I always knew I was different. I was always the outsider, the outcast, the special kid that nobody wanted to talk to for fear of being branded by the same, searing labels. When at school I stuck to myself and my teaching assistant, never going outside my bubble. I felt safe in my bubble, I still do. And in my bubble I would have adventures all on my own, with monsters that I had to run away from and treasure that I had to find. One day, I would be a King, riding his horse through the walls of a magnificent castle. The next, a lonely boy, being chased by the monsters and always running away from something.
I’ve spent most of my life running away from who I really am, always keeping to my own devices, fearing to venture into the abyss of normal life. When people recount their experiences of ADHD or AS, they say it’s like you’ve got a mental wall between you and everybody else: you cannot hear or see their true meaning, only what you pick up from the outsides. To me, it is more like looking at the world through a pane of glass. Sometimes it is clear as day and others it can be dark and murky.
I was diagnosed with ADHD and AS when I was two years old. Those terms seem to glue themselves to you and, no matter how hard you try, you cannot ever get rid of them. This can be a bad thing and also in some ways a good thing. It can be bad because people see you in a different light, treat you in a different manner to those who are deemed ‘normal’. I, however, take a different view. I don’t have mental illnesses so much as mental gifts. They give me an entirely different perspective on the world, without which I wouldn’t be who I am today.
I am shaped by my mind, my experiences and my actions. They allow me to exist in my own skin. Some people don’t understand, some will never understand. I am not ‘normal’ to some people. But then, what is ‘normal’ in a society as ever-changing and diverse as the one we inhabit today? People can choose to dye their hair, wear loud clothes, use body modification. You can’t choose ADHD. You can’t choose AS. But, they differentiate you from others nonetheless.
They mould my existence on this planet, my life like putty, constantly in limbo, free forming between different shapes and patterns: forever trying to fit in to a world in which I am told was never meant to belong and which was never meant to accept me.
And even if I could choose to have them or not, I would probably accept them anyway. Because even though I may get labelled, even though I may get bullied and even though I may get alienated, people can never take away the most important thing in my life: me.
And so I am left looking through the glass darkly; trying to work out the faceless expressions of the people who never know my inner self, who always have and always will be: on the other side of the looking glass of my soul.
ADHD and AS aren’t diseases, they’re not conditions that can be solved with medicines and therapy, doctors and consultants. To move towards equality, everybody must be recognised as having something worthwhile to give to society, no matter what ‘conditions’ they have.
This is why we all must support such campaigns as Time to Change, to talk about Mental Health discrimination and how we can work to end it.
A main factor is that people are afraid to talk about Mental Health in today’s society. But yet they will still judge a person on it. ADHD and AS are invisible, in the mind, but the way I personally have been treated is if I had a stamp saying ‘outcast’ on my forehead.
All we need to do is get people to talk about Mental Health, to understand and appreciate it, to accept it and, finally, to change.