Last year I wrote a short piece for Anti Bullying Week and this year I have been asked to do the same. I have been going through a hard time recently and due to this have been really struggling, so I didn’t think it would be possible to follow up on this. But due to my own experiences this is something I feel strongly about and I feel that there is maybe enough energy in me to squeeze something out and hopefully it will be something more meaningful coming from the place I am at currently.
In 2013 I concentrated on my own experiences of bullying interspersed with a message about different forms of bullying and that if you are being bullied telling someone is the right thing to do. So this time I want to take a different approach. I don’t want you to feel sorry for me, I don’t want you to read this and think ‘ah that was a good post’ and then just move on, I want you to read this and not just be mindful or aware but to make a difference. And we can all make a difference, to somebody…believe me.
I often talk about how I grew up and felt lonely, misunderstood and left out. I share how I struggled to join in and interact with other people and how that made me feel different which in turn made me feel not good enough. I talk about how those feelings I already had were reinforced and made stronger by how I was viewed and subsequently treated by other people in my life. When I speak or write about these I give the impression that these are all things of the past, that it isn’t like that anymore and everything now is great. But the truth is it isn’t.
Admittedly a lot has changed. I have grown and I stand up for myself if someone treats me in a way I don’t like. But my experiences are woven into me, they sneak into my interpretations of a scenario and influence how I react. And I am still a person who has autism. I still struggle to relate to, communicate and interact with others. I still exhibit “different” behaviours and react differently than others might and consequently still see those “looks”. Everyday is still a battle, not to get through but to get others to “see” me and to understand why they mostly do not want to. It often feels like a battle that cannot be won, trying to be what I am not to fit in does not work or make me happy but I don’t get very far just as me.
But in spite of this, just being me with the people who are in my life and who do “see” me is the most wonderful thing ever. After all my experiences acceptance truly is one of the most amazing things I have felt and I am lucky to know that. Although we all have the right to acceptance and to be loved for the very person we are, many are not. Unfortunately it seems that there is a big problem in society in that we are not taught to embrace difference but are actually conditioned to be fearful of it.
I often wish vehemently that I was different, that I was more like everybody else and within the context of this piece that evokes deep feelings of sadness inside me. That somebody who does their best to tell and make others feel that it is ok to be who they are does not feel the same way about themselves. That deep down after all the declarations of “I am who I am”, I still feel that that is not good enough. Maybe this is the voice of my current struggles and the fight I am in right now but even so I don’t want to think these things anymore. I don’t want to think it is wrong to be me, I don’t want to feel that being different makes me come up lacking something – I don’t want to keep wishing I didn’t have autism or ADHD just because I think that if I didn’t people would like me more or want to spend more time with me and would ultimately accept me. These thoughts are a waste of time and simply not true.
During Anti Bullying Week I am sure there will be a lot of focus on the act of bullying, the impact of bullying and how to deal with bullying. So I would like to remind you now about the power you hold, the power of your words, of your actions. Not just in standing against bullying or to deter you from potentially being a bully but also in how you can make someone feel valued, accepted and worthwhile. Reach out to those you may usually pass over and include them, however painful it may be to you it is likely to be a lot less painful than the feeling of exclusion. Embrace difference – don’t be fearful of it, different minds are responsible for much of the things you take for granted today. Most importantly spread and embody love and acceptance, we find ourselves in a time where these things are called for more than ever. Always be the difference.
“The surest way to corrupt a youth is to instruct him to hold in higher esteem those who think alike than those who think differently.” Friedrich Nietzsche