…as a neurodivergent non-binary lesbian
I absolutely hated school with a fiery passion born in the depths of hell. Those were, by far, the worst years of my life. I am glad that I survived them, but there were a few moments where I almost didn’t. If my circumstances had been slightly different, and I had access to guns… who knows what I might have done.
So, here’s a list of ways that school made me depressed and suicidal.
My parents not giving a shit about my general well-being
This is point #1 for a reason. If my parents had been even slightly emotionally competent, school wouldn’t have been so bad, because they would have helped me to find solutions for most of my problems there. Instead, their attempts to “help” often made things so much worse that I figured I was better off just dealing with things on my own. Which generally meant hiding and dissociating because I didn’t have the faintest clue how to actually solve anything. I was just a little kid!
My parents were the ones who made me go there. I was completely miserable there. I’m not sure if they noticed. I really genuinely don’t know if they were completely oblivious to how much I was suffering, or if they knew. And if they did know, were they completely incapable of helping even if they wanted to, or did they simply not care? Oh shit the kid has feelings! Our solution to feelings is generally just to drink and smoke them away but we can’t give our kid alcohol and cigarettes…. or can we?
Oh, hey, maybe that’s why they kept trying to get me to drink and smoke. Awww, they were trying to help, how adorable.
Anyway, you get the point: parents totally incompetent.
Because of my parents being totally incompetent, the problems caused by everything else in this list was amplified quite a lot. I had no role models, and no safe place to go to for support.
Whenever someone told me to do something, I thought I had to do as they asked. Even if I hated it. Even if it made me feel violated and terrible. My parents made me go here, surely they know what’s best? And if so, surely these people they sent me to must also somehow know best? Therefore I should do as they say, otherwise my parents might reject me. Being rejected by their parents is one of the worst fates a little kid can possibly imagine, and they’ll go to amazing lengths to avoid it!
Kids aren’t allowed to say no.
As a kid, did you ever try just saying no to homework or tests? How well did that turn out? You’d probably get into a lot of trouble for that kind of thing, and end up being pressured into doing it anyway, right?
What about saying no to school entirely, and just not going? I tried that when I was 5, on my first day of pre-school (kindergarten). No amount of clinging under the table and kicking and screaming and crying and begging and pleading changed the outcome. They still made me go. That day, my spirit was broken. I learned that it doesn’t matter how I feel – I’m not allowed to say no.
How useful is it for a child to learn to never say no to adults when rapists, molesters, kidnappers, etc exist?
How convenient is it for governments to have a population trained to never say no to authority?
Always being The Odd One Out
I should also probably point out that I’m definitely not neurotypical.
- Nobody else seemed bothered by the bright lights
- Nobody else seemed bothered by the loud bells
- Nobody else seemed bothered by the hot sun
- Nobody else seemed bothered by the cold in winter
- Nobody else seemed bothered by perfumes and strong chemical fragrances
- Nobody else seemed bothered by the people constantly talking
Like, why were all these kids so energetic and constantly talking about the most inane bullshit? I just wanted to curl up in a ball and sleep forever.
It was quite apparent to me that I was not like the others in a multitude of ways. I often thought “I’m not normal. There must be something wrong with me.”
I’ve heard that many autistic people mask and try to “act normal”, but I couldn’t even do that. I didn’t have the faintest clue where to start. It just seemed too overwhelming and hard, so I didn’t even try.
Having to wear a dress
I’m a non-binary lesbian with masculine-leaning tendencies. A dress is not something I would ever wear willingly under any circumstances. Being forced to wear one every day for about 8 years felt like absolute shit. I’m convinced that this is a large part of the reason I was so dissociated from my body for years.
I felt violated and disgusting in it. I couldn’t stand to look at myself. I could barely stand to even exist. I couldn’t understand how kids willingly wore their uniforms even after school hours – as soon as I got home, I took that filth off of me and put on proper clothes!
Back then though, I had no idea I was a lesbian, and I had never heard of the concept of being non-binary. The other girls seemed fine with the dresses, and most women around me and portrayed on TV wore dresses, so I felt very alienated.
Wearing a dress was bad enough, but having to get undressed in front of classmates? And everyone else seeming fine with it? What kind of insane sadist thought that this could ever possibly be a good idea?
I never felt safe in changing rooms. I couldn’t understand why everyone around me seemed so comfortable. They were just casually chatting while getting undressed in front of each other. It was maddening! I didn’t trust any of these people and didn’t want them seeing my skin or my underwear, it felt way too personal and intimate.
So I wore my P.E. shorts and shirt under my dress so that when I had to get changed, I could just take off the stupid dress and I’d automatically be ready for P.E. without anyone seeing anything private.
And then afterward, I’d just put the stupid dress back on over it. Yeah, over my sweaty clothes. Because it was better than feeling even more violated by taking it off in front of people.
