• Growing up with Asperger's

Growing up with Asperger's

Claire Lily Van Oirschot

I was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome when I was 16. Before then though, my life hadn't been the easiest...  When I was 3 my family moved to Holland.

When I was 4 or 5 my family split up. I'm not sure when they actually got divorced. But.....my dad seemed to move on from my mum pretty quickly. He stayed with my now ex step mum. I remember my sister and I staying with him in this flat on weekends. It was probably strange for me.

When I was 6 I moved back to NZ with my mum and sister. But, my sister didn't adjust well to being back in NZ. She moved back to Holland over a year later – from what I heard her life wasn't all that easy. She had to grow up pretty fast due to certain circumstances. I started at a kindergarten not long after I was back in NZ. My vague memories of the one I went to in Holland – I got along with the kids just fine. At this new one however, my years of bullying started. It was REALLY rough. I didn't have the coping skills to cope with it at all. I remember getting antagonised SO much I'd scream and cry. My teacher would sometimes send me to another group until things calmed down. While it was weird for me – I'm guessing it was the only way she could think of to deal with it.

Growing up with Asperger's

When I started school at 8 things only escalated. During my 12 years at school I was verbally and psychologically bullied by a crazy amount of peers. Some might think I made it worse by keeping on talking. If only I had kept my mouth shut more often. I got bullied on the bus to and from school. Sometimes it got SO bad the bus driver had to stop the bus and deal with it. It kept up year in and year out. All that crap REALLY affected me – made me wish I could've sat by myself.

I was hassled in the classroom as well as the playground. Being called names and being belittled. I think my self esteem and self worth started plummeting from that. Even now – I often don't think I'm worth much to people sometimes. Especially when so-called friends overreact to things I say or do. I know I'm not perfect – but who is!

My mum said I started having weight issues from about the age of 14. Because my friends were getting a bit older and they started doing their own thing. Therefore....I was alone a lot more. So – I started comfort eating. It's definitely gotten worse over the years.

Now I'm WAY overweight. While I keep myself busy and I do my best to eat healthily – my self esteem isn't great. I struggle to make good decisions with food. Guess you could say I'm a “carb-o-holic” and a “sugar-holic”. Sometimes I'll be in the right “frame of mind” as I call it – and eat really well. But then something really positive or negative will happen and....well....the rest is history. My life is an emotional rollercoaster. Drives me insane.

As for studying at school – that was another frustration. My mum is pretty academic – she has her masters in education. And yet she struggled to coach me with my assignments. Both school and polytech ones. Even now I hate studying. I found writing essays a real chore. Taking information from books and putting them in my own words was almost impossible for me. Having my mum going on at me about it didn't help. She often thought I was being lazy – when all I was doing was going at my own pace. I wish she could've understood that.

Growing up with Asperger's

Even before I was officially diagnosed with Asperger's my peers had no problems with hassling me about being different. Calling me “handicapped” and “weird” - it hurt a lot. I couldn't help the fact that I acted differently – with my unusual way of saying things or my actions. Having my idiosyncrasies pointed out so bluntly was hurtful and unnecessary. Now that I'm older I still have some. But – I like being a bit “strange and unusual”. I think all the best people are.

Not having my dad in my life has messed me up somewhat I think. True – he's a selfish douche bag who can be nice when he wants to be. However, he can be hurtful and nasty as well. I know I'm probably better off without him in my life – it still hurts. I can't think about him without getting all angry and emotional. Honestly – I believe it's where a lot of my psychological problems stem from. It's a long story – but I need to heal but I don't know how. I could write a whole article about my negative feelings towards him.

Not all my life has sucked thankfully. I have had many highs as well – so I do have some happiness and hope going on. I have had some incredible and unforgettable moments. For example – graduating high school. I proved everyone wrong and made it all the way through. Despite being bullied by various peers I actually enjoyed certain aspects of it. I remember enjoying both art class and choir. One of my classmates mothers was the art teacher for a while before she left. For a while we were really close. I was able to connect with her and vent my frustrations to her. As for choir – I loved singing with everyone.

I was also fairly good at English. Admittedly, I would get told off for my stories being too long and descriptive. For years I loved writing stories. I would spend hours every week just writing. Some of them of them were really good. For five years I did speech and drama classes. It took a lot of work but I ended up doing really well. It's something I'm SO glad I did. In some ways I believe it helped me become more interested in the performing arts.

Growing up with Asperger's

Since I moved to Whakatane ten years ago I have gone to a lot of theatre productions. From 2015 until this year I started auditioning for shows. It took me until this year to actually get a role. I was recently in a production of Sound of Music. I only had a couple of small roles but I absolutely loved the experience. Before I got the role I started volunteering at shows. First off I sold programmes and ushering. During two other shows I washed tea and coffee cups. And then this year I became a set painter. I never thought I'd be into that kind of thing. In the right environment however, with the right kind of people – it's possible to do things you never thought you would.

Moving away from my hometown Napier was extremely difficult. It was really strange. Over time though, it started feeling like my home. Through the various activities I've done I met new people. Some of whom became new friends, whom I've become rather close to and love a lot.

Growing up I struggled with friendships. I didn't always know who my friends really were. The best ones, the true ones are still there. I've heard this staying that goes something like “if you can count your friends on one hand you've got a lot of friends.” I definitely have more than that – so I am very lucky. Some of them I love like family, which I think is amazing.

There is SO much more I could share about my life. I just want to finish with this. Before I was diagnosed with Asperger's I felt more alone and misunderstood than I do now. Since I was diagnosed at 16 more doors have opened to me. I have gained a fervent belief that I'm not alone and that I am an amazing person . I've been doing what I can to share this part of my life with the world. So there may be more compassion, understanding and most importantly love for those of us who are a bit different.

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