Being an Autistic bullying victim led to my schizophrenia
At this time of year I often find myself reflecting on my experience as a Schizophrenic person; October 2023 marks 15 years since it became clear to me that I have a psychotic condition. The world is abjectly cruel to Autistic people. Life as an Autistic adult is incredibly difficult, and my life as an Autistic young person was no different. School was a nightmare for so many reasons, but one of the defining parts of my experience was the incessant bullying I experienced. I recently discussed my experiences with being Autistic and Schizophrenic, but I think it is important to recognise how bullying by both students and teachers contributed to my psychosis.
My experience as an Autistic bullying victim
The bullying started in Junior school. For those outside of the UK, junior school is years 3 to 6, roughly aged 7 to 11 years old. Students had realised I was different. I was far beyond them academically, I wasn’t interested in sports or typical “boy” things. I communicated differently and socialised differently. Teachers at the time would tell my mother that the bullying was my fault for being different. If only I would act more like everyone else, I would be much happier. I was undiagnosed Autistic, and rather than accept my differences, teachers sought to extinguish them.
Secondary school (high school to my American readers) was no different. The main addition was that I was being assaulted physically on a daily basis. Every part of who I was became a target for other young people. Even those who had no record of bullying would treat me badly. I was unable to trust anyone, least of all teachers. My school was known as a good place to send your children, and yet the teachers at that school drove me to the point of wishing I was no longer alive. It was a frightening and lonely experience.
How does this relate to my Autistic and Schizophrenic experience?
I experience a great deal of paranoia. Voices have historically focused on how I am not real, the world is not real, that people are planning to harm me. They have also tried to convince me that I am unsafe with people I love. This in itself is an isolating experience, but I feel it is deeply connected to the trauma of my educational environment. Teachers would lock me in rooms, shout at me, tell me I was lying about the way I was treated in school. I was gaslit and abused by the people who were meant to nurture my learning. The constant fear of bullying and assault by other students left me feeling as though I could be attacked at any moment.
I believe that the hallucinations and delusions I have experienced as a Schizophrenic person are intimately linked to the way I was treated in school. School may not have been the whole story, but it formed a great deal of the trauma that I struggle to reconcile to this day. Even writing this, I feel a sadness for the child I wasn’t able to be. A child that needed support and protection from the school, but instead learned that his reality and the people within it was untrustworthy and volatile. The truth is that since my school day’s I have felt alone, trying to make sense of the cruelty of this world. All because I was different.
What was the fallout of bullying a young person into schizophrenia and psychosis
In October 2008 I began hearing voices. A week later I would smoke cannabis for the first time. Within a month I was drinking and smoking cannabis almost daily. By the end of 2010 I was daily using drugs such as mephedrone (MCAT), ketamine, ecstacy, and speed. By 2013 I was using opioids such as tramadol and dihydrocodeine (DF118) on a daily basis alongside high doses of Diazepam (Valium). Within a year I would be a patient at the local A+E on a weekly basis for morphine and oxycodone overdoses. In 2015 I was faced with a difficult and life changing choice; get sober or die. I did get sober, but it cost me two lengthy stays on a psychiatric inpatient ward.
We have to stop the bullying of Autistic young people
Autistic people report bullying in up to 50% of cases. Remember, that’s the ones who report it, many of our young people deal with this pain in silence and isolation. I highly recommend reading this study by Pearson, Rose & Rees (2023) about the victimisation of Autistic people. Bullying and victimisation is costing our lives every single day. Even those of us who do not die in the literally sense face the loss of our happiness and connection to the world. This kind of bullying tears apart the mind and leaves us to try and reassemble ourselves in a world that keeps undoing our healing. We deserve better, our children deserve better.
It’s time the world did better.