Yes. Ok. I have mentioned school a couple of times in previous posts like this one.
For a long time I’ve been unwilling to think for very long about school. It’s long behind me (22 years this June, not like I’ve been counting or anything, honest). I’ve escaped, I’m free, they can’t hurt me any more etc etc.
I’ve been unpacking a lot of things from my past recently and so many things seem to have happened as a result of my experience at school. Every negative reaction I have now stems back to those short couple of GCSE years. Not even 2 whole years if you factor in the holidays and exam leave. But in that short time, I was so completely broken that I’m still picking up the pieces every damn day. And so maybe now I am going to have to pick it all apart and face up to it; school fucked me up and I might never recover. That’s a scary thought.
Maybe I am going to spend the rest of my life trying to get over the way they treated me when in all likelihood they have probably forgotten all about me. It’s affecting me day AND night; if I do manage to get some sleep then I’m plagued with regular nightmares about being back in school. And when I say “school fucked me up” I do mean it was the school. Some of the other kids could be cruel at times but I had friends and I was not bullied by the other kids. It was the teachers. At the time, the fact that I’m autistic was not known. So I was just lazy, rude, flaky, messy, forgetful, disobedient, insubordinate, bad. I wasn’t trying hard enough, even though I was exhausted.
It seems pretty obvious to me that my problems with employment can be traced back to my school days. Every boss I’ve had seemed to be like my old teachers. I reacted badly to being told what to do (this is different from being asked to do something, which I can cope with if it’s done in the right way). I react badly to criticism. I can feel that old anger and resentment bubbling up even now. I can feel the need to run and get away from the situation. I have walked out of plenty of jobs and been fired from others, usually because of my “attitude”.
The lack of freedom was hard for me to cope with too, and I think this was compounded as time went on and I was in more and more trouble. It didn’t matter what I said or did or if I walked out of school; I still had to go back. There was no escape. So having someone else control my time feels terrifying. Even volunteer roles that I could quit any time I wanted. It was scary. I need my freedom.
But of all the feelings I have about school, I think the injustice is the hardest thing to cope with. The teachers there carried on with their lives in a way that I haven’t been able to do. One of the teachers who was nastiest to me even got a fucking OBE for services to education. That was hard to take.
Mostly I’m just scared; I’m scared of confrontation, of criticism, of authority, of committing my time to anything, of expectations. When I feel like someone might be angry with me I get so scared that I feel like I’m going to pass out. I shouldn’t have to worry about “being in trouble” as a 38 year old. But there you go.
As you can imagine, this stops me from doing a lot of things. My life is on pause.
But I don’t want revenge. When I was younger I did, but as I get older I get less angry and more… just sad, I guess. All I really want is for them to admit what they did and maybe say sorry. But that would mean contacting them and I’m not ready for any negative reaction I might get.
To make matters worse, I can see that the school system is currently fucking up a whole new generation of autistic kids (although, in the interest of balance, a fair portion of non-autistic kids are also being fucked up). The cycle hasn’t been broken. Could be that in 30 years time one of those kids could be reading this and wondering why nothing changed. That’s if they live that long.
Maybe I should campaign for better school support for autistic kids, but I think it would be too hard to focus past all the triggers. I’ve opted out of the school system completely for my kids; it’s just not worth the risk to their mental health, or to mine.
So I’ve started counselling again in the hope that I can find a way past all this. I’ve only had one session but it felt good to get it all off my chest and have someone else say “yeah, that actually sounds horrible”. The counsellor was also very honest about learning to live with anxiety like this rather than just “getting over it”. So hopefully I can learn some ways to stop anxiety controlling my life. I’ll keep you posted.
Wish me luck.