No. 3 Our Narratives
This month's issue of COATA's Mental Health Monthly was a chance for our members to tell their story. In a world so rapidly evolving, the narratives of youth are lost in a sea of mass media. This is where we aim to give them voice.
Story of Self
By Leigha Plugge
Oh God am I trying so hard
I'm trying to be the person I want to be
I'm trying to be the person I know I can be
But depression is a noose around my neck
The more I try to overcome it
The tighter it wraps around my throat
Leaving me scrambling for air.
I don't want to die.
I've been there,
I've grown from that
But I can tell It's getting bad again
I can tell
I can tell because every breath is a chore
It just doesn't come naturally to me anymore.
They become more shallow
More desperate for air
And sometimes I even catch myself not breathing at all.
I can tell its bad again because of the pain in my chest
It's caving deeper each and every day,
With the pressure of all this stress.
This ominous feeling lingering near my heart,
And the uncertainty when I'm just sitting in a car.
I can tell it's getting bad again because of the throbbing in my head,
Each day is more intense then the last.
I guess my head can't hold the chaos in my mind,
Because I can feel them banging on the wall.
Pleading for me to come inside.
I can tell it's getting bad again
I can tell because my physical pain
Always seems to be a symptom of the illness inside my brain.
Experiencing the World Through Autism
By Olivia de Guzman
We meet in a busy coffee shop. I sit across from you, happily sipping on a cup of tea and meeting your eyes in a friendly manner. The conversation is easy and flowing.The background noise of busy chatter seems to blur in the background as we converse, and time seems to fly, with the clock above our heads nonexistent. The day drags on, and after two different orders of tea, we go our separate ways. Everything goes so normal, maybe even stellar!
I wave good-bye, we exchange a friendly embrace, and you’re gone. I let out the breath I had been holding since the beginning of our encounter. My hands start to flutter as I sit in my car. suddenly the interior is too small, the fabric of the seats too scratchy, and the gentle hum of the engine too loud. This is life with autism.
Like anyone, we come in many different shapes and sizes, genders and ethnicities, with no defining “Poster Child” to compare us with. Because of the assumptions made about autism being so limiting, the reactions I get when telling people I’m autistic is pretty entertaining. However, it also poses the example of how misleading we are constantly portrayed: with 1 in 59 children likely having autism, I can assure you there’s so many more of us than you may think.
In 2018, the CDC found that boys were four times more likely to be diagnosed than girls, with researchers only recently understanding how stark the differences in characteristics can be. In fact, I wasn’t diagnosed until 2019. Instead, I spent most of my middle and high school years in-and-out of hospitals, doctor offices, and diagnosis. On top of it, my family and I were drowning in an endless cycle of false hope, dead-ends, and bills.
During this time, the possibility of autism would be brought up, only to be quickly dismissed, as I “appeared too normal”. Finally, after months of therapy visits, my therapist sat my mom and I down, and explained her suspicion of autism. I was referred to a neuropsych testing center, where they compiled a full profile of my life, from past to present. As I talked with the psychologist in charge of my case, I had never felt so understood in my life. I was finally able to understand my difficulty with non-verbal social cues, or why I would spend hours watching videos on normal social interaction on YouTube. Why a day of noise would drain me, and why the only way I would calm down was a series of hum-like noises and “jazz hands” (that I now identify as stims). Despite not knowing until now, being diagnosed has colored my new world in hope and joy.
I don’t think I will ever be able to describe how impossible life had felt before understanding my autism. The exhaustion of trying to act“acceptable”, or appear “normal” would leave me so drained I couldn’t even leave bed. Now, with the support of doctors, friends, and family, I’ve found my voice in advocating for other individuals with their own unique narratives, be it autism, sexuality, race, or gender. As a proud autistic girl, I’m eternally grateful to have finally found my home in this colorful community of bright individuals.
By Cameron Dawson