‘I stole, was suspended from school, lied to people to make my life more interesting, and stopped caring.’: Woman with late autism diagnosis addresses ableism

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Disclaimer: This story mentions suicidal thoughts and self harm and may be upsetting for some.

“Hello, my name is C.R. Eede; Chelsea for short. I am a 27-year-old from Northamptonshire, UK with autism and an array of mental illnesses, from depression to psychosis. This is my story.

Keywords:

  • Neurotypical: A person with what is considered a typical brain, who falls within ‘normal’ societal standards. They do not have any neurological conditions.
  • Neurodivergent: A person with a different brain from what is considered ‘normal.’ This includes autism, OCD, Tourette’s, etc.
  • Ableism: This is prejudice against the disabled.
woman with a branch covering her face
Courtesy of C.R. Eede

Early Life

From an early age, I have shown signs of autism. Still, due to the system being incredibly reluctant to diagnose females in the early 2000s, I wasn’t officially diagnosed until my late teens, which caused more trouble than I initially realized. Though I am grateful I finally got a diagnosis, it was about 5-6 years too late. I suffered tremendous difficulties through my school years and shortly afterward because I did things no one else did. That made me question who I was, whether I was abnormal, and why I couldn’t do things other people could do with such ease. Some of my family members also have mental illnesses and autism, so I wasn’t surprised when I was diagnosed.

My school and home life were borderline chaotic. I moved homes about 8-10 times and moved schools about 5-7 times. It started to have an impact in year 7. I was then taken out in year 8 to be homeschooled, and placed back into the mainstream school system at the end of year 8… treading super behind my peers in the curriculum. I moved again, thus moving schools, and spent my last three years at one school where everyone had already sorted their friendships and groups. So, I had no grounds to build friendships, not having the foundation or skills to do so.

woman taking a selfie in a colorful shirt
Courtesy of C.R. Eede

During high school, I wasn’t offered the help I needed because I wasn’t documented as autistic, which led to the decline of my grades. Despite working so hard to do my best, it still wasn’t good enough, and this broke me. When the exam season came around, I felt completely and utterly helpless. I had to get outside help for my studies, which was all well and good, but my biggest problem was math. I could always get the answer, but showing my work was the problem. Unfortunately, showing your work gave you higher grades on exam papers. One day, when I had a private math tutor, I heard her have a word with my mother telling her I was likely to fail because I work differently from the standardized school system. Adamant to prove her wrong, I went into that exam hall confident I could be better than that. But in the end, I just proved her right, which brought in a lot of internalized hatred and ableism. I wondered why I couldn’t think like ‘normal’ people.

Additionally, I had family problems to contend with. Because I was at the stage of discovering who I was, a rift emerged between me and my father, who I despised after constantly comparing me to my younger brother and his girlfriend’s daughter. I understand he meant well, now as an adult, but he did more damage than good back then, which caused a deep spiral of depression. I became everything he despised; I think I may have done this on purpose. I knew I couldn’t seek his favor, so I just stayed as myself, completely disregarding what he would say to me. I got into unhealthy habits, which I believe were cries for help. I stole things from friends and teachers, was suspended from school, lied to people to make my life more interesting, and stopped caring. Those I surrounded myself with didn’t care for me back then, so I figured, ‘Why should I?’ I went into examinations during school with the attitude, ‘Well, I’m going to fail anyway, so why should I bother?’

woman posing against a blue wall
Courtesy of C.R. Eede

Internalized Ableism

Unfortunately, due to the late diagnosis, I started to hate myself, which caused a vast array of problems. I had depleted my self-esteem, self-harmed, had suicidal thoughts and attempts, made toxic comparisons, experienced severe withdrawal from people (causing me to become a cold-hearted person), and even internalized ableism. Now, I’ve been struggling with internalized ableism most of my life. It’s a terrible side effect of being brought up thinking being different meant being broken. I see neurotypicals doing things effortlessly that I consider extremely difficult and beat myself up for trying twice as hard to achieve similar results. In the back of my mind, I know I’ll be judged by ordinary standards, not neurodivergent criteria, because of the dreaded ‘autistic’ label. This means it’s hard to take pride in some accomplishments because, while they might be an accomplishment by autistic standards, I’m still judged by neurotypical standards, which are hardly ever good enough and hella depressing. So, I’m only ableist toward myself. Below are two examples of internalized ableism and increased depression.

Example One:

When I quit my first year of college, I ended up going on a three-month course called The Prince’s Trust. For this, I had to push myself to my limits to become the best version of myself that I could be. I completed the course and had some career options available after I had collected the certificate. Still, because my mother couldn’t attend the awards ceremony (something I had worked hard to attend), I became passive about all my achievements. That’s not to say it’s her fault, because it isn’t. She had to see my brother, which was more important at the time, but I felt like I had my heart crushed having an orthodontist appointment top my three months of advanced personal development. From that moment on, I stopped celebrating anything, including special occasions, because I always figured someone else’s achievements/news would always be better than mine.

Example Two:

When I published my first book, I was super proud of myself for finally finishing something I’d been working on for a long time. Still, it felt so anticlimactic when the publication came around that I didn’t even bother celebrating. No one wanted to celebrate this fantastic achievement, so I felt my hard work meant nothing. Due to this, I became pretty passive regarding my achievements and accomplishments because I didn’t want to get my hopes up for something no one was interested in celebrating with me. To this day, that applies. And honestly? It’s heartbreaking. The internalized ableism here is that once I realized no one wanted to celebrate with me, I figured everyone must be able to create a story from scratch and that only the best of the best would be worthy of celebration. I did not consider myself worthy, so I started to question if I even had it out to be a writer.

woman squatting and posing
Courtesy of C.R. Eede

Ableism

Now, about ableism…

Ableism is like everyone grew wings except for you. For a while, everything is fine. You can still do things and slowly learn to gain your independence. Then one day, people became so used to having wings they stopped building stairs and elevators. You have to fly to get to them, but no one believes you can’t fly, stripping away your independence. They then refuse to accommodate. Then one day, you snap and demand assistance because it’s unfair. People ask if you deserve it. They even dare to debate whether you should be allowed in public. Then they complain the accommodations you need are too expensive.

Now, I have a stable support network. I know my real friends, and my circle is small, which I prefer. I’ve never been the kind of person to have a large group of friends, so a mere handful is more than enough. My mother and I have a good relationship, which means more to me than anything. I no longer speak to my father, which was a mutual decision, and I am starting to live life the way I want to.

woman taking a selfie on a boat
Courtesy of C.R. Eede

Advice

My advice to others regarding mental illness:

  • Remember the person always comes first, not the disability. That person is still human, so treat them like one.
  • Treat others how you want to be treated, regardless of whether that person has a disability or not.
  • Instead of focusing on limitations, we should focus on abilities.

‘The first step towards preventing ableism is enacting acceptance to have a more inclusive, diverse, and equal society for future generations.’

Thank you for reading.”

woman on a tree looking at the camera
Courtesy of C.R. Eede

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by C.R. Eede. You can follow her journey on InstagramFacebook, and her websiteSubmit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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