IT COULD HAVE BEEN ME: What I, On The Autism Spectrum Disorder, May Have Faced 70 and 80 Years Ago

Photo courtesy of ourkids.net

 

A few years ago I was spending Thanksgiving at a relative’s house, doing the praying and the eating of the turkey and the watching of the football and the typical loving family things that are done  on that holiday.

I don’t remember what it was that sparked it, but as my various relatives – including a cousin with Down’s Syndrome – and I were sitting in the living room, my aunt began to talk about when she was a girl in the 1930s, when children with developmental disabilities like my cousin turned five they were sent to (in the case of the Los Angeles area) the state mental hospital in Camarillo.

And were never seen again, the mindset evidently being that it would be a waste of time for kids on the Autism Spectrum, or with Down’s, or any other kind of mental or emotional disability to be in a world where they obviously (in society’s mind) wouldn’t be able to support themselves or make a living or anything like that.

There were no special education programs in the 1930s, or the 1940s or 50s or even the 60s for that matter, as that branch of education didn’t really come about until the 1970s; it didn’t become mandatory in American public schools until 1975.

As I was listening to my aunt that Thanksgiving night, one thought came to mind…

“That could have been me.”

The way I sometimes behaved as a kid due to my having Asperger’s – in ways that is difficult for me to talk about to this day (which is one reason for my book WALKING ON EGGSHELLS, as it describes some of those incidents at length so I won’t have to talk about them in conversation) they were so extreme, animalistic, and shame-inducing – I’m convinced that I would have been one of those kids taken away to Camarillo for the rest of my life if I were born in 1927 or ’37 instead of 1967.

I’m only grateful that the school I went to in Riverside, CA during kindergarten had a “Special Day Class” where I even though the teachers (one of them, anyway) were rough on me as far as behavioral modification, I was able to improve on my animal-like behavior to be mainstreamed into a regular first grade class the next year – and every year clear on through high school and beyond.

In fact, I used to like to say that I was the only kid I knew who was in both special ed and gifted classes during my K-12 school years; both ends of the spectrum, so to speak.

All right, I know some of you are probably saying right now, “What are you getting at?”

THE BOTTOM LINE:

I’m glad that there are so many programs and schools geared toward kids and adults with Down’s and on the spectrum now.

I’m glad that I was mainstreamed, even though I sometimes wonder how my life would have been if I wasn’t, if I spent my formative years in special ed programs.

And even though I sometimes get a little weary of my difficulties in the neurotypical world due to being an aspie, even though things could very much be better I’m ultimately glad that my life has turned out the way it has.

Especially considering the way things are going with too much of our population right now; I’m SO grateful and thankful to God that I’m not homeless or in jail or anything of that nature.

I suppose that’s all I have to say right now.

 

A nice illustration of how ANYONE and EVERYONE is capable of learning and ultimately contributing to society through education. Photo courtesy of bdmtech.blogspot.com

STRUGGLES IN THE WORKFORCE: Excerpts From Chapter Eight of “Walking On Eggshells”

This seems like a decent image of the hard times I had while in the mainstream workforce. Photo courtesy of yourstory.com

 

 

A brief update on the progress of my book, “WALKING ON EGGSHELLS”:

It’s getting closer to being done!

All ten chapters have been edited for the third (or fourth, I’m not sure) time and been printed.

I just have to go back to one chapter and possibly replace the name of a place where I used to work with a pseudonym, in case such place takes offense at its mention, the way I described my experiences there.

The next step? Getting my manuscript into a sort-of book form at the local UPS store and (finally!) sending it to Lulu.com for self-publication.

As I’ve mentioned on my Facebook page, if “WALKING ON EGGSHELLS” is not in your hands by December 31st of this year, then I will consider myself as having failed at this endeavor.

 

As For Now…

I thought I’d give another excerpt of the struggles I had as an adult in the workforce due to what I know now stemmed from having Asperger’s.

My (mostly) bad times during those years toiling for a paycheck were so many, like my high school days I divided them into two chapters.

These excerpts are from the chapter I call “Failures In The Workforce, 1991-1998”:

 

As I obviously needed a job and it was, as Mom put it, “desperation time”, I went in, asked for an application, filled it out at home, brought it back, and a few days later I got a phone call from them saying I was hired. I remember promising Mom that  I would “work hard and do whatever they say”, feeling a sense of relief that I was gainfully employed again and was able to find something relatively quickly after such a monumentally terrible experience at Grant School.

That feeling of relief evaporated like water in Saudi Arabia in the middle of summer as my job as a salesman fast became what I call to this day “The Eight and a Half-Month Prison Sentence”, realizing quite rapidly that working in retail was even MORE of a wrong profession for me than education was.

