From an early age he was different from other children. In elementary school, he learned what bullying is, he has attempted twenty suicides. Runner Jiří Pavel Česka only learned the reason for his depression and negative thoughts when he was seventeen: it is Asperger’s syndrome, one of the disorders on the autism spectrum.
When the word autism is mentioned, many people think of Dustin Hofmann in the Oscar-winning film Rain Man. However, Czech junior 800m record holder Jiří Pavel Češka is miles away from a guy who can brilliantly multiply high numbers or remember poker cards, but can’t take care of himself in real life.
“I am able to integrate into social communication or function within society, but I can feel certain anxiety, whether it concerns communication with the closest or more distant surroundings,” explains Češka in the podcast, which is prepared by the Bez frazí project in collaboration with Aktuálně.cz .
The diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome also includes frequent depression, in his case lasting on the order of months, sometimes even half a year or longer. And often also be positive, but also negative thoughts that penetrate from his world into the real one.
“It happened to me once, for example, I went for a run and after about one kilometer I suddenly thought that I had broken my leg,” he recalls of one of the strongest moments. “Mostly it lasts until I go to sleep, or until I catch a stronger impulse from the world, which is the same for all of us,” describes the eighteen-year-old half-major.
He struggled with the fact that he was different from the others when he started elementary school. Up to 95% of autistic people will become victims of bullying in their lifetime. The Czech experienced both the psychological and the physical. For example, his classmates pressed him against the sink and poured ice water on him in the cold, which he subsequently contracted from a viral illness.
In his story, which you can read in full HERE, he also talks about his attempts to take his own life. “I tried to commit suicide repeatedly. I think there were about two dozen attempts. Some were naive, others serious. I won’t describe them because I don’t want to give anyone instructions,” he says.
He found out about his diagnosis relatively recently, at the age of seventeen. And at the same time he realized what he would like to continue to do in his life. “I would like to be involved in raising awareness about autism spectrum disorders. Recently, they have been talked about more than ever, but still little is known about this problem. Many people who, when they hear the term autistic, think of some aggressor or individual who he is closed only in his own world.”
The Czech is now studying in the third year of the Prague grammar school, his dreams include studying at an American university or progressing to the Olympic finals. But now his priorities are raising awareness of the mental disorder with which he himself is fighting.
“I guess I found the meaning of life. I found responsibility that I do something that I don’t see much in other people. The Internet is full of articles, but mostly autism is described from the outside, but I can assign the face of a person who is about my age to the disorder successful,” he says. “I have the opportunity to show that I am not a boy who is always holed up in his room, who works in IT and only drives ones and zeros, or a person who is dependent on the help of those around him. That I ride the subway, go to school, do sports and I have friends.”
Asperger syndrome is a disorder characterized by great diversity. According to Češka, persons on the autistic spectrum copy the distribution of society – there are intelligent people among them, as well as those who are less bright, skilled and clumsy. By the way, visionary Elon Musk, director Tim Burton or singer Susan Boyle also struggle with the mentioned diagnosis.
“People like me can bring a new perspective on things that is not completely typical. That can be useful when solving some problems,” says Češka.
Until recently, he was still suppressing who he really was. “Now I am no longer afraid to withdraw into myself and not to worry about what people around me think of me. Before, I felt external pressure on myself that I should behave according to some standards that are not always optimal to follow. You would he should have behaved the way he wants – of course I don’t mean that I should break the law. But wearing shorts to school sometimes is pretty cool,” he smiles.