Since I can remember, I have hated looking back at the child I was. I look at my childhood and I cringe, and for the longest time I have had the resounding thought that I was a stupid kid. I was stupid, weird, and ugly, and that's why other people made fun of me. That's what I thought, for years. But it wasn't the truth. Because when I was seventeen, I was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. And while I hate to say it, that explained everything.
For instance, I have never understood social norms. It started out fairly normal, the only people who picked on me for not knowing at first were other kids. I didn’t understand why, but I had an understanding that kids picked on each other and besides, they were all still my friends … right? Looking back, a lot of my “friends” from that time just liked having me around to laugh at. But soon I had bigger problems. I was getting older. But I still hadn’t learned the rules. And it was starting to frustrate adults now. Did you know, for example, that it’s considered inappropriate for a fourth grader to write about a family that openly dislikes each other? I certainly didn’t. But my teacher made sure I did. In front of the whole class. A few years later, junior high came around and, well, I still didn’t know everything my classmates knew, but for the sake of brevity (and not sounding like I’m too full of self pity,) I’ll stop here, but needless to say, I was still picked on until 10th grade.
But I blamed myself! I spent a long time telling myself, “If I had spoken differently, or just not talked at all, I would have been FINE!” and “Why did I ever wear those stupid clothes, and those stupid glasses, and that stupid hair?!” and of course, the favorite “I was just a weird kid, so of course people would make fun of me.” When I started writing this out, I still thought that it was all me, and that I was weird. I didn’t expect to unpack all of this. But this is the conclusion I have reached. I was never the problem. My symptoms were not the problem. I was displaying signs of a disorder that no one knew I had. So, to the child I was; I’m so sorry. I have hated you and blamed you for so long. You were never any of the things I, or anyone else called you. It was never your fault.
It may take me awhile to fully stop being mean to the kid I was. But it is a journey I know I need to make. And if you felt the same way about your younger self, I hope you can do the same.