Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Life with Asperger's

Let me tell you a story.  The story of my life with Asperger's.  When I was in preschool the teachers noticed that I did not like to play with the other children.  I kept to myself, playing with whatever toys interested me.  Not playing with the rest of them was an early indicator that I was somehow different, but they were not sure what the difference was.  I was diagnosed with P.D.D.N.O.S. Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified.  In Elementary School they noticed my vocabulary was different, I liked to use big words that most other kids didn't understand.  I had a hard time paying attention in certain classes, and the teaches called it A.D.D. Attention Deficit Disorder.   By that time I had made a few friends, but I would not say I was "popular" at this time.  Actually I was teased a lot during recess.  Kid's called me Donald Duck and they knew I didn't like it.  They actually had a nursery rhyme, "Donald Duck picked his butt, how many fingers got stuck?"  Now I forgive the person who came up with that saying, but it hurt at the time.  I remember "charging up" running in place to get people.  I threw handfuls of pebbles.  I had a "nemesis" and we were both bigger kids.  We insulted each other's weight.  As time progressed things got better.  I had a "Smile Room" I could go to and play.  There were all these cool games and toys there and I could be rowdy and expend some energy.  It was nice to take some time off!  Sometimes I got to take other kids along and we could get to know each other.  My aide helped me pay attention in class and I was on a good path.  My sense of humor started developing and I would sing funny songs on the school bus.  That humor and musical mindset would stick with me for the rest of my life. When people realized I was actually kind of a cool, funny kid I became more accepted, and the teasing got better.  But I remember once when I was feeling bad inside I teased another, younger kid on the bus quite brutally.  I sang a song calling him retarded, other kids laughed.  I kept doing it until he cried!  If I could travel back in time I would probably smack that younger version of myself for being such a little bastard then!  What was I thinking?  I knew how that shit felt!  Why did I take part in it?  I guess all I can say is that I was hurting so I hurt someone else to feel better.  It's a vicious cycle: hurt people hurt people!  That was years ago, and I would never do that again.  I've learned my lessen well, because now I believe in treating people as politely as I can.  Actually I am quite annoyed when I don't see others do the same.  You could say I over-corrected, because my good nature got taken advantage of later in life.  Now in elementary school they called it A.D.D. Attention Deficit Disorder, but when I started Middle School they realized I have Asperger's Syndrome.  Now Asperger's is a form of High Functioning Autism and I identify with it because it makes sense to me: the special interests, having a hard time understanding some social behaviors, and hyperfocusing on certain things.  Often in school I would barge in on other peoples conversations and interrupt people without realizing I was being rude.  I continued to take special ed classes in social skills, but all my other classes were regular classes.  I was really into school and learning especially Science and English.  I was in Boy Scouts and that too helped my social skills.  Like I said I was on a good path, but when my parents divorced I learned a new part of Asperger's I didn't know about.  The Asperger's shut down.  I knew my parents sometimes got into fights and it could get bad, and they once had a trial separation, but I didn't know the toll when they finally got divorced.  At first it didn't really hurt. It was Summer time and I just kind of created art and played video games and learned my way around town.  But after a couple months it DID hurt.  Boy did it hurt.  Once I cried to my mom, "I know you guys felt like you had to divorce but I just wish you could stay together for me!"  As time progressed I would start acting giddy and laugh for no reason then suddenly bawl out my sorrow.  I would walk through the halls looking only up at the lights.  I was prescribed depakote and started seeing a therapist.  These things helped, though depakote was quite sedating.  I'll say this it did the job for right then and I had a great therapist.  I had an aide again for a while because school needed to keep me learning and keep me safe.  I also saw the school therapist, Dave.  Dave was a very neat guy!  I remember shooting hoops in his office and telling him about my life and my ideas for inventions.  I began writing my story "Gruffy & Scruffy, Hamster Heroes" and the kids I showed it to really liked its humor and story telling.  I have a lot of good memories from Middle School and High School.  Recently I stumbled onto an old report card and it was practically all A's.  Seeing that made me proud that even with the challenges I was facing I was doing well.  In High School I had a special bond with my band teacher.  I think he liked teaching me new things on the baritone and piano.  I also think he like watching me learn some things on my own.  One summer we were going to record a piece I had composed for the piano.  We were all set to record... but when I began playing we realized there were no bass strings in the piano!  So that recording wasn't made, at least not until I began recording on my laptop.  Music has been a great blessing to me!  I loved performing songs with the band, and with the school Jazz Group!  I loved playing in pep-band and playing at school games!  I also loved playing original music for piano and guitar at Paynesville Talent Shows!  But my path wouldn't always be on the straight and narrow.  One summer I tried marijuana.  I had some friends who smoked it and I told them I was curious about it.  Thus began the Stoner Era.  For better or worse I loved the feeling of being high from marijuana, the way it totally relaxes all your muscles and you notice every detail of a song, and the way it brings people together.  But I wasn't sure I wanted to keep doing it.  I was afraid of becoming addicted and I eventually fessed up to my mom.  She wasn't terribly surprised but she wanted to support me quitting.  And I did quit... for a while.  I guess I decided I probably wouldn't get addicted if I tried it again.  I was going to chance it.  And one summer smoking pot became my whole life.  In school I checked out a book on marijuana and other drugs I wanted to know the science behind smoking pot.  But I had no interest in doing any other drugs.  I learned about THC and how it releases dopamine in the brain.  