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

 

 

 

 

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WALKING ON EGGSHELLS: A Second Excerpt

A good illustration of the process of my writing this book…

 

 

As part of the process of (self) publishing my book detailing my experiences with having Asperger’s, “WALKING ON EGGSHELLS”, I am posting excerpts of the book on this site on a monthly basis, to get it publicity and to hopefully raise interest.

Having started this last month with a few paragraphs from Chapter One, here is an excerpt from Chapter Two, titled “Shut Up, Derek!”, which describes the times I said inappropriate things and not only never realizing they were inappropriate, but feeling oppressed, like I was denied my First Amendment right, because I wasn’t being allowed to express myself the way I wanted.

Along with describing a pretty bad incident I did and a harrowing near-incident that if successful, I wouldn’t be writing this now.

Here it is:

 

“…I would be expressing myself, using what I thought was my first amendment rights in saying things, and someone would look at me with an annoying expression and say in a puzzlingly angry way, ‘Shut up, Derek!’

And my brain would always wonder, sometimes verbally, why that was said since I had done nothing wrong.

Consequently, I saw anyone who told me to shut up as an enemy, or someone who saw me as one; who hated me – or at least disliked me – for no reason, someone who was maliciously trying to deny me my basic American right to free expression, which around 350 million other residents of these United States have.

It was like everyone had the right to express themselves however they damn well pleased except me, as every instance of someone trying to hush me up made feel like I was in a North Korean prison camp being straitjacketed and chained up like a pit bull, being unnecessarily restricted by what I could and could not say.

There were several of these negative events (people telling me to shut up in not a nice way, like they hated me) that I can recall as clearly as I can recall what I had for breakfast this morning, reminders of how my aspie brain had and still has rendered me as an annoying, insensitive dork with too many people as far as my vocal interactions.

…my reaction to…(seemingly) everyone’s assessment of me fluctuated between feelings of bewilderment over people having such negative vibes regarding me when in my mind I didn’t do anything to them, and anger over these people trying to deny my first amendment right to free speech.

This anger manifested itself by me forcefully saying ‘Shut me up!’, trying to fight the oppression that according to my Asperger’s brain those who were telling me to shut it were trying t do, but even that didn’t compare in the slightest to what I did to a girl one night during my days at SMC (short for Santa Monica College, which is how we all referred to the place), which is SO hard to think about today because it was SO unforgivably heinous.

It happened during an SMC football game – the minor leagues of college football – sometime during my second year there.

 

 

Too many folks didn’t understand me back in the day because of this, which I wouldn’t even know about until the mid-90s and which socially cost me SO much…

 

 

I was commenting about the football players on the field – I don’t recall what I said and I definitely didn’t think whatever I did say was bad at all – when this girl, whom I had known since junior high and was never really friends with in the first place, her seemingly finding fault with everything I said and commenting how dumb it was, told me to…

‘Shut up, Derek. Just shut up.’

Feeling like I was being treated like shit for no reason other than being myself by someone who I felt had oppressed me that way more than once before, dating back six years to that point, I snapped and did something that NO guy should EVER do to a female.

I hauled off and punched her on the shoulder.

You are now free to call me a loser and a punk for hitting a girl; I’ll wait…

Just as you would figure, everyone was understandably pissed off at me beyond belief; I still wonder why I wasn’t suspended from school for what I did.

What happened next was a continuation of me snapping, as I proceeded to go up to the top of the bleachers, which was easily a couple of hundred feet high if not more, and started to put one leg over a wall, intending to jump off. One other acquaintance who likewise never liked me sneeringly commented that I was trying to get attention, which I don’t deny – I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t.

I obviously didn’t put my other leg over that back wall and go through what at that moment I had intended to go through, else you wouldn’t be reading this book.

It was also clear that what I was suffering from along with Asperger’s was something which I honestly feel had stemmed from all those people seemingly oppressing, abusing, and bullying me throughout my life:

DEPRESSION.

