16 July 2013

What Is Wrong With You?

As humans we are social creatures who have a natural curiosity for things. We like to find information and we try to make it relevant to our own lives. One of those is finding what makes us who we are. Why do I do this? Why don't I do that? We want these questions answered. We need to have a name for these behaviors. Whether we go online or read to self-diagnose ourselves or go to a physician, we just need to know.

I may seem like I am undermining syndromes, disorders and diseases, but I am not. I believe they are all real and they are the catalyst for people's behaviors. I believe that people really suffer from these disorders and syndromes but what about the rest of us? What about the people who are on the line? We watch documentaries of people who have OCD, Schizophrenia and Autism but they are extreme cases. We never see people on TV with mild forms of these things. Does that mean that when someone has these things, such as OCD, they are like what we see on TV? They are constantly doing things in an order and repeating behaviors and washing their hands 100 times? Well no, not really.

I believe some people may have a few symptoms or even just one symptom of some disorders and syndromes. It doesn't mean they have it. The human mind and personality is so complex, yet we try to categorize it by grouping behaviors and calling it something like Autism. Just because you may be a neat freak doesn't mean you have OCD. Just because you are having a bad day and get sad and cry doesn't mean you have depression. Why are we so quick so point out what is wrong with ourselves and each other? And the real question is, what is normal?

When I was a kid I was a handful. I was hyper and crazy and my parents were having troubles with me. I was brought to a psychiatrist who diagnosed me with ADHD. I also would be sad and may have said a few things that concerned my parents about suicide. I was then diagnosed with depression. I was put on Ritalin for the ADHD and then Prozac for depression. I was young, not even in high school for all this. When I was young I was considerably neater than other kids. I liked things in order and always put things away. I didn't like tags on clothes and was very particular about food, clothing, where things were and how they were set up in my room, for example. I don't believe I was officially diagnosed with OCD but it was talked about. No medication for that since I was not so compulsive as I was obsessive. I don't like wrinkles, lint on things, dirty mirrors, spots on things, and I need my hair to look a certain way before I leave. I never got into washing my hands several times or repeating a particular behavior. The only thing I do that I call "Monk" behavior (if you know that show you know what I mean) is when I am at a clothing store I touch and feel the clothing as I walk by it. Almost all of them. I don't count them nor would I go back to one if it was missed. This is the reason why I think I have OCD but in a very midl, almost common form. I know people who have the same "obsessions" but they would not meet the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders definition of having OCD or anything like that.

I have never been one to self-diagnose either. I admit, I have taken online quizzes and such but I would not go to a doctor and have a real examination of myself. I think it's silly. If it's not affecting my life at all and I am living OK then what's the point? I don't believe that dwelling on having these disorders helps you. Blaming them and fixing them and wondering about them does nothing for you. All you can do is try to be a good person and live life the best way you can. We all have our quirks. We all have things that we do that drive others crazy and that even drive ourselves crazy.

But who is to say who is what? There are clear and easy cases of someone having bipolar disorder or schizophrenia that can be diagnosed by anyone with some knowledge of the disorders and of course a doctor. If someone appears to be something, they most likely are not. You can't see someone with a neat house and automatically assume they have OCD or that they are even a neat freak. It's the same as looking at a guy who takes care of himself and takes care of his looks and you call him gay when he is straight. (He's called a metrosexual, by the way.) It's just so hard to really sum people up with a bunch of disorders and syndromes. One person could even be a little of everything. A control freak, a neat freak, slightly bipolar, OCD, and even a little sociopath. There is really an endless amount of possibilities.

My mother was and still is the one who has done all the diagnosing and suspecting. She has been diagnosing my father and I forever. In terms of the ADHD, my aunts didn't believe I had it. They thought I was just an ordinary, hyper kid who liked to play and have fun. I don't know, maybe everyone has ADHD these days, it must be in. Lately, my mother has been telling my I have Asperger's syndrome. She even has said my dad has it as well. I obviously denied that and I did my research on what it actually was. Again, if you have one symptom of something, it doesn't mean you have that disorder or syndrome. The DSM IV has Asperger's Syndrome and I went through it and yes some things fit me but not all of it. Also, I feel like it's a weird line between that and other social disorders. I feel more like I am just shy and have some anxiety but nothing like Asperger's. In fact, Asperger's is not even in the DSM V. It is now under the Autism Spectrum Disorder.

