Finding Healing From Abuse and Mental Illness as Someone With Asperger's
If you’ve experienced sexual abuse or assault, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact The National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.
I wanted to write a post about my experience with mental illness and trauma as a person who is on the autism spectrum. When I was in my last year of middle school in 2005, they let eighth graders join the high school marching band. I thought this was the coolest thing ever. Despite how cool I thought it was being in band with the high school kids, I quickly found myself isolated as many of the high schoolers didn’t want to hang out with the middle schoolers like me. However, there was one guy, a sophomore, who seemed to go out of his way to get to know me. I soon became friends with him. He was two years older than me; I was 14 at the time.
He was really friendly with me and included me when other high schoolers wanted nothing to do with those of us in the middle school. However, soon this other guy started doing things to me I didn’t like. He would “pants” me in public. On hot summer days during marching practice, we would often wear gym shorts to march in. This guy started pulling down my shorts on breaks and everyone would laugh at me. I told him to stop, but he didn’t listen to me.
Then he started touching me. This progressed until he was grabbing my private areas with his hand. He would do this when no one else was around or when we were on the bus on the way home from football games at night. Again, I told him not to do this. Finally, one day I had arrived at the high school early for a band competition. He pulled me into the uniform storage closet and raped me. I screamed, but no one heard. This was the climax. This event would wound me profoundly, but it was just the beginning.
When I got to high school, I was often bullied. Many of my peers perceived me to be gay, and when I came to realize I actually was gay, this made things worse. My own parents were conservative Christians, and didn’t necessarily agree with my coming out as gay and this made life difficult for me. By this time I was struggling with really bad mental health issues and trauma from the sexual abuse.
I had been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome as a kid. By the time I was a teenager, due to the abuse and bullying, I had severe depression as well. I didn’t really have any friends. I slept all day and had delusions of worthlessness and dirtiness. At night I would have hallucinations that there were monsters in my room. I would wake up at night with blood curdling screams. Several times neighbors called police on us because the screams were so bad. I barely graduated high school on time because of them. I had multiple hospitalizations due to suicidal thoughts, including one in 2009 where I nearly succeeded. And after high school, I flunked out of my freshman year in college because of my disabilities. When I came home, I realized I had take proactive steps to recover.
I committed to counseling long term, and always took my medicine despite all of the side effects I had with it. Getting the help I needed wasn’t easy, and convincing myself to accept my Asperger’s, depression, and the limitations they imposed on me was challenging at times. When I came home, I started receiving Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income due to my disabilities. I have to take a couple different kinds of psychiatric medication (an antidepressant and an antipsychotic) to control the depression and psychosis from it. Medicaid paid for all of the treatment and medication I needed to recover, for which I am incredibly thankful. Gradually my relationship with my parents improved, and my sexuality is no longer an issue for them. In 2013, I got a job as a lot technician at Home Depot, went back to school, and became a Christian again.
Today, I am on the verge of starting an internship with a local newspaper, and take three to six credits a semester at Kutztown University, where I’m studying Professional Writing. I am currently a semester away from graduating. Because I got a job in 2013, I qualified for Social Security Disability Insurance and Medicare in 2017. I feel proud knowing I am a worker, and was able to get a job and qualify for Medicare. I like working and interacting with other people, despite my Asperger’s and limited social skills.
I credit my faith as a Christian with playing a very important role in my recovery from psychotic depression. One of the biggest challenges I faced was living up to the expectation that I would have to turn the other cheek and forgive the man who raped me. As I progressed as a Christian, I realized letting go of my anger and forgiving people who wounded me became an important part of the healing process. One of the most important events of my Christian walk was on November 12, 2017 when I was chrismated into the Eastern Orthodox Church. Joining the Orthodox Church capped off a whirlwind journey to healing. I truly am home now.
In 2014, even before I became Orthodox, I had been asking an Orthodox saint named Basil of Mangazea to pray for me, and help me to forgive the man who so profoundly wounded me as a teenager. Saint Basil was subject to verbal and physical abuse just as I was, but stayed faithful to the Orthodox faith. I believe he watches over me. Thanks to St. Basil’s prayers for me and Christ’s healing work through the cross, I was able to let go out all my hurt and anger, and forgive the people who abused and hurt me. I finally found the peace and healing I had sought for so long.
I’m actively involved in my treatment. I manage my own appointments and see my counselor and psychiatrist regularly. Taking part in my own recovery and becoming a Christian have helped me to become more resilient and self-sufficient. Becoming self-sufficient is a process with multiple steps. I am making more and more progress every day.
I know I have had a lot of challenges in the past, but I’ve come a long way since I was in high school. My words of encouragement to anyone with Asperger’s or a mental health condition are to keep fighting and not give up. There are truly wonderful Christians and people of other faiths who will love and accept you. There are services and programs to help people get treatment for mental illness. Many times, local human services agencies, churches or local nonprofit chapters of groups like NAMI can point you towards these resources. There should be no stigma for these things. And even though there is a stigma today, I am fighting to help end it.
I now realize more than ever that a disabled life is worth living. Through my Orthodox Christian faith and forgiveness, I found the healing and path to salvation I had been longing for all along.