The cost of bullying ~ through an Asperger’s / autistic angle [Mental Health Monday]

A natural introvert, I was often the target of teasing that bordered on bullying. No wait–it wasn’t just “borderline”; it fit the bill. After all, bullying encompasses harassment, in a distinct and repeated pattern, and that’s what I faced every day for about ten years, give or take.An introvert is often an easy target; the bullies assume (correctly, in my case) that I won’t fight back.

The entire class had already witnessed the fact that I was an inadvertent screw-up, the one who was always in trouble, not because I went out of my way to cause it on purpose, but because everyone else came with a set of instructions I was expected to be familiar with, but wasn’t.

And thus, everyone knew that in the early years, a teacher could provide me no cover. No love lost, no sympathy gained.

And so, I was alone with the teasing and harassment, which later transformed into the interrogation (read: veiled accusatory judgment) by other girls as to why I did “this” or didn’t do “that”.

After all, I was the one who wore clothing that had gone out of style too long ago.  I was the one who inspected her hair so that I could concentrate better when listening to someone.  I was the one who wrote scores of music during Home Ec.  I was the one who preferred Shop class to Home Ec.  I was the one who talked a little too quiet and laughed a little too loud. I was the last one to get the joke…especially if I was the butt of it.  And usually, I was.

Picking on someone (perceived as) shyer or otherwise weaker is cheating.  It’s not a fair fight.  The playing field has a steep grade.  Winning against such a person is not the victory it appears to be.  But who knew then?  And even if anyone did, would it have made me feel any better?  Would it have made anything any easier?

And an undiagnosed Asperger’s/autistic girl who just wants to get through the day with no trouble and little fanfare is ripe for the picking.  The Asperger’s/autistic status is often icing on the cake.

But that didn’t matter back then.  It didn’t make me feel less alone.  It didn’t quell the butterflies fluttering around in my insides.  It didn’t lessen my urge to pee.  It certainly didn’t lull me to sleep at night.

By the time I was in Grade 7 (age 13 or so), I was on the trajectory to attend university at Juilliard.  I wanted to write soundtracks for movies.  But despite the gracious encouragement coming from multiple directions, I wasn’t fully committed to that quite yet; my newest budding interest was Abnormal Psychology, and I dreamed of going to work in the FBI’s Behavioral Sciences Department, profiling serial killers and making the world a better place.

I never did either one.  In fact, my current degrees are the product of my ninth and tenth declared university majors.

Fast forward several decades and one unequivocal, slam-dunk, no-brainer Asperger’s/autism spectrum diagnosis…

Despite fancy titles and semi-extensive accolades, I struggle, living month to month, or even week to week (these days, usually the latter).  My longest-time “special interests” include music, Legos, world religions, physiology, and human-pathogenic microbiology.

On most days, I kick myself for not going into the field of infectious disease.  Pathogenic bugs fascinate me: how something a billionth of our size can prove to be so problematic.

What does this have to do with bullying?

Maybe nothing.

Maybe everything.

Being harassed on a daily basis is not exactly a boon to one’s self-esteem.  The self-concept and self-image take turns taking nosedives.

When bullied so consistently and chronically, one learns to keep their head down and their mouth shut.  One learns not to make waves and to avoid attracting attention.  One stifles themselves from blazing any kind of trail.

How does being Aspergian/autistic impact the situation?

In my case, the answer is: in every way imaginable.

Why?

Because I took their criticism and malicious laughter to heart.  Involuntarily, I internalized every last word they said.  I believed it.  My mother’s reassurances and words of encouragement were no match for what I faced each day.

Because I’m on the Asperger’s/autism spectrum, my cognitive processing works in such a way in which not only did those insults enter uninvited and set up an internalized residence, they played in my head.  Over. And over. Again.

I had a particularly tough time realizing those (frequent) instances in which the laughter that I tried to join in on in an attempt to act, was actually directed at me.  And not kindly.

My laughing stopped abruptly.