After I put my leg back on the safe side of the stands, I issued my apologies to the girl who I punched and everyone else, then sat in my seat…but not really giving my full attention to the game the way I normally would due to me feeling lower tan a slug buried sixteen feet under, which I wouldn’t have minded being that night.

 

Pretty traumatic stuff, eh?

While I never hit any girls or women or attempted suicide again, there were more incidents of me feeling like I was in a prison in North Korea due to people telling to shut up for what in my mind was no reason in this chapter.

For details, read the book when it comes out.

BY THE WAY: Next month I’ll post an except from Chapter Five, “The Bullied Life”, which is self-explanatory…

 

An illustration of how I wrote my first draft of WALKING ON EGGSHELLS…

 

 

 

 

 

An Open Letter To Adolescents Who Are Seen As So-Called “Losers”

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Ezra Miller and Emma Watson from “The Perks of Being A Wallflower” (2012); I SO wish I had friends like these in high school, the way their characters, Patrick and Sam, accepted and befriended Charlie, played by Logan Lerman. Photo courtesy of musingsofabookshopgirl.blogspot.com

 

THIS IS A REVISED VERSION OF AN ARTICLE I DID ON THE SITE HUBPAGES.COM IN 2010.

AS I FEEL THE SUBJECT MATTER IS RELEVANT TODAY AND ALWAYS WILL BE, IN LIGHT OF A NEW SCHOOL YEAR STARTING I THOUGHT IT WOULD BE A GOOD IDEA TO PLACE THIS ON THIS BLOG.

 

If you are a tween or a teenager who isn’t seen by others as popular or “cool”, read on…

Greetings Young People,

Assuming that my calculations are correct, you have started a new school year after a summer that I’m sure seemed to fly by.

I’m also fairly positive that many of you, if not most of you, have been dreading the start of school like the plague because you’re seen by far too many of your classmates as different in the way you look, behave, or in the way you march to the “beat of a different drummer”.

And I imagine those differences have led to some bad times.

You have probably spent years being called a “dork”, a “geek”, a “loser”, or a combination of those names.

Kids may have done some blatant harm to you such as push you into lockers or throw things at you,

The opposite gender shudders at the thought of standing anywhere near you,

And I wouldn’t be surprised if you find yourself sitting all by your lonesome at lunch, or with other so-called “geeks”.

 

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Something that broke my heart every time I saw it, which was quite a bit during my time working in the education field. Photo courtesy of heraldsun.com.au

 

Or perhaps you’ve been the victim of cyber-bullying, where people have called you all sorts of vile things on the Internet for all to see, which seems to be a popular thing to do these days.

Most likely, you’re probably like I was at your age, mostly alone and lonely because you’re seen as strange; hardly anybody wants to hang with you, and the ones who do pay attention to you do so in ways that induces feelings of inferiority and other negative feelings.

Believe me when I say that during the bulk of the seven years I spent from sixth grade through my senior year of high school, I was a lot like you as for quite a bit of my first month of 10th grade I stayed home in bed because I didn’t want to be shunned or abused, which is how I felt many of my fellow students interacted with me in calling me stupid, ditching me, and letting me know in no uncertain terms that they had no desire to even get to know me, let alone become friends with me.

I know how it is to be bullied and disrespected, causing strong feelings of inferiority and depression as a result.

I would also like to let you in on something…

 

YOU ARE NOT INFERIOR IN ANY WAY, SHAPE, OR FORM WHATSOEVER.

YOU ARE NOT A DWEEB, A LOSER, OR ANY OF THOSE NASTY ADJECTIVES.

YOU ARE A WORTHY HUMAN BEING WHO DESERVES LOVE, RESPECT, AND ACCEPTANCE FOR THE PERSON YOU ARE.

 

Just because you don’t look or act “cool” does not mean there’s anything wrong with you.

I remember when I was a P.E. teacher, there was this ten-year old girl who was made fun of regularly and considered by her classmates as a so-called “geek”. I went up to this girl one day before class after someone had dissed her and said,

“Don’t worry, they’ll be working for you some day.”

