manage it, and I’m no longer able to mask my obvious lack of social skills and major anxiety. I’m well aware that such a blatant show of neurodiversity could cost me a lot in life -I’m just waiting for the other shoe to drop and for people to decide I don’t fit in. I stand to lose everything for being different.
When I see an article about another young autistic committing suicide, I’m obviously heartbroken but I’m not surprised. This world is in no way accessible and we are thrown into trauma and abuse from a young age. Our community is finally having the conversation about “what does an untraumatized autistic person even look like?” but all these important conversations are still happening solely in the autistic community. With no education and no progress from neurotypicals in properly understanding autistic people and casting aside old abusive stereotypes, languages and practices, the age autistic people commit suicide at is getting younger.
Neurotypicals like to shudder away in horror when we mention the S word, but to that I would say get a fucking grip. You all created this world, you started the pathway to our deaths.
I don’t plan on reaching 40. How can I? By 16 I was already experiencing daily burn out and being ostracised to a major degree. By 18 I knew I would never fit into neurotypical spaces and by 21 I was fully aware I had suicide ideation. At 26 I have constant chronic pain, chronic depression that started as a teenager has depleted my memory and capacity to handle even the basics of adult life, and I have the constant knowledge that if I even try to educate people and ask for help, no neurotypical will listen.
You were never going to give me the tools I needed to live a full life, only enough to put me into this half state of survival. And the sad truth is, I’m not alone in feeling like this.
I don’t expect this letter to invoke change. I don’t expect teachers, doctors, police or employers to start to fully educate themselves. I definitely don’t expect autism mum blogs to delete their blog and start respecting their child. All I can hope from this is that one person reads this letter and understands we are being let down constantly and something needs to change.
I hope for an ally who will be outspoken enough, that it will invite more educated allies to speak out and help us. Maybe then, we can get a break.
I’m proudly autistic, but I’m also dying in your world. I hope you can fix it so that one day, you’ll finally see what a happy, healthy, untraumatized, fully supported autistic person looks like.