I hated the concept in retail of “There’s always something to do”, even when no customers were in the store and all the luggage and counters were clean, polished, and stacked neatly.

I especially hated it when, just before the 10:00 p.m. closing time, which was the shift I was always given, what seemed to be a load of customers would come into the store and I would be forced to stay after having been there for eight full hours, gritting my teeth on the bus home and doing everything I could not to scram in anguish over slaving away at that plantation; for the record, it was the only full-time job I would ever have.

And I REALLY hated it when, on a scheduled day off which gave me a most blessed sensation throughout my being the phone would ring and it would be the store ordering me to come in and work because someone had called in sick, whom I would think would be faking so I would be tortured at that personal hell hole; there I’d be, so looking forward to a relaxing day at home watching TV and what not, and I’d be forced back into the salt mines.

And on top of everything else, in the tradition of pouring salt on what in my heart was a painfully gaping wound, there was one other thing that made tat place of retail a maximum security prison hell: A certain co-worker who, like Marlon roughly 15 years before, was a flat-out bully and a word-that-rhymes-with-witch.

I’ll call her Gina*.

(Gina) was short in stature – not quite like Snooki, but in that Jersey Shore girl’s league – with pale, pasty skin and long, wavy brown hair. She had an ever-present stench due to her being a heavy smoker, reeking of tobacco as a prominent image of mine regarding her was standing outside of the store with a pack of Marlboros in hand, dirtying her lungs, other people’s lungs, and the air with those wretchedly foul cancer sticks.

I’ll never forget one particular day when she pushed me too far and I snapped, going into one of those meltdowns which are common to at least some folks with Asperger’s…

Gina and I were standing behind the counter next to the cash register. I wish I could tell you what Gina said, but like so many other incidents before and since, I’ve blocked it out of my mind due to the extreme post-traumatic stress that it would cause to my psyche.

One thing was for certain: I was feeling low and depressed and Gina must have called me some bad name or made some bad gesture that pushed me over the edge. I do remember her putting her hands in her ears like Bullwinkle and making a taunting noise after I had told her to leave me alone.

 

 

A more accurate illustration of how I felt during my years working for someone else in the workforce. Photo courtesy of businessinsider.com

 

 

The next thing I knew, I was throwing some balled-up piece of paper at her and she reciprocated by spitting her Marlboro-laden saliva at me. No, I didn’t make any move to hit her – however much a word-that-rhymes-with-witch that Gina was, at least I had enough presence of mind and respect for females to not let it come to that – but it was another albatross around my hellish luggage store neck.

You would think that my experiences at that store would improve by leaps and bounds after Gina was finally fired for her evilness a few weeks later, the owner of the store dramatically pointing at the door and telling her those two words that I so wanted to her for the longest time, but nothing could have been further from the truth as my miseries went beyond that little Lady Voldemort.

That’s why it was a foregone conclusion that I would be relieved of my duties right before Labor Day, though in all honesty they beat me to it because I was planning on marching into the owner’s office right after that holiday and tell my oppressor, I mean employer, those two little words that I had desperately desired to tell him for so long:

“I QUIT!!”

I’m quite positive that many of you are thinking this right about now…

“You should have been glad to have had that job! You were just an ungrateful, spoiled little baby who need to suck it up and grow up!”

I can certainly understand that sentiment, and despite what it seems it’s not my intention to use my Asperger’s syndrome as an excuse for my fucking up at that store – and nearly every other job I had before and afterwards. I know that many Aspies have been successful in retail-type gigs and other professions where service with a smile is required,.

However, I’m about as far as those Aspians as one could get as not only is any gig of that persuasion isn’t any place for me, I knew even before that horrible experience that I was 1,000 times more successful in situations where I was allowed to do my own thing at whatever work I was involved in.

It’s like if I had a little plot of roses growing in this huge garden, and it was my responsibility to take care of those roses in that plot, keeping those American Beauties watered and the ground insect-free.

When an overseer, I mean employer, would criticize me on how I’m doing or micromanage me, he/she is – figuratively speaking – stepping on those roses of mine for what I see in my mind as no reason other than to be a mean bully.

That’s how I felt and, to be brutally honest, still feel. Even though I understand that employees need supervising and constructive criticism in order to achieve maximum performance, I couldn’t, and still can’t help from seeing that as bullying.

That was why I HATED evaluations…at least in my mind, evaluations were always a way for bullies, I mean bosses, to remind me that I was a lesser being in their eyes, which essentially and eventually ruined me as a person with ability to sustain gainful employment as far as working for someone else.

