In my English class, I had to write a personal narrative (I think I mentioned this in another post). I chose to write about a day last year, a really, really hard day. And then, Friday, they gave us the option of reading them in class. And I raised my hand. So in less than two hours, I will be reading this piece of writing, this piece of my soul, to a class full of kids my age who I barely know (See what I will be reading below). And I am scared. I am so so scared because I have never said this day out loud before. I have never even said I have autism to someone out loud much less 20 someones. I am terrified that I should not be doing this. But I have to. I refuse to live forever in hiding who I am because that makes it seem like I am ashamed, of who I am or even of who my brother is and I am not ashamed of who we are and I never will be. I am proud of who I am and who he is, and what we both hope to do in the future. I just hope that this one thing, this one gigantic thing, isn’t a gigantic mistake.
Update….I DID IT!!! I was shaking like a leaf the whole time, and I’m pretty sure I didn’t look up once, but I did it.
Clop, clop, clop. Bang! Smash! Noise. Painfully loud, loud noise, booming through the halls of my middle school. Feet smacking the floor, lockers being slammed shut, as loud as gunshots, voices. So many voices, and conversations, and people all at once that it was impossible to pay attention to any of them. This is school. The events of one year, but particularly of one day, would forever change me, for better or for worse.
The day started like any other. It was mid spring, so soft wind blew through the warm air. Trees were budding and the grass was damp with dew. The sun shown down in the clear blue sky above me as I stood at my bus stop, waiting for the bus to arrive. “Just another day,” I told myself over and over. “It’ll be fine. Just another day.” I could not have been more wrong. As I boarded the bus, I for once had a good feeling about how this day would go. I had less than 3 months less in school. How much worse could it get? I wish I’d known in advance how very wrong I was. When I reached the school, I headed to the library to sit around and use my kindle for a few minutes, to let myself relax before the day. When I reached the library, the librarian was not yet there so I settled down next to the door to wait. Various people, some I knew some I didn’t, walked by. Most ignored me. When a group of girls in my grade walked by, I tensed, knowing what was coming. Their insulting words hit me, calling me a brat and stupid and other, worse things. I bit my lip and forced myself not to retaliate, to avoid making it worse for myself like I had done a hundred times before. When the bell rang that signaled to go to homeroom, I took a deep breath and started to the room. The school had 3 levels. The bottom floor is the library, gym, art room, cafeteria, etc. The second is the middle school and the third is the high school. Anyway, as I was climbing the stairs, a hard foot smacked the back of my leg. I stumbled, grabbing the bar of the railing for balance as all of them pushed by me. Slowly, I finished ascending the stairs, reminding myself today WAS going to be an ok day.
I know, I know, there were a hundred thousand signs by now how this day was going to go. But, so far it had only been going about as bad as every other day, and certainly not as bad as some, so I was reasonably relieved. So maybe what happened the rest of the day was my fault. Maybe I should have seen it. Maybe I let my guard down. All I know is that for whatever reason, I didn’t see it. The first class of the day, English, was spent by people purposely making tons of noise with their hands and feet to drive me insane. By the end of the class, my head was spinning from the noise. My second class was math class, which was like the calm island I so desperately craved. Then, I headed off to advisory. Advisory is basically like a half hour of study hall before lunch. It’s also known as the worst idea anyone ever had, at least, that’s what I call it. Anyway, I slowly trudged up the stairs. I couldn’t feel my feet as they slapped the cold steps. My head ached. I headed into the classroom, tense, eyes up and alert, like a soldier preparing, myself for a battle. I settled down at the computer and began to work on some math homework I’d been putting off for whatever reason. People quickly entered the classroom. Tensing, I saw a group of the cruelest sit down behind me. Their shrill voices and harsh words broke my concentration badly as I struggled to focus. They were watching videos and discussing people in our grade, and their harsh laughter frustrated me. After ten minutes of this, some others of their little posse came over to see what I was doing. By now, I was writing something personal for my blog, so I minimized it when they came. They kept being rude about me and calling me names and swearing so I told them to back to hell off. Probably a bad idea. Suddenly, my screen went blank. They’d pulled the plug on my computer, ruining what I had spent almost fifteen minutes working on! “What was that for!” I yelled. And then I was surrounded. The ones who had been behind me raced to their friends “defense” swearing at me and yelling and threatening to hurt me. I stood there and took it, occasionally snapping back. I tried to act strong but inside, every word was tearing me to pieces, every insult was gashing my soul. The teacher was at her desk maybe ten feet away. She did nothing; she never even looked over at them. My hands trembled. I tried so hard to block their words out, to ignore them. But then, their words hit me again. This time, though, what they said…I couldn’t block out. “If you didn’t have autism, we’d beat you so bad…” I didn’t think. I couldn’t. I pushed by them and, calling out to the teacher where I was going, I ran.
Sharp, agonizing pain arched through me mentally. I roamed the halls till my hands and head were shaking too bad for me to do that, then went into the bathroom and curled up in a ball in the corner, crying my eyes out. How did they know that? WHY did they know that? I couldn’t stop my head as panic ran through my whole body. What would they do to me? What if people started treating me even worse? What if they actually hurt me? What if they told everyone? But…I knew in my heart that they already had.
The bell for lunch rang. Slowly, painful inch by painful inch, I forced myself up. I felt numb. My whole body hurt. I wanted so badly to stay in that corner. But I couldn’t, and I knew it. I slowly descended the stairs, keeping my eyes out for them. My panic and anxiety only built as I saw the crowd of people waiting to enter the cafeteria. I slowly slid through the mob up to the front, near the doors. For whatever reason that always felt safer to me. The mob of other students swirled around me. Somehow, I ended up next to one of the people who only minutes before had been being so cruel. When they said we could go in, I was standing between a door and this wall pillar thing. The girl swung the door open, hitting me against it and the pillar. For a terrifying moment I couldn’t move. When I finally pushed my way out and into the cafe my whole body was shaking. I couldn’t make myself brave that line to eat. I slumped down at the table, and with them ten feet away laughing and mocking me, I cried my eyes out.
The rest of that day was just as bad. I had science that afternoon. The teacher never cared what the students did so they spent the whole time being rude about me. And I snapped back. But the teacher got annoyed at me for snapping, and not them for their cruel words. I know I shouldn’t have snapped but by then I couldn’t help it really. Everyone threw insults at me over and over and over, while I struggled to do my work. When I was walking down the hall after my class someone hissed at me “If I were like you, I’d kill myself.” I dug my teeth into my cheek so hard it hurt to keep from crying. I couldn’t let them win again. This was just one day last year. One day. Just try and imagine having to be me for this one day and go through this. Not easy.
I’m sure by now you are wondering what on earth I could have learned from this experience or how I changed. And there are a lot of ways I did but the most obvious is I got more afraid. I always had issues with anxiety and fear but after that I could hardly make myself walk through a group of people without getting scared. I could barely make myself talk to people I didn’t know for fear of them being like that. And I do still struggle with stuff like that. Badly sometimes. And it’s frustrating to think about what they took from me, but it’s even more frustrating to think that it has changed how people will see me in the future. But I learned some good things too. I’ve learned how words can hurt since that, and I want to try and make it now so other high schoolers get that and might see how words hurt. Because nobody deserves to feel how I felt that day. Nobody. I’ve also decided now that I want to help people, even if I don’t know how yet. So, what I took away from this was that a bad situation can take away a lot, but it can also give.