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An Evil Creature Who Didn’t Belong: Perils of a Late Diagnosis

Posted on April 25, 2019 by Ann

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“If the bullies are to be believed, I am a bad person. In fact according to them, I’m the bully.”
Ashlea McKay

Ashlea McKay lived most of her life believing that she was a monster, “an evil creature who didn’t belong and couldn’t socially function well enough to exist among society.”

“Presumed to be rude, hostile and offensive without consideration or a chance to explain or demonstrate otherwise, I’ve been verbally abused by complete strangers in public for reasons I’ve never fully understood until someone explained it to me later. People often misinterpret my behaviour as threatening or malicious in intent and they act accordingly. I’m dangerous and antisocial and they often feel the need to jump in and save the day.”

She was bullied throughout her school years and at the workplace by people who mistook her anxiety and frustration for rudeness and frustration, wrongfully accused her for being difficult or a liar, and ironically, thought she was being the bully. Here is an example from her heart-breaking article “An autistic adult on life as the perpetual villain”:

“When the checkout operator at my local supermarket asked me a question that I did not understand the meaning of, I was verbally abused and called ‘racist’ by the other shoppers waiting in line behind me simply for telling her that I didn’t understand what she was saying. It had nothing to do with her or her voice — I literally did not comprehend the meaning of the words that were coming out of her mouth. I had to start wearing a medicalert bracelet after that incident for my own safety and to support me should I ever struggle to explain myself or be wrongfully accused of something so heinous ever again.”

It was only when she got diagnosed at the age of 29 with autism that she understood how her brain work and that she came to accept herself and believe in her own self-worth.

Here is another recount from Erin of Aut in Sight Aut in Mind, also a recently diagnosed adult:

“When I was 9 years old, my friend was very into the Narnia series. I was more interested in Winona Ryder movies myself (!) but I read the books and watched the TV series so I could join in with her.

Connecting over interests and working on projects with friends felt more comfortable to me than the random socialising in the school yard (even thinking about that feels icky in my gut).

But. BUT. (but)… ?

This turned into Narnia flavoured imaginative play at the bottom of the oval, every lunchtime. I can act out scenes I’ve seen, I can follow a script… but this deviated from structure into unstructured imaginary responses to the threat of the Narnia villain, “The White Witch”.

We were whipped into a flurry, fearing an imminent arrival of the White Witch, preparing for her attack (she wasn’t there- no one had been assigned to play her- I wasn’t really sure what was going on…) but what I took from that was, “my friend likes pretending the White Witch is after her.

”So (here’s the part that feels ickier than random socialising)… I wrote a note to my friend from the White Witch, saying she was coming for her… And left it on her desk. That’s what we were doing, right?

Wrong. She was really upset. This was seen as a serious act of bullying. I shut down and didn’t feel like I could own up to it, for fear of losing a friend… So the whole class was called in to have a very serious talk about bullying, with the note given as an example. 

I honestly carried a sick, confused, worried feeling about that for decades, which has only started fading since I was identified Autistic and now understand that I really didn’t (and don’t) understand imaginary play, and I did my best to join in… and I hurt my friend.

I really, REALLY struggled. But, we just didn’t know then what we know now. When I was recently diagnosed, my Mum said she had always known I was exceptional- but didn’t have the words for it when I was little (she wished she did). 

But now we do have the word – “Autism””

As parents, we would never want to put our children through that kind of pain and struggles while they are growing up.

This is why keeping track of our children’s developmental milestones, early detection and intervention is really important. If your child is more than 4 weeks old and below 6 years old, this assessment tool will help you keep track of your child’s developmental milestones easily.

“Do you know what is harder than telling a child
they are autistic? Not knowing you are autistic.”

Aut in Sight ~ Aut in Mind.