 

No, this wasn’t where I had such a horrible time but as it’s a place that serves the public, it’s in the same league as that luggage store where I toiled. Photo courtesy of themountaineer.com

 

 

 

 

Why I Like Rain

I like this rain image, with the trees and the hills. Photo courtesy of the odysseyonline.com

 

Living in the Los Angeles area, particularly in the past few years, I haven’t experienced too much rain, Southern California being a desert climate and all.

Now that it’s been raining in my neck of the woods for the past day or so, I thought it would be a good idea to chat about why I like it.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t like the floods or the mudslides in the hills that oftentimes happens when too much rain occurs; my heart goes out to the five folks that died due to the mudslides in our area.

Here’s the reason why I enjoy it when it rains, however…

Besides the fact that with the seemingly endless drought that has persisted in my state of California, we certainly need the rain,

As someone on the Autism Spectrum Disorder, namely high functioning Asperger’s Syndrome, there are certain sounds that I enjoy, sounds that I find comforting and give me a feeling of coziness, when I want to bundle up in bed with a blanket and eventually fall into a nice sleep.

Along with helicopters and planes (I know, that’s a bit strange), rain is one of those sounds.

To me, rain is a sort of personal message from God that I need to slow down.

Take a bit of time off.

Rest and recharge.

It just feels so cozy to me, and I always feel a tiny bit disappointed when rainstorms end and the sun comes out.

The ironic thing about these sentiments?

I used to have almost the opposite opinion about rain during the spring as a young person, because I played baseball and storms would always wash out games.

Now if it rains and I find that I’m unable to play my pick-up softball games on weekends, I shrug and go “Oh well”, my thought being that it’s not the end of the world.

I think that’s called maturity.

Anyhow, I’m liking this rain that’s hit L.A.

As soon as I finish writing this, I’m going to jump into my bed, pull my covers up, and enjoy the coziness that it brings to me and my senses.

 

Another image of something that gives me such a cozy feeling. Photo courtesy of siyathanews.lk

 

MY ONE BIG PLAN FOR 2018

An illustration of what I’ve been working on for the past few years now. Photo courtesy of thebalance.com

 

I’ll make this as brief and straight forward as possible…

For the past few years – I like to say five – I’ve been working on a book that tells my story about my social struggles with Asperger’s Syndrome in a mainstream world.

The one plan I have in this brand new 2018 year is a simple one:

 

FINISH “WALKING ON EGGSHELLS” AND HAVE IT (SELF) PUBLISHED ONCE AND FOR ALL.

 

I’m fully aware that I’ve been saying that I was going to have this book of mine finished for a couple of years, but life got in the way; that, and the fact that with all the editing it’s taken longer than expected (which shouldn’t be surprising, I know).

Which is the only explanation I have for the delay.

This time I’m determined to have it done by spring or summer – the end of this year at the utmost latest.

Especially since I’ve got only one more chapter to edit, plus another chapter in which I’m considering changing an important detail in the form of renaming a place that was important to me.

If “WALKING ON EGGSHELLS” is not in your hands being read by December 31st of this new year, I will consider myself as having failed at this venture.

In fact, I’m going to start my final editing and printing of chapter ten, which I call “Frustrations In My Forties, With a Glimmer Of Hope”, as soon as I finish this post today.

Then after I do that other chapter, plus a little more additional cleaning up and editing so the book will be as clear and concise as I can make it,

It should be ready to be taken to the self-publishing site http://Lulu.com.

It’s a site that an old friend told me about; after I checked it out – and saw that it was free – I was convinced.

I have no illusions of this tome, I do not expect it to make any best seller lists.

Heck, if “WALKING ON EGGSHELLS” sells any copies at all, I’ll be gladly surprised.

Particularly since my purpose is not necessarily to become like J.K. Rowling or Suzanne Collins (she wrote the Hunger Games trilogy) in any way, shape or form, but to simply tell my story.

And perhaps give other people on the Autism Spectrum Disorder who may read it an avenue of “Gee, I went through this too, I can relate.”

Later this month on this blog I plan to write and post another excerpt, most likely from the first of two chapters detailing my failures in the workforce – which is what the chapter is called, by the way.

I hope you take the time to read it.

In the meantime, hold good thoughts for me as I go on this once-and-for-all home stretch.

 

I like this picture; not only does it show what I’ve been doing for the past decade, but the glasses make a nice touch, as I’m in need of them whenever I’m writing – or online at all, for that matter. Photo courtesy of bendelanoy.com