Which is often the case as the ones who were so-called “nerds” in school are oftentimes the ones accomplishing great things as adults with their seven and eight figure bank accounts, going to their class reunions in stretch hummer limousines.

 

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I think it should go without saying that the world would be a better place a million times over if every young person was accepted and liked by everyone else like these young folks seemingly are. Photo courtesy of pinterest.com

 

If you don’t believe me, try googling the name Bill Gates sometime.

What I’m trying to say is although you may be having a rough time socially in school and your world in general, know that there are people who care about you.

And not just your mom and dad, either.

Regardless of how bad things may get, please don’t do anything stupid to be “accepted” by changing your behavior to fit in with those so-called “cool kids”; trust me when I say it’s just not worth it because you’ll lose yourself and feel like a phony deep down.

Always be yourself and find friends who’ll accept you just the way you are, warts and all as believe it or not, they really do exist.

Coming from someone who was seen by too many of his peers as a so-called “dork”,  please believe me when I tell you this:

 

YOU ARE PERFECTLY FINE AND DANDY JUST THE WAY YOU ARE.

 

I don’t know how I can make that sentiment any clearer.

So even though life may continue to be socially difficult at times, please do your best to hang in there and stay strong.

Find somebody to talk to anytime you feel desperate or mistreated, anyone who will listen; an adult is an ideal option.

And always keep in mind that you are worthy and you matter, regardless of what those arrogant jerks and mean girls may say or do to you.

Suffice it to say, I wish you nothing but the best for this school year – and beyond!

 

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I like this picture, an image of how things should be. Photo courtesy of scattergood.org

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fighting Depression: From The Perspective of Someone With Asperger’s

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I like this photo of the clouds, and I love this quote, which describes depression perfectly. Image courtesy of compassinsurance.net

 

“The older I get, the more stupid I feel,

I don’t know what’s going on…

The harder I try, the less people I please.”

– Joe Jackson, “Flying” (1994)

 

I’ve always considered this as one of my all-time favorite songs, because the lyrics describe me and my feelings about my life and life in general perfectly.

I once heard – or read somewhere, I don’t recall – that depression is a trait to those with Asperger’s.

In my case, it creeps up periodically, like it did recently when I simply felt burned out and took a break in the public activities that I usually partake in, choosing to stay home and, save for my online work on my sports fan blog/site, basically vegetate.

Depression has been an issue for what I estimate as three-fourths of my life; I remember not going to school, staying home for a few days at a time due to feeling overwhelmed and socially rejected, in both the sixth grade (due to bullying) and the tenth grade (due to the harshness of being new to high school).

And wanting to commit suicide more than once over the course of my adult life; being that I don’t want to alarm anyone I won’t go into any details.

Even though I’m better now thanks to God, I still have to combat feelings of depression and suicide from time to time as every time someone says or does something to me that causes me to feel oppressed or rejected (again, without mentioning any specific details) invokes those feelings.

I know that more or less everyone has those feelings from time to time, but in my case I’m convinced that the root of this negativity inside me stem from one specific thing…

Having Asperger’s Syndrome – or high-functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder as it’s called these days – in a neurotypical (non-disabled) world.

This ASD of mine is likewise a root cause of me feeling like I am walking on eggshells every time I go out in public, which can and does induce burn-out in me to the point where I have no desire to interact with people, for their sake as well as mine.

To try to interact with folks and peers while in this state often invites inappropriate behaviors and social disasters; I want to spare people from that.

That was recently the case, as I didn’t show up to a couple of functions that I usually attend.

In fact, I’m strongly considering renaming the book I’ve been working on describing my life with Asperger’s, “MY ASPIE LIFE”, to “WALKING ON EGG SHELLS” as that has described my life so well ever since I was mainstreamed in school for the first time over forty years ago.

I could also accurately call my book “LEFT BEHIND”, as so many things that my peers have experienced and are experiencing in their/our late forties have eluded me.

I know full well that it shouldn’t matter and that I shouldn’t compare myself to anyone, which I agree with.

But it’s still difficult to see folks that have things that adults commonly have that I don’t have (without any specifics), which I feel has put a concrete wall between me and them.

