An open letter to anyone else who is ‘outside the box’

I wanted to write to you because I wanted to share something with you. I heard that you have had some struggles. I do not know how it is all going now but I wanted to reach out and tell you my story. I do not know if it will help or resonate but here goes…

At school when I was younger I used to get a hard time from other girls. I seemed to get a harder time than others and I never understood why.  I did not feel particularly comfortable with all girls just a select few – I often felt like the odd one out. I got on better with boys because they are straight forward (not much underlying meaning) and I had a few select ‘safe’ girl friends – ones I could rely on. In school, I was bullied, It was really hard for me as I was kind and caring and couldn’t understand why I was getting such a hard time. I also struggled with everyday life and keeping on top of my studies, I just became very anxious and found everything difficult. Even though I was capable it did not shine through at school.

When I went away to University a lot changed for me. I grew in confidence and I met people who seemed to be more like me. I still struggled fitting in with many of the groups of people that I met -but no-one knew that about me, I was friendly and outgoing so everyone thought I was fine but I just felt on the outside of most groups. I also still struggled with organising myself and keeping on top of studies still makes me anxious.

I have realised over the years I am more naïve than many of my peers – in the fact that I do not have an underlying cunningness that some others seem to have (I cannot fathom why people have to be mean) and I am proud to think that way. It has meant I have probably been taken advantage of by friends in the past but I have been strong enough to walk away and learn from those situations.

I just wanted to say that I struggled when I was younger but in the last 20 years I have completed 2 PGCEs which I loved and am now doing a Masters, I retrained as a teacher and enjoy working with children. Most importantly I have a wonderful group of friends who I trust and who I fit with.

I’ve had a few counsellors along the way some good and some rubbish – it is important to find someone who ‘gets you’. I now know that the way I think about things is different to other people and that is why I couldn’t fit in with everyone. It is also why I become more anxious than others. Being neurodiverse can present in lots of different ways; I get stressed out because I do not have an internal clock like some others do, I can’t always read other’s meanings or intentions but I am empathetic so I am often a good counsellor to my friends, I also find it hard to tackle new situations. This has no bearing on what I can achieve (as I said before I am teaching and doing a Masters) I just have to be kind to myself and realise I am different and I do get overwhelmed and when that happens I have to take a step back.

I have no idea if this resonates with you or even if it helps to hear I had a tough time and have come out the other side. I actually think more people struggle with this than we realise – in one way or another – but it is not something which is discussed.  

I hope opening up like this is helpful – I think the best advice I can give you is be kind to yourself. We do not all have the same neurology, we do not all have the same life experiences and we have to work with the tools we have. We are all unique and sometimes that uniqueness shines brightest as we get older and learn how to own it.

Published by OutsideTheBoxHelen

Hi, I’m Helen this I am autistic, ADD & part of a neurodivergent family. I am also an academic in Autism research and a teacher. This is my blog about my journey through life while being an ‘outside the box’ person; sharing real life experiences, poetry and academic research on neurodivergence.

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