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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Even my mental health clinic isn't safe

This is a little different than the usual harassment stories that I have seen on the site, but it's just as frightening.

I live north of Boston. I have Asperger's Syndrome (an Autism Spectrum Disorder), Bipolar Disorder, and slight Agoraphobia (fear of leaving a safe place), and I go to a center in Lawrence for mental health and cognitive care on a weekly basis.

As I was arriving for an appointment a few months ago, I had barely put my car into park, when I looked up and found this strange man staring at me, literally inches from my driver's side window. With my developmental delays and poor mental health, I often have trouble responding to social cues and situations that require quick thinking. So I sat there, my eyes getting huge and paralyzed in my seat. Suddenly, he starts repeatedly knocking on my window, all while staring and nearly breathing on the door.

I abruptly put my car into reverse and backed out of the spot like a bat out of hell. I almost ran over his feet, but I really didn't care. I didn't know where to go - it was a small parking lot, and I was worried that he would catch up to me. Luckily, the front parking space was open, and a few people were standing by the door smoking, so I parked there and booked it, not looking back until I got to the front desk. After my appointment, I had to go through more humiliation and ask my counselor to walk me to my car.

It wasn't that long ago that I couldn't even walk to my mailbox without having a panic attack. Being able to run errands on my own is a huge step. But every time I get harassed, I get afraid that it will cause me to revert back to my old ways. I hated feeling that I needed a chaperon everywhere I went. Having AS and being mentally ill at the same time is already discouraging in many situations. The added trauma of being harassed and having trouble doing something about it is downright dehumanizing.

I hope that this might influence some of you to speak out a little louder, for those of us that need extra help fighting back.

- Sara C.

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