I also started to wear the P.E. shorts under the dress on other days when we didn’t actually have a P.E. class, because I felt so much better with pants on. I felt safer. If the wind blew the stupid dress up, I’d still have the shorts protecting my privacy.
Cold Concrete Cruelty
Before High School, girls were allowed to wear pants in winter. I loved winter. I still do, even though the cold disagrees with me. I think it is quite literally because this was the only time I felt somewhat comfortable at school. I actually almost felt like a person when I could wear pants, and less like a violated prisoner of gender roles.
I was always the first to start wearing pants when it got close to winter, and I kept on wearing them as long as I could get away with it after winter ended, even when it was actually quite warm. I overheated a bit, but it was still worth it.
At the high school I spent one year at (worst year of my life), the only option they had for girls to wear on their legs in winter was really thin stockings in addition to the stupid skirt and blouse. Thin stockings! That’s all. Holy fuck, I was so cold every day it was ridiculous. At break times I would spend every second I could standing in the sun to warm up. Those were the only moments of comfort I got in an otherwise torturous day. But that was only a short period of time every day – the rest of the time we were in cold concrete classrooms with no heating. My feet were numb. I thought this was unreasonably cruel, but once again, everyone else seemed completely unbothered by it.
Years later, I learned about a thing called Raynaud’s Syndrome, where a person’s blood vessels contract and don’t warm up the extremities properly. Well, that explains a lot. But I didn’t know about that back then. I also didn’t tell anyone about my troubles back then because I didn’t think anyone actually cared about me, and I was afraid that telling anyone anything about me would just make things worse.
I couldn’t take the classes I wanted to
Something that really pissed me off was when they split up the boys and girls for woodworking and needlework classes. I wanted to do woodworking, but they wouldn’t let me because the girls had to do needlework. There was no choice. I was so angry in that class, and I spent a bit of time imagining creative ways to use knitting needles to kill people. I never actually tested my theories though.
I haven’t even gotten to the bullies yet. As you can imagine, being the odd one out in so many ways results in being targeted by jerks. And oh my, were there a LOT of jerks around! Even the few friends I had didn’t want to be seen with me because they’d get bullied by association, so I spent most of my time alone.
The class I was in from Grade 1 all the way up to Grade 8 was full of some of the most awful monster children imaginable. The teachers didn’t even know what to do with them. They made at least two teachers cry, and one other stormed out of the class swearing in frustration.
These kids encouraged each other to be mean, they would dare each other to do mean things in order for them to “fit in” with the group of jerks.
On one level, I knew these kids were fucked up, but on another level I also doubted myself, and thought that maybe I was somehow the problem. My mother actually said to me once that perhaps the reason the bullies at school were picking on me was because God was punishing me for something, and that I should think about that. Thanks, mom! That’s so helpful! Not!
There were also sadistic teachers at school for some reason. How people like that get hired to work with children is beyond me. The Grade 1 teacher was constantly bitching at everyone, and once pulled on a boy’s ear so hard she ripped it open and he was bleeding all over everything.
There was another bitch who just enjoyed any excuse to hit us. Your parents forgot to sign your homework? Okay, I’ll just hit you in front of everyone while laughing maniacally. It’s the end of the year and I won’t get to see you guys next year? Okay, I’ll take all the boys out and give them one last whipping for old time’s sake!
Another large, intimidating male teacher had this big whip he kept at the front of his class that he liked to show off with and randomly threaten kids with. He did occasionally use it on someone, too, but mostly it was the constant threatening that was scary. It never got used on me, but it was still scary.
All of these people were interacting with kids under 12. Apparently nobody thought this was a problem.
I’m also certain that these abusive teachers made the monster bully children even more fucked up in the head. Those kids would brag to each other about getting beaten by their parents or teachers, and they’d show off the bruises to each other like they were trophies. Did they act worse to get in trouble, so that they’d get beaten, so that they’d get a new trophy to show off? Who knows.
Teachers generally acted like everything was fine, everything was all normal. They said things like: “These are the best years of your lives! Someday when you’re an adult, you’ll wish you could relive these moments!”
Oh, okay then. So life only gets worse from here on out? Not exactly very motivational. Why bother even living, then?
It also made me believe I was somehow crazy or broken for not being happy with the way things were. Knowing what I know now, I’d say that the teachers who said those things were probably uncomfortable with the kids not being super grateful for all this supposedly excellent education they were receiving, so they had to guilt-trip the kids in order to make themselves feel better, because the alternative would be to question whether they are actually doing a good thing at all… and that would put their career at risk, so they couldn’t even go there. Nope, too scary, these damn kids are just being all ungrateful, they should be happy we’re doing all this hard stuff for their own good!
I’m lucky I didn’t entirely fall for this shit though: I had hope that somewhere out there, far far away, there was a better life for me. I couldn’t imagine where or when, or what it’d be like though.
