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‘School was a Very Difficult Place for me to Navigate’ – Autism, Disordered Eating and Bipolar: Joe Plumb Shares His Story

Autism, Disordered Eating and Bipolar – Joe Plumb shares his story

From the very first day of school I was treated differently. Other kids didn’t seem to want to talk or interact with me and neither me or my parents understood why.

I felt so alone.

At the age of six, I was diagnosed with Autism, a social-communication disorder. Although I am really low on the autistic spectrum, people are still able to notice the subtle difference in my characteristics. Because of this, school was a very difficult place for me to navigate. I received both verbal and physical abuse, not only from other students but also from teachers – the people I was supposed to be able to depend on for support.

Things got worse during secondary school; I was beaten up, cyber-bullied and even received death threats. I started to skip meals and purge, because of the remarks people made about my looks. I felt so depressed and started to self-harm. At the time, I couldn’t see a way out – I felt like I had no one to turn to, no means of escaping the misery. I was suffering in silence – too embarrassed to speak up or tell anyone what was happening to me. At my lowest ebb, I tried to take my own life.

Because of my erratic behaviour and intention to harm myself, I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder and put into the care of a psychiatric hospital for almost three years. Looking back now, I wish I had opened up and told somebody what I was going through, maybe I would have been able to process what was happening to me if I had just sought help.

Personally, I found my eating disorder the hardest thing to open up about, mainly because of the stigma attached to it. I honestly thought ‘no way could a guy have an eating disorder’, even though I was living proof that we could! I just tried to shrug it off as something else, rather than label it. In my mind, it was something women and women only suffered with; traditional stereotypes that enforce how a man should look, or act, makes us feel as though these things can’t happen to us, and if they do, then we can’t talk about it without compromising our masculinity, or being judged. It’s ridiculous. Talking about my problems has made my life so much better.

I now campaign and run my own organisation, helping hundreds of people open up and talk about their feelings. I want to make people realise they are not alone! I implore those that are being bullied, or suffering from a mental illness, to not be afraid to speak up! Help is out there! Things do, and will get better. Stay strong.

Written by Joe Plumb

Follow Joe on Twitter: @TheJoePlumb