Fragile mind

(Trigger warning: mention of self-harm)

I started university three years ago with mental health problems and various psychological issues that made life difficult. I had extremely low self-esteem and I was convinced that every piece of work I produced was terrible. I was frightened of authority figures, including the tutors, and being on the campus made me anxious. I decided that given my social difficulties in the past it was best to avoid the other students as much as possible.

But things gradually got easier. I got so many high marks and positive comments that I began to think I was capable of doing good work. I realised that some of the tutors are nice and that something awful wasn’t going to happen just because I was on the campus. I went to the Autistic students’ social group and being around people like me gave me confidence I’d never had before. People commented on how well I was doing.

Then six weeks ago it took two minutes to undo it all. A tutor showed an article I’d written on the screen and read the headline and laughed. The students laughed. The headline wasn’t intended to be funny. I could tell this wasn’t laughing with me but nasty laughing, like I used to hear at school. That night I cut myself again after stopping for several years.

For the next two weeks my depression was so severe I couldn’t study. And now things that had become easier are hard again. These days depression makes my brain foggy and motivating myself to work is a struggle. Fear of making a mistake stops me getting things done. I don’t talk so much in the Autism group. University doesn’t feel safe and accepting any more.

My diagnosis of depression came after my mind shattered. I’d managed to build something again but I know now how fragile it was. The tutor said he didn’t mean to offend me but for me the impact went far beyond offense. I’m left worrying I won’t be able to claw back what I used to have.

10 thoughts on “Fragile mind

  1. I have read what you wrote now, and I am thinking of you, and the many ups and downs of life, some downs feeling so impossible. yes, as was written by vontoast be kind to yourself. be in a gentle place. yes, the soft silky fur and purr of your beloved cat give you gentleness. I send you gentleness and strength and peace.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Don’t give up! You might benefit from a depression help group, as well as your Autism support group. I’m not a doctor, but I know sticking to a routine helps with both Autism and depression. Be sure to make time to give yourself breaks.

    It doesn’t sound like that man has any business being a tutor. I do not know him. He may not be in a place where he is emotionally/socially developed to the point where he can handle being responsible for others (not everybody is; sometimes I question whether I am, and I work as a Registered Nurse), or he could simply be a nasty person. People in caring/authoritative professions are often charged with people who, for one reason or another, are vulnerable, and it is their duty to help the people they work with to achieve their goals. In your tutor’s case, he was given the job of assisting young adults with learning disabilities, low self esteem, Autism, and possibly behavioral disorders. He needs to take this responsibility seriously. If at all possible, I would make a complaint against this tutor to the university you attend, assuming he is employed by the university (I’m guessing he’s not a private tutor, as you mentioned other students in the room at the time). It would be beneficial for both the university and the students if this tutor was given further training, increased supervision, or simply replaced by someone more capable of doing the job. Heck, I could tutor you if you wanted!

    Keep working; you’ll get back what you used to have and more!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for your comment. Unfortunately the tutor is the head of the academic department I’m studying in, so I don’t feel comfortable complaining to the university. Someone from the disability support service has talked to him and managed to arrange some accommodations for future things he teaches, but I don’t know how much he actually understands what the problem was.

      I think people need to recognise more that if you’re talking to a group of people there’s a good chance some of them are disabled, even if they don’t look it.

      A depression help group is a good idea; it’s worth looking in to when I’m less busy.


  3. it’s horrible that autistic people are not just bullied by other students, but by teachers and tutors. I read this in many forums; autistic people telling their stories about how they were abused by teachers and other authority figures. I find this very offending.

    Self harm is common in autism because we have a low frustration level, and many of us suffer from low self esteem because we feel inferior to our nt peers, who can do things we can’t. However, you must remind yourself of all the things you can do much better than them, all the high intelligence level and other autism gifts.

    I really agree with vontoast that your cat can comfort you. Let him settle in your lap and pat it for hours. I find it very comforting.

    Learning self defense helped me with my self esteem, just a thought.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t think I was actually bullied by teachers, but I remember several times when I was told off but I was doing my best to be well-behaved and didn’t realise I was doing something wrong. Maybe teachers interpret what we do as being willfully inappropriate when we just don’t understand what’s expected. It had a big effect on me, because I’m very sensitive and perhaps because it was unpredictable and out of my control.

      I think my low self-esteem is partly due to feeling inferior to NT people. I wasn’t diagnosed as autistic when I was a child and I saw myself as a faulty ‘normal’ person. These days I see myself as an Autistic person in my own right, but it’s hard to change the things I believed for most of my life.


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