Music helped me overcome bullying
My name is Ciaran Roberts-Osterberg and I am 19 years old. I live in Dundee, Scotland and I am Autistic.
I was bullied quite badly as a young Autistic child. There was lots of physical bullying, involving being hit and kicked and it continued for a long time, as due to my school rules I would never hit back.
My school offered to place me in either the library or music rooms during break and lunch times to allow me to escape the bullies. Having grown up in a house filled with music, I chose the latter. It was then I was inspired to learn an instrument, and was pleasantly surprised to learn that I had some degree of talent. This provided the focus and determination I needed to work and develop that talent.
I love music, how it can inspire people. How it is a universal language with no barriers, no concepts of race or religion restricting it's evolution. It truly is a way of bringing people closer together, and I could not be happier to call myself a student of music, striving to perfect my craft and continue my journey of learning.
Throughout my school life I was being bullied for being autistic, having to transfer schools a few times. In high school, I took to music as a way to escape the bullying and stop me from feeling depressed. I started learning Drum Set, Piano and to sing when I was 12, taking a special liking to jazz music. I was told that I wasn’t good enough (because I am autistic) to be accepted to study music at university and that I should “get real” and get a “proper” job. However, I worked hard to overcome these barriers and difficulties and prove to those that said I couldn’t do it, that I could. And I did, by being accepted to the best contemporary institute in the world, Berklee College of Music.
Even now I receive online trolling, and have been surprised and saddened by the reactions of people I considered friends. My story has been featured in local and national press as well as National Evening News and morning radio, which has prompted unkind words: peers sending me messages saying they can’t believe the sob story I am “peddling”, and calling me a show-off.
I believe this comes down to ignorance on their part on what Autism can look like, or maybe the fact that I had to ‘mask’, when away from my home and family, for much of my life.
My mother is disabled due to various medical conditions and surgeries that have left her with mobility issues and chronic pain. I have had to help care for her and my brother, who has a dual diagnosis of ADHD and Autism, which has limited the amount of time I have for myself and can be quite overwhelming.
She is working hard to regain her health, and has always set an example of mind over matter to me. We do not give up, no matter how many times we are knocked down.
I have found that my autism has been a barrier to employment. Even after applying for over 200 jobs, I failed to secure any full-time work. I don’t know if it is because I disclose that I’m autistic. It can be very hard to judge what and how I should say.
That’s why I love music. No one can misunderstand you. That’s why I believe going to Berklee will be the beginning of a whole new life. One where I can express who I am. Then I can help other children that are like me. I can give back and make sure no one has to feel like they don’t belong, and feel like it would be better if they weren’t here. The world is always better WITH YOU IN IT!
My family and I have had to overcome so many barriers, associated with health and other unjust struggles. Music was my only solace and winning a place at Berklee is the proudest achievement of my life.
I think Music entertains but also connects, heals, builds and empowers, and I want to be able pass that on to children like myself, in the future with the best tools of my craft.
As well as getting in to Berklee, I have recently been asked to play in the Dundee Jazz festival. Growing up I never thought I could achieve things like this…
That’s what happens when people think it’s okay to call you a freak. You believe them. I’m lucky because I have a strong mum, who would never let that be all I heard about myself. She would tell me to say good things to myself, and would write positive things she was so proud of me for on my bathroom mirror every day.
If you don’t have someone telling you, that you’re okay, telling you that you are not weird, telling you the bullies are wrong... you have to learn to do that for yourself!
Mum said it was the same as being offered a snack I didn’t like. If I ever got offered food I didn’t like, I just said no thank you and chose something else. It is the same with people’s words. I didn’t have to take their words in to me, just the same as I didn’t have to eat anything I didn’t want to. Words have power, so you have to choose which ones you’re going to listen to about yourself. Most importantly of all, don’t bully yourself.
Be kind to yourself. Tell yourself well done, appreciate your strengths. Know that you are amazing. Because you are YOU.
Have you experienced bullying? Share your experiences in the comments below!
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