When reading journaling prompts, some ask the journaler to go back into the past or spring forward to the future. There is in fact FutureMe, a site that has you write letters to yourself that will be E-mailed to you on a set date in the future. This is an interesting experiment, because it allows the future self to see what the past self was like without bias. Then again, writing to your past self is a good way to reflect on how your life has changed. This is a letter to my twelve-year-old self.
Dear twelve-year-old Astrid,
This is you speaking, fifteen years on. I am 27-years-old now and looking back on your life. I see your struggles. You are becoming aware of your social and emotional problems, yet needing to hide the their true extent because showing would mean you’re stupid. Let me assure you, you’re not stupid. You are autistic, and many people who have the cognitive abilities you do, are.
You’ve just received the report from Dr. M, the educational psychologist who evaluated you in what would become the final and successful attempt at getting you a recommendation for mainstream schooling. As you are aware, he recommended you use the remainder of the school year to sit in with a mainstream class to see if it’d work. Last month, you also went to the open house at the academic magnet secondary school/grammar school your sister’s friend’s big sister is attending. You are excited about going there. I appreciate that. I admire your optimism, giving each new start a new chance for success. At 27, I’m quite disillusioned. Grammar school was pretty bad, but I know you persevered. I wish I had that capacity now.
At the same time that you are preparing to go to mainstream grammar school, you fantsize about getting help for your social and emotional problems. I admire you for having devised your own tretment goals and thinking of ways to reach them. Sadly, you didn’t get help with this. I would’ve liked to tell you that I do, but let me say, psychiatric institutions are not great. Back in your day, there was a documentary about a young woman who was too intelligent for the system for people with intellectual disabilities but didn’t fit in with the mental health system either. You feared, or maybe you hoped, that you’d one day be her, because in the end she was accepted into a suitable treatment facility. I identify strongly with her, although I’m no longer locked up.
I know life isn’t easy for you being twelve. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you that it’ll get better. You hope to be a mathematician or linguist when you are my age. While I did study linguistics briefly, I had to dorp out due to mental health problems. I ended up in a psychiatric institution, and I’ve still not found the right treatment or care.
I know you struggle with losing your vision. I still do. I haven’t become completely, totally blind yet, but I can only see a little bit of light now. A few months ago, I went to have surgery to hopefully restore some sight, but it failed. The good news is, accepting blindness will become easier. I still struggle, but not nearly as much as you do.
Oh, and friendships will also get easier. I know you don’t have any friends. Guess what? I’m married now. While I don’t have any friends besides my husband either, I do have some connection to other people. You know, the Internet will come into your life, and this is great. Through the Internet, I’ve been able to connect with other people and find out tht I’m not alone on this journey. There are other children like you, and there are adults like me. This is sad, but it may help you feel less alone.
Keep on fighting, Astrid. I know life ahead will be hard for you, and even now I find it hard to appreciate the accoplishments you were so badly looking forward to, but as I said, I admire your perseverance. Without that, I would not have been where I am now.
Your 27-year-old self