Autism & Trauma: My Experiences

by Anwen Ricketts

“I wept because I was re-experiencing the enthusiasm of my childhood; I was once again a child, and nothing in the world could cause me harm.”

Paulo Coelho, The Pilgrimage

My childhood was, I’m told, a happy one, but I do not remember the happy times, and maybe that speaks for itself. I remember feeling “odd”. Hiding under tables, and being shouted at for it, which made me crawl even further under the table, wriggling as if to worm myself into the carpet where I could live undisturbed by people who I didn’t understand, but understood enough to know I wasn’t well liked.

I had friends. But friendships can be turbulent, and for an undiagnosed autistic, they can be down right painful. I was obsessed with play-pretend, and liked to be the one to throw water in the garden on a hot summer day, but the second someone threw water back I would be screaming and in pain, emotionally and physically. Later on, the physical pain had a name. Sensory sensitivities. One uncomfortable thing would send me into a meltdown; something that I didn’t know how to cope with.

My parents knew something was painful to me. I was incredibly quiet, always taking things out on myself. But I had learnt from school, that if you externalise this pain, this discomfort, you get shouted at and given a detention. It was incredibly hard. Finally, at age 14, after one prior ‘inconclusive’ assessment, I was diagnosed with Autism in a Psychiatric Hospital.

I was horrified to find that so many of the young teenagers that I met in hospital were autistic, late-diagnosed, and completely overwhelmed at everything that life had to offer. We had been given poor support, poor education, and as a result became unhealthy autistics.

There was a point in my life where I thought ‘hey, this is just how it is for autistics! Anxiety and depression are part of the bundle! I have to cope with being constantly overwhelmed, being misdiagnosed and misunderstood!’

I honestly had never considered it possible to be a healthy autistic. I had never even thought about what it might look like.

But at age 19, I am so glad to be able to say I am finally becoming the healthy autistic I couldn’t have imagined. I am working through my trauma with a therapist who understands how my brain works, and am tweaking my medications to best suit my symptoms. I am not as anxious (something I never thought would happen, having been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder a few years ago), and am, more importantly, still here!

A few final words: Your life path can change. It hurts, but it doesn’t make you less likely to succeed. 

If past-trauma is controlling your life, looming over you daily, please reach out. Know it is okay to find life traumatic. Your trauma is valid, and there is hope!

For more information on what a healthy autistic could look like:

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An autistic woman learning who she is and who she can be

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