I am 12, it’s one o’clock at night, and I’m looking at this damn math homework with my tear-stained face, not understanding any of it. My mom sits next to me, stressed and tired, sighs, and asks again, “How can you be so stupid?” and I ask myself the same question.

How can I be so stupid?

Why can’t I manage the things everyone else can? I don’t understand at school, I don’t understand at home, and I still don’t understand at 1 a.m. It doesn’t matter how hard I try, I do try. But all efforts lead to everyone around me calling me stupid and lazy.

“These are the best years of your life” and “Enjoy your youth to the fullest, you’ll never get it back!”

If these are my best years and it only goes downhill from here, do I even want to live? Suicidal thoughts have existed with me for as long as I can remember, but now they have taken shape and form. Something tangible.

I am not made for this world, I feel like a black sheep among everyone. I don’t understand what’s going on in school, I don’t understand at all what’s going on in other people’s heads. I’m only interested in colors and music: I see art in everything, and my only interest is to create. And for some reason, that’s something to be ashamed of. It won’t lead to anything, focus on the real subjects, that’s where the future is. But how am I supposed to see the future in subjects where I’ve been labeled stupid? This world isn’t for me.

On top of that, I realize I don’t know how to communicate. I express myself differently and I don’t know why. Constantly changing schools doesn’t make my situation any easier. I feel like I’m thrown into a cage with lions each time. Social hierarchies, social groups, and unspoken rules are incomprehensible to me.

I hated classes, I hated breaks. I don’t know how to stand, sit, talk. I just want to cocoon myself and draw in some corner with headphones on, but I knew that somehow this is weird. Even the clothes I had to wear at school and that awful white light, those wooden seats, my desk mate. Everything was just too damn much. And that noise and that overwhelming information that I couldn’t understand. Every school day was a battle for survival. Because if you don’t go to school, there’s no future. But I constantly felt like I didn’t have a future. Because if school leads to the future but I can’t manage here, and these are supposed to be the best years of my life, then what the fuck?

Years go by, a couple more school changes, and then it’s high school. How I made it there, I don’t know. My will to live was completely gone. I watched enviously as my classmates figured out which university they wanted to go to, what their career choices were. When teachers asked me and the answer was still “I don’t know, art or something,” there were deep sighs and always, “I don’t know, Liisa, what will become of you…” and I didn’t know either. Because teachers didn’t like me, I never understood why, because I did try. They say if you don’t understand, ask, but when I asked things, I got big sighs and sharp looks in return. “You need to try harder,” but I had nothing left to give. I had given my will to live along with my efforts.

And at 16, it finally hit me that I am really damn weird. It doesn’t matter how hard I try, I don’t identify or fit in with my family, school, society. On top of that, I developed insomnia and nightmares that filled my fears by the bucketful. I realized it was time to seek mental health help because I was a human wreck, if that.

And that’s where my long and painful process towards my diagnosis began. Today, I can celebrate that for a year I’ve had the right one: autism and ADHD. And unfortunately, not thanks to psychologists but to damn TikTok and its neurodivergent community. Age 30.