Theirs did not.
So when I learned how to survive the school day, day after day, for years, it became routine.  It became a force of habit.  It became an integral part of me.

Even after the bullying (thankfully, finally) stopped, I couldn’t just erase its effects, nor could I simply pick up where I left off and live the life I was supposed to live, being the person I would have been.

It doesn’t usually work that way.

Instead, I was stifled and stunted.  When presented with an opportunity, my natural inclination is to decline and let the opportunity pass me by.  I couldn’t imagine that anyone would actually tap me on the shoulder for anything; I had been so convinced that I wasn’t cut out for it.

And the bullying made me weary, jaded, skeptical of the world and most of the people in it.  Every social situation I find myself thrust into is a potential opportunity to repeat the past, and every stranger I encounter is a potential agent of ridicule and pain.

My devilish subconscious self says, “why bother even going there?  You know what’s probably around that corner, or behind that door.  You’ve been through it a thousand times.  It never ends well.”

The bullying memories sap my spoons and my life to this day.

It doesn’t matter that they occurred over 25 years ago.

To clarify, I’m not one of the stubbornly miserable types who has only known pain and is thus determined to hang onto it, completing repetitive cycles of self-fulfilling prophecy.  I’m not all about that.  I’m much more into letting things go.

What gets me is the personality changes and the resulting alteration of my modus operandi.  That’s the crux of the issue, I think, if my systemizing abilities are firing on all cylinders.

As far as I can tell, it’s less of a locked-in reflex akin to PTSD flashback, and more of an issue of the forces of habit that came about from stress-induced personality alterations.  Maybe the two are the same, for practical purposes.  I haven’t gotten it all figured out yet.

How much of my inertia or lack of executive function is to “blame” for my current predicament, and how much of it is indeed some kind of bullying-induced growth stunt?

The two might even be so intertwined by now that it may be difficult to ascertain at this point.

All I do know is that both are likely to be very much a fundamental part of who I am.

I also know one other thing: I’m working on it. 🙂 ❤


Related Posts:

‘The Cheese Stands Alone’ ~ (a Neurodivergent Paradox) ~ September 30, 2016

Constructing a Timeline of Life: My Aspie-Flavored Biography, Part 1 of 3 ~ August 6, 2016

I Tried To Be Cool ~ February 22, 2017

Shapeshifting ~ Part 1 ~ November 16, 2016

I Probably Would Have Preferred Not To Be Mainstreamed In School ~ November 6, 2016

 

Advertisements

12 Comments

  1. I was bullied at school (and elsewhere), although that pretty much stopped by my later teens. I usually think about it in terms of “wasn’t that bad” and that it had no long-term effects. I’ve realised, though, that to this day I’m afraid of kids and teenagers, beyond the standard level of general social anxiety. It’s an automatic, subconscious reaction, and your post confirms what I’ve started to think, namely that there are some long-term consequences after all.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for sharing your experience 💞. It’s bittersweet to know I’m not alone, because although there’s reassurance that it wasn’t just me, there’s also empathy and sympathy (both) for those like you who went through the same trauma 😘💖

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes, very much understand this. Between bullying at home and school, there was so much I dreamt of and never ventured out to. I was so paralyzed by fear of rejection, sure everyone was right about what a screw-up I was. I don’t mention this a lot, but I didn’t even do college the fear was so intense. And, while I know it is never too late, my physical body is now so much more uncooperative. lol. Makes it harder to determine what I am fit for these days. But, I am continually working on improving my own self-worth and finding ways to reach beyond my four walls in my own way. Glad you are working on things, too.Thank you for sharing this, friend. It’s a subject that has been on my brain a lot of late. 😊

