I went a few times to Britain during the summer, for language camps, and I loved it. When I saw that my studies here went going too well, I asked my parents to let me go study one year in Britain.
I was 16, it was in 1999 and we thought I was a normal person.
I went off to camp for a couple of weeks then on to the first host family. I was going there with EF, an organisation that does that kind of programs.
I had had the great idea to put “spirituality” in my interests, so I ended up in – extremely – religious family. The first one was a Jehovah witness woman and I moved only a few weeks after arriving. Then there was the Church of England family, who had told my visiting parents “we want Marie to be happy” (as if you can “make” someone happy…). I have healed most of my emotional scars from there.
The EF coordinators and host families thought I wasn’t making any efforts. (By the time I had my major break down and came home and saw a psychiatrist, I had used up all my serotonin. No efforts, eh?)
My French teacher from college found me a room – I rented it to a really kind woman – and I got to finish my first year. Not having had enough of Britain, I stayed another year. Luckily, my then boyfriend was off to Uni so his parents took me in.
Throughout college, I was bullied by even younger students. I was weird and my boyfriend was into rock and a sensitive guy, so that made us prime targets. I had massive break downs regularly and felt continuously tired, but I carried on regardless.
Then I, too, went to Uni. Chester College, now a university, was really a great place. I loved my studies – International development studies and Spanish – and made a few friends – well, tried to.
My boyfriend and I split up and I got together with another guy. Just the right type for a fragile person: drug addict and verbally violent. By the end of the year, mum said I was behaving like a beaten woman.
Then, in my third year, I was stressing more about my studies – doing a dissertation isn’t all that easy for me – and I met a great French guy, who had the great idea to leave halfway through the year. Between my studies, his leave and how bad the split-up from the previous guy went, I just couldn’t cope any more. I had a month of break-downs until I got home.
That’s when I ended up finally in front of a psychiatrist who started the diagnosis process: Autism Spectrum Disorder.
I came home 8 years ago last February and I still have scars, both physical and emotional. I still push away memories from that time because they hurt too much. I still wonder if I’ll be able one day to go back to Chester to show the beautiful place to my partner.
To the people who thought they were such great Christians: compassion and love are, to me, both important Christian traits. Some of you totally lacked in them.
To the people who played me up, bullied me and generally thought I was there for their entertainment: I hope you found your heart since then.
To the people who tried to be there for me, to be my friends: thank you so much. I know being friend with me is complicated, and it was even more so back then. Thank you for trying, for being there, regardless of how I reacted at times.
I woke up needing to write this and publish it, more than 8 years later. I don’t regret going there, I had great experiences that I miss, met great people that I miss ; all this wouldn’t have been possible if I had known earlier I am ASD. But I also have scars that still need healing.
People, when you meet someone « different », remember where your heart is. Please. For them.