I wanted to go in-depth into my childhood and try to work out what exactly went “wrong”
When I was assessed for Aspergers I went alone, the assessor was shocked that I hadn’t bought anyone along with me and even said that they find it easier to assess someone when they can get two different views on a person. After my assessment had finished, she told me I had an incredible knowledge of myself and my past and was surprised by my ability to be so self-aware of some of my biggest problems. I have incredibly vivid memories of certain parts of my life. Mental health has always been a big problem for me, even though I did not realise it at the time. And So I wanted to try and narrow down specific times in my life where I now realise I was receiving the effects of negative thinking and things that could have caused my problems today.
Before I started school, I spent a lot of time with my brother and cousins, we would play a lot so interacting socially was never going to be a problem. I spent time with my cousins who were roughly my age on a regular basis, so when I began nursery school aged 3 I already had a good footing on communicating with others.
The most vivid memories of this time I have, are sitting in a circle and drinking orange squash from a metallic cup, I could taste the metal in the drink, or maybe that was from the tap water. Either way, the drink was so diluted it may as well have been water. The cups were horrible shades of metallic colours, some where pink, some blue and from what I remember green and yellow. The colours reminded me of the way oil looked when the sun shone on it. And they are battered to death, they looked like ancient artefacts. They were cold and horrible. The only redeeming feature from this period in my life was the biscuit we would get at the same time. A digestive biscuit, which I still associate the taste of metalic diluted orange squash with.
Sometimes we got to play outside in a tiny fenced off area. It was fenced off by one of those chain link fences. I remember holding on to the fence and looking at the field beyond it. The field that would soon be destroyed and turned into my second primary school. We could play on little plastic tricycles. There weren’t enough to go around and from what I remember they tried to make it fair, by only letting people use them for a short time. I remember not wanting to use the trikes. I didn’t want to hurt myself, I didn’t want everyone would stare at me wondering when it would be there turn, I didn’t like being stared at. I didn’t want to fight with anyone, especially if they really wanted to use a trike, I was happy to pretty much do nothing from what I remember.
In the classroom, we had this strange water “pit” I guess you would call it, you pour water in one side and it made a wheel turn. I didn’t like this because it made my clothes wet. I didn’t like being wet. We also had a similar sand pit, both of these “pits” reminded me of sinks or baths. They were large plastic tubs on what looked like table legs. I used to play with the sand a lot, trying to make sand shapes in the plastic moulds. It never worked, the sand was too dry.
I remember cooking, well. Not exactly cooking, watching a teacher bake biscuits and not being able to touch anything. We had to wear these aprons that were too long for us, I hated it. I didn’t know who else had worN it, it felt dirty. The biscuits annoyed me because they tasted the way the nursery smelt, like burnt biscuits. They had a weird combination of sugary and savoury tastes, with a bit of burntness mixed in. They didn’t look burnt. At the same time they also had the texture of rubber, when I bit into it, it was almost like a cake, the way a Jafa cake tastes, except I hate Jafa cakes and this is probably why.
The most important memory of my time here is my absolute terror of this bright orange climbing frame, well, not climbing frame like a thing you climb inside. It looks about a hundred years old, it was held up with poles that looked like scaffolding. Inside it was quite dark, the light from the room lit it up, but it was like a creepy orange box. kids would speed through it laughing not me, I was terrified I would get stuck in it. I always felt I was fatter than other children and that i would get stuck and die in it. These are incredibly morbid thoughts for a 3-year-old. I only ever went inside that climbing frame once, to try to face my fears. But I got stuck. I got stuck because I refused to move once I got halfway through. I cried and cried. I’m not sure if someone got me out or if a teacher tried to coax me out. For some reason I feel that I got shouted at, or maybe angrily spoke to for getting stuck, I’m sure the teacher must have known I was scared of the climbing frame. I never went near it again.
The only other thing I remember from this time, is when Santa visited and gave us all a present. I received a small blue plastic bear. And whilst it was truly terrible and fell apart almost instantly. it meant a lot to me and for a long time became a symbol of Christmas for me.
Thinking back to my time at nursery has made me realise something. I wasn’t interacting with others. I have no memories of other children from nursery because I didn’t acknowledge them. It genuinely surprises me that not one teacher ever remarked that I was socially outcasting myself. I used to take a toy with me every day to the nursery. It would get put on a shelf until the end of the day. I had a lot of cuddly toy cats. I think it was usually one of those I bought with me.
I was destined to be a crazy cat lady age 3.
But, on reflecting on my childhood, even at this age. It is so clear to me that I must have been on the autism spectrum. I was attending nursery in the early 90s. Maybe even then, 20 years ago. It wasn’t something teachers were really trained to look out for. I wasn’t disruptive, I was probably just “quiet” to them. And I guess being a quiet child isn’t cause for alarm when there are disruptive children running around breaking things and hurting people. A quiet child is actually probably a gift.
The Elephant in the Room