    Liked by 4 people

  3. This is a hard one for me. I was bullied at school, and also at home. The damage it did is still with me. Like you, I think it did a lot to restrict how my life has turned out. Education was a bit of a writeoff for me, between this, the undiagnosed ASD, the undiagnosed dyslexia. The red flags were there, just no one was looking. Certainly no one helped, I had to drag myself through it and as such, I did enough to survive and get through, but thats it, it curtailed so much. Still does. I have no confidence in my abilities because I was never encouraged, only put down. My bad trust issues come mainly from this, from the girls at school that made my life hell, the father who thought his 2 year old daughter was a convenient punch bag and the mother who made it known I was a thorn in her side. Her gaslighting did the worst injury, making me still doubt my own mind, my memories, my reactions, my expectations of people. I still think people hate me, and will hate me. She frequently said I was not wanted, I was a mistake and that she “pitied the poor b******* who ends up with me”. Between them all, I expect to be disliked and abandoned, and because of my elephant’s memory, it doesnt fade away, but like a poltergeist rears its ugly head and throws all the stuff around my head. People dont realise what they do to others, how it affects the rest of their lives – and thats especially true for those of us who have the additional burden of ASD.

    Like

  4. Bullying involves a power differential – “the greater shall ***prey upon*** the lesser – and not being adept at deception and manipulation makes those like ***us*** very much ‘lesser’.

    Secondly, most bullies are popular individuals, who ‘do bullying’ in order to increase their social rank and reputation. They do bullying because it is an effectual means of becoming popular, socially ‘desirable’ – as in the bulk of (amoral) Normdom ***wants*** to associate itself with the powerful, and deliberately ***shuns*** those who lack power (law 10, the principle of contagion, Greene’s 48 laws of power) – and because bullying is both instinctual and pleasureable to the bully. (The intoxication of power, Orwell)

    Thirdly, all social behavior (in Normdom) is largely both unconscious and instinctual. Therefore, getting most Norms to ***not*** act like ‘power-obsessed amoral predators’ when circumstances permit doing so with minimal effort and (especially) risk requires ***divine intervention*** (so as to achieve the equivalent of ‘a total brain transplant’).

    Now the reasons why you were grilled (by that Normie pack of bullies):

    1) they (collectively and individually) saw you as ‘a gross social inferior’ – and themselves as the polar opposite in terms of power. The power differential that was present, via human nature, ‘corrupted’ them – and caused the ***inherent narcissism*** common to Normdom to manifest – just as it did in *the Stanford prison experiment*.

    They expected you – us – to know ***better than they did*** just where you/we were in the dominance hierarchy – at its bottom – and to know how to behave toward our betters (expert mind-reading at all levels; effectual supplication, in the best ***house-negro*** fashion (read boot-licking/ass-kissing/brown-nosing); and finally, knowing their rights and our own moment-by-moment-earned (lack) of privileges.)

    This is why ‘95% social ability’ is needed for us to ‘join the gang’ named society. This is why we need all of the faculties and most of the thinking found in personality-disordered social predators. This is why we need to be epecially cunning, utterly ruthless, and bereft of morality and conscience, if we ***truly*** want to be ***effectual*** ‘imitators of Normies’.

    We must beat them – decisively – at their own ***games*** and as most Norms are potential (narcissistic) bullies at the least, then we must be so wholeheartedly – true ‘more-normal-than-normal’, the dynamic form that creates such impressions (through deception and manipulation) in the minds of the targets – so as to ***crush*** them. (Law 15, crush enemies totally, Greene, 48 laws of power.)

    Bullying is ultimately why I speak of Normies instead of the value-neutral term ‘NT’. Bullying is instinctual in Normdom. Most Norms live ‘the 48 laws of power’ unconsciously.(and hence doing such things ***consciously*** allows Normdom to to take their instict-driven social gamesmanship to the next level. It’s what effectual social climbers do – learn to act as if they have NPD/ASPD, assuming they don’t already have such opperating at the foundational level.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So nice to see you again, my friend! 😊. Right on, with your entire comment! Oh my goodness, YES. It’s interesting how high the score is for the “average” Normie, on those NPD online quizzes! Obviously I scored well below the Normie average, and I imagine that you would, too. Because we’re not nearly as narcissistic as the average person. It’s ironic how we’re often accused of being self-centered, despite our telling the truth that we’re not. Sounds like a classic case of Projection on their part 🌺

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s