I learned that the brain makes its own THC but smoking marijuana floods the brain with more THC than it is used to.  I learned that smoking marijuana can be a risk factor in developing schizophrenia.  I learned all these things and decided I would still chance it.  But my senior year of High School I decided I wanted to go to college to learn about music, so eventually I tried cleaning up my act.  I was in Honors English and Advanced Psychology, classes I really enjoyed!  I was learning.  Even when I had been smoking pot I loved to learn, but if I was going to do college I wanted to be on my A game.  When I first went off to college I was very excited.  I had earned a full ride scholarship to the University of Minnesota Morris!  I wanted to learn all I could about music and eventually do my own thing in my own niche of the music world.  I knew it would be a challenge but I didn't know what I was in for.  My first night I was locked out of my dorm and I decided to sleep on the bench outside.  The cops found me and assumed I was on drugs.  They took me somewhere to take a sample of my blood.  Even though it was clean I don't remember much else from that night.  I had to quickly adapt to this whole new world.  A world where I had to find my way to classes, do homework, not get lost, and meet new people.  It was hard for me to sleep because it was very warm in my room.  I was struggling.  I was shutting down.  And my parents thought it best for me to come home, so my stay at U of M, Morris was short lived.  I started my stay in St. Cloud with Dad and my step-mom, Sally.  I started recording music on my laptop again and I worked at Goodwill-Easter Seals.  And when I was ready I started driving again.  I was also taken off depakote.  I enjoyed the freedom to go to the mall, go skateboarding, play video games, watch TV shows with my folks, go swimming in the quarry.  It was a happy time in my life.  But eventually Dad, Sally, and I moved out of the apartment in St. Cloud.   They decided I could stay in the house in Paynesville and commute to my early job in St. Cloud.  I worked at Short Stop Restaurant at that time, preparing and packaging sandwiches.  Most of the time then they were at their apartment in Minneapolis.  That's when my life started falling apart again. That job was too early and I had to drive an hour to work each day.  On top of that I began doing cough syrup with some older friends. Once I drove home still high on cough syrup only I did not take the direct rout.  I also drove to my childhood stomping grounds Cyrilla Beach.  Miraculously I did not get arrested for driving intoxicated or cause any accidents or hurt anyone.  I made it home and was very lucky!  I was an idiot for having done that!  There was an intervention and I moved in with my Mom and step-dad, Al in Stanchfield, MN (a town close to Cambridge.)  Once again things returned to normal but there was a new uncertainty in my life.  Where was I going to live?  My mom and Al were going to move to Arizona eventually.  Was I going to live with them or was I going into a group home?  What would that be like?  I would have times when I was on top of my game and other times when I was shut down from uncertainty.  I went to a support group in Cambridge.  One time in the middle of group I interrupted everything and began writing one of my poems on the wall.  It was a disruption to the program but I didn't care.  Another time I interrupted everything and wrote a bunch of sentences in Braille.  I didn't find anything odd about that; I just couldn't contain myself.  I would get bored in meeting and start writing things in HTML code on my support plan.  I was learning HTML coding and DOS, as well as BASIC.  I had made my first home-made website but didn't have it hosted on anyone else's computer.  Of course I had my blog too, but I wanted an understanding of how to make a site from scratch.  I was very interested in computers then, and that too would stick with me.  I'm glad for the support group to teach me new coping skills and how to recognize warning signs that I might shut down.  I also volunteered at a Family Pathways Thrift Store.  One time my mind wasn't working so well and I skateboarded off on a donated board with no clue where I was going.  Al or my mom called me to get me to return.  I was out of it, I didn't think of them worrying or the danger I could have gotten into.  Eventually the time came for me to move into a group home.  I moved in in August 2012 and I became friends with my housemates.  I played basketball, Uno, and Monopoly with them.  I purchased a condenser mic and the quality of my recordings improved dramatically.  I eventually began working at Walmart, first a temp job in Dairy and Frozen then rehired for Produce & Bakery.  Again, I began thinking it would be cool to have a website besides my blog.  I learned to have a website you must first have a host and that some hosts also have apps for web-design.  I discovered Wix and decided that's what I wanted to use.  So one day working in produce I kept all sorts of notes on how I was going to design my website.  Oh what excitement I had!  I was going to invent Donny The Neoclassic, my website showcasing all of my interests!  It loved creating this site!  It was what all my computer studies were leading up to.  It was one of my proudest achievements.  But there would be more snags in the road though, because it became hard for me to live where I was and I was struggling with obsessive thoughts and insomnia.  I was hospitalized because I had a bad episode.  When I was hospitalized the first thing I did was 100 sit-ups punching my fists into the bathroom wall.  Boy was I sore the following days!  They X-rayed my hands to make sure I hadn't broken any bones.  But all in all being hospitalized was kind of a nice break.  I didn't have to worry about being annoyed by anyone, I didn't have to do any work, and I had plenty of time to make plans for my website.  I also had a game where anytime I saw Barack Obama on the TV I would throw my orange at it.  It was very amusing to my new friends there.  After a while I returned home and things were better.  I had a new sleep med to help me get rest.  I was also on the med Lamictal which helped level me out without turning me into a zombie.  I decided I wanted to quit Walmart and work at Options Inc.  This turned out to be a very good choice for me.  Working the job-sites of Options was lower stress and though I was still obsessing at first I believe the low stress was a big factor in me eventually overcoming my obsessions.  I was doing well, but still still wanted to move out.  Eventually I got to opportunity to move to a new group home within the same company.  I jumped on that and moved here!  I am very happy.  Sure there's still bumps in the road sometimes but life is good.