My clueless parents added on some gaslighting to the pile too. For example; My mother told me that I enjoyed pre-school. The reason she said this was because I had said I wanted to stay there forever. The reason I said that was because I was convinced that what was coming up in the future could only possibly be worse. It’s not that I liked it. It’s just that it seemed like the more familiar version of hell compared to the much more complex insanity I was going to be subjected to in the future. Unfortunately, I wasn’t wrong.
They just saw my reactions and interpreted it in whatever way they preferred to, and then acted like that was the truth. It didn’t matter how I really felt. I felt like I was living in a different version of reality than they were.
It was at some point during my Cold Concrete Cruelty year that I couldn’t take it anymore, and borrowed my dad’s big hunting knife, locked myself in my room and refused to go to school. He was bashing on my door, screaming at me, and I was crying and told him I’d kill myself if he made me go. He just got even angrier because my inconvenient feelings were making him late for work. Because I didn’t actually want to die, I eventually gave up and went to school.
The next year, my parents sent me to a new private school, which was a lot better. But still, it had taken them 8 entire years to actually do anything remotely helpful about school. A lot of damage had already been done by then, and I still had nobody to talk to about it.
I felt as though grades measured my worth as a person
In the first few years, I was lucky enough to be relatively good at The School Game. I didn’t talk to people, didn’t break any rules, and just did whatever I was told because I was afraid that any defiance would surely mean the end of my life somehow. This resulted in generally good grades. This resulted in my parents being proud of me. I liked that they were proud of me. Despite school being utter hell, being good at The School Game brought me some comfort and made me feel like I had at least some worth as a person.
I want to emphasize that The School Game is really the worst game I have ever played though. I mean, it’s not fun at all, and everyone acts like it’s real and important. It’s not real, and it’s not important. School grades are just points in a really boring game, they don’t measure intelligence in any kind of meaningful way whatsoever.
With that said, I did eventually grow tired of The School Game, and stopped grinding so hard at it. This, as you can probably imagine, resulted in Some Drama about grades at home, with my dad in particular. He liked science and maths, and therefore, I had to be good at those things also. If I wasn’t, it reflected badly on his ego, and that was unacceptable.
When I finally got out of that hell physically, I was still there mentally
After I graduated, I still had nightmares about school for more than 10 years.
I learned so many bad habits there that have taken me years to unpack and replace with better habits. This is still an ongoing project, and I’m likely going to be working on this for the rest of my life.
I also still felt pretty alone in my hatred of the experience. Most people around me didn’t really get it. There were a few who did, but I had to be careful who I talked to about it. People can get pretty defensive if you dare to suggest that one of the pillars of modern society isn’t actually all sunshine and roses filled with glorious rainbows of happiness.
Or even if they do acknowledge that it wasn’t perfect, they still dismiss it in other ways. Like “Oh, back in my day it was so much worse!” or “Yeah I got bullied too, but I stood up for myself and then they stopped”. I think those are just fancy ways of saying “fuck you, stop whining”.
Here are some common arguments people like to throw around when I suggest that school was 100% detrimental to my well-being and that I didn’t learn anything useful there whatsoever:
“But where would you learn to read and write?!?!”
It doesn’t take 12 years to learn to read and write. I could read and write at a basic level before I even went to grade 1.
And that was before the internet! Nowadays kids are learning to read and write even earlier than ever simply because of technology. Words are EVERYWHERE. It’d be pretty hard for most kids to somehow manage to avoid learning to read and write. Even if they somehow did… does it really take 12 years of hell to learn to read and write? It does not. A kid who wants to read and write will learn to read and write. It’s not rocket science.
Even if they need someone to help them, it still is very unlikely to take 12 years.
Also, how many adults who went through 12 years of schooling do you know who are still pretty bad at spelling and grammar? I can think of quite a few.
“But school teaches you how to socialize!!!!”
Hahahahaha! HAHA! HAHAHA!
Really? Does it now? School taught me that people are scary and dangerous and that hiding from them as much as possible is the best way to avoid pain and suffering. Socialization my ass.
Also, what about all the “sit down and shut up!” and “no talking in class!“? Where’s the focus on socialization? There isn’t any. It’s really just 99% memorization and a general waste of brain power. Which brings me to…
“But school teaches you HOW to learn!”
Okay. So that means that true learning is all about memorizing facts from a book by repeating them over and over again, then regurgitating them for a few tests, and then forgetting them entirely because you never actually need to use them again? OH! That’s totally right! That explains why so many people are gullible idiots who just repeat what they’ve heard elsewhere and don’t actually think for themselves.
“But school teaches critical thinking!”
Yeahhhh, no it doesn’t, see the previous point.
Ever tried to question a teacher and got a response like “this is just the way it works, do as you’re told!” … that’s the opposite of teaching critical thinking.
“But the kids in Africa don’t have school, you should be grateful for your education!”
No, I should not be grateful for being subjected to abuse.
Oh, and I am in Africa. HAHA!