Teenage me, I remember how you used to walk around with your head held down looking sad. You were filled with anxiety and were dealing with a great deal of depression. Life at home was not easy for you. You had too much to deal with. You went to school and you didn’t fit in. You were a teenager but mentally and emotionally you felt like a child. You sat in class and watched your peers, who were dressed in designer clothes and shoes, connect with each other, and you felt left out. Then you got out of school and went home to deal with abuse. It wasn’t easy when the utilities got shut off. It was no fun doing your homework by candlelight and not having much food to eat. It was no fun taking a cold bath in the winter because there was no heat or hot water.
Teenage me, you looked outside of home, seeking a connection with anyone you could find. It was hard because you had limited social skills. I’m glad you connected with some good people because if you hadn’t I wouldn’t be who I am today. There were some people you met who knew things weren’t right at home, but you were too afraid to talk about it. Teenage me, I wish you had the courage to tell because if you had, we would have had a better life. I understand why you didn’t. The fear, the immaturity and the impaired social skills got the best of you, but you did the best you could. Teenage me, you struggled a lot with your school work, but you did manage to graduate. You didn’t get a party, but you were just happy to be done with school.
Teenage me, you grew up to be a broken and damaged adult. You were physically alive but mentally, emotionally and spiritually you felt dead. You dealt with a great deal of pain. You lost your motivation and had no hope. People talked about you, criticized you and walked out of your life because they thought you were a hopeless case. Then you became homeless. That was when you learned who your real friends were. You had people abandon you. To many people, you were never going to be productive because you were not making an attempt to live the life they felt you should have been living.
In the street you found the sense of belonging you had been looking for all your life. It took a group of “broken” people to see your beauty and value. The people on the street looked past your outward appearance and limitations and looked into your heart. They accepted you as you were and didn’t try to change you into who they felt you should have been. From that moment, you began to rise. Then you got off the street and started your journey to healing.
Younger me, I wish I could go back in time and tell you that you were not as bad as people made you out to be and you were not as bad as you felt. I also wish I could have gone back in time and told you there was a reason behind the way you were. You were born a unique individual who was designed to stand out. You struggled in school, you struggled in life and you struggled with your social and communication skills, not because you were “stupid,” but because you were born with autism spectrum disorder. On the brighter side your ASD is what fuels your creativity. I wish I could go back and share with you everything I know now so we wouldn’t have had to struggle or suffer for so long.
After years of struggling, learning most of my lessons the hard way and from therapy, I know the only thing I needed in my life was support. I needed someone to get to know me for who I am and not for whom they want me to be. I needed someone to invest their time in me, taking an interest in my ideas, teaching me the things I need to know and giving me that extra push when I need it. I lost a lot of years of my life, but I survived every obstacle.
The Mighty is asking the following: Write a letter to your teenaged self when you were struggling to accept your differences. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.