And which is also the reason why, while I don’t consider myself second class to anyone, I’ll always feel that it’s those differences, stemming from the fact that I’m an aspie and they’re not, that will always be the cause of at least a little alienation, isolation, and discomfort in both directions; other people towards me as well as me towards others.

It’s an ongoing battle and will always be one, these feelings of depression and alienation stemming from being an aspie in a non-aspie world.

As well as feeling that no one really needs me; like Peeta Mellark said to Katniss Everdeen in “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” when he was talking about how his family would mourn him for a bit if he died, then move on.

But hey, at least I’m still here.

Thanks to God.

 

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I know how this guy feels, because I feel like this more often than I should. Photo courtesy of wrestlersmom.com

 

 

WALKING ON EGGSHELLS: My Social Struggles of Having Asperger’s in an Non-Aspie World

 

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Statements like this not only make me feel better, but feel good in general, knowing that there are people like this who see Aspies this way

 

I remember when I was a 16-year old in high school…

It was lunch time, and I was sitting on some grass outside of a classroom with one of my teachers – a lady I liked, admired and respected – and a few of my classmates, when I made a remark about something during a conversation.

I have no recollection of what I said, but I do recall my teachers and the kids reacting like I just called someone a word-that-rhymes-with-witch or uttered some racial epithet.

Which I was quite shocked about, as in my mind I hadn’t said anything that would warrant such a response; I was like, “What? What did I say?”

That was when the teacher said something in exasperation, like she was sick and tired of me at that moment, that I still remember over thirty years later:

“Sometimes you say the wrong thing!”

It would be another thirteen years before I discovered that the source of all that verbal inappropriateness was my having Asperger’s Syndrome, part of the Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Before that day of discovery in the mid-1990s, however, and even to this day, I had (and still have) the conviction that every time I go out in public – and sometimes when I’m at home with my family – I am walking on eggshells to ensure that I don’t say or do anything that might or would get me into any trouble.

Many instances and incidents of that nature abounded before and since that high school day, so many that to describe them all would result in a book not quite the size of War And Peace, but in the ballpark.

Indeed, one of the chapters of the book that I’m continuing to work on, My Aspie Lifeis titled “Shut up, Derek!”, which details the many times people would get annoyed and direct those three words at me for what in my mind at that time was no reason, simply because they hated me when I did nothing to make them feel that way.

If I made a list of folks who fit that description, I’m sure it would be a few miles long.

Which in those days and nowadays is a source of frustration and at times depression, because these are social nuances that seem easy to most people but are difficult – a twenty on a scale of one to ten  – for me.

Even though I am more aware of such nuances in my late 40s, experience being the best teacher, there are still times when I’m reluctant to go out due to the unintentional (I have to emphasize that) social and verbal damage that I may cause.

I believe it was a significant factor in ultimately being unsuccessful in the area of working for someone else and venturing into the world of online blogging, where I can work in the comfort of my own home and not have to worry about dealing with individuals or being bothered by such.

Just the other day, without going into any details, there was a slight incident that I had to apologize for. Luckily for me it didn’t escalate into something that would have cause post traumatic stress in me as it may well have done in the past.

I won’t take much longer with this post, as I want to save any further anecdotes for my book and the rewriting and editing of it, but let me just state this:

 

Walking on eggshells that way I have had to throughout my life has been a source of varying levels of frustration.

Sometimes a little when I can handle it,

Sometimes a lot when I am out and about and I get an increasingly overwhelming urge to get back to my house as quickly as possible before I inadvertently do or say something I would greatly regret.

 

As was said, it has been a source of depression to the point of suicidal thoughts in the past; thank God I have Him in my life now to get me through those feelings.

And speaking of feelings, while this is not an excerpt of my book, I think this “walking on eggshells” thing will be good to detail, make this book of mine more “real” to the readers.

Hopefully I can find the time VERY soon to go over that “Shut up, Derek!” chapter in particular and see how I can enhance that chapter by emphasizing that.

 

 

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Aspects of Asperger’s, for those who don’t know