I don't see why people need to know what are and to have a label with it to feel special. We are all different and special in our own ways. Who cares what you have or what you don't have. I am not going to sit here and say I have nothing but I know what I do not have. I don't go around advertising it and being "proud." Why? Well because I don't think those things are real major influences in me. They have never defined me. My ADHD may have played a role in my childhood, I don't know but I what I do know is that today, I don't "feel" like I have ADHD. I just know I am different and have certain quirks and qualities about me. I don't say, "oh that's the ADHD or the OCD doing that." It just feels weird to label things that may be completely normal in human behavior. Even if you are not OCD or ADHD, you can be labeled something else. It's not like anyone is not labeled something. Again, I think we are too complex to just quickly diagnose one another and even to go into some big evaluation. That, and people change all the time. I have changed and I am not even the same person I was in college. I think, if anything, I have become stronger and better or I have just built on the person I was. That is change. I don't have to a 360 to change.

Just ask people's pet peeves and pay attention to detail when they do things. You will see that everyone has the something that makes them tick or that irks them. It can be as simple as having dollar bills facing the same way to having their whole house/apartment a certain color or set up a certain way all the time. Stop labeling people so quickly and just love who they are and focus on their personality not what everyone else says they are. Get to know someone beyond those labels. There may be some truth to labels but they certainly should not define us as people. We have the capacity  to change and adapt.

04 July 2013

You're Not Alone

We moved to Glastonbury, Connecticut when I was about 10 years old. We moved from Manchester, CT for the better school systems. After I was adopted, schooling was pretty tough. My parents tried me in a Catholic school for first grade and they could not handle my behavior. I guess I was pretty wild compared to the other kids and so I went to the public school system. Around this time I was just a normal, hyper kid in elementary school. Manchester was a pretty nice town. I had nice neighborhood friends but the school was rough. It was going down the tubes and becoming too overpopulated and filled with teachers who didn't seem to care that much. What made us move was the overall decline of the neighborhood. We had a cul-de-sac and I used to play there until some new kids, who were black, moved in and basically threatened to hurt me. School wasn't any better.

I don't have a lot of memory on this event but I do remember some of it. I believe the teacher stepped out or something. All I know is that I was in a class that was unsupervised. I was and have always been the smallest kid in class and so I was an easy target for kids. For some reason they thought it would be fun to shove me in the classroom storage closet. Of course I wasn't liking that and was trying to get out. The closet had a sliding door that they were trying to slam on me. As I was fighting this, my hands were in the way and the door slammed against them. I don't remember much of the immediate aftermath but I did end up in the hospital with my nails all bashed up. I do remember that it was not a pretty sight. I did receive a lot of homemade get well cards from the kids at school but I am sure that was done by the teacher. Nonetheless, it was nice and made me feel better. I was sure some of them were genuine as well considering not every kid in the class was involved. I would have to guess that this made my parents even more willing to move away from Manchester.

I started 3rd grade in the Glastonbury Public School system and it was not bad at all. We got a nice house and the kids seemed nice as well. The only troubles that year were with the teacher. Fourth grade came and I was very hyper and this was around the time my parents decided to get help. We got a therapist and a psychiatrist involved who started me on Ritalin for ADHD and prozac for depression. I thought I was doing fine and loved school. I had friends and sat at a table with friends who I made laugh all the time. Eventually, things changed and we all got older and the drugs were taking more of an affect on me. By 6th and 7th grade   I was more calm. I was always to myself and didn't really socialize all that much as I had before. People were changing and the friends I knew were now older or had moved away. Again, I was the smallest kid in the class and now being more quiet made me an even more vulnerable target. However, when challenged or if I did have something to say, I would speak my mind. In 7th grade, there was this kid who didn't have things easy. I look back to those days and really think that I didn't have it bad every single day like some others. I didn't and still don't know much about his situation but he was kind of sporadic and unpredictable. Again, the circumstances are kind of blurry but it was again a time when a teacher was not present. People were making fun of this kid for his hygiene or something and I happened to be in the middle of it. I wasn't making fun of him but I said something to him and he just went off right there. He was a lot bigger than me and he grabbed me and basically choked me to the point I was off my feet. I believe he got suspended after that, not sure. All I know is that it was pretty terrifying to not have any control over your body. Regardless if I said anything bad or not to him, I didn't deserve to be attacked.

As I look back at these kids, I now realize that a lot of these kids were victims of bullying themselves. I have never bullied anyone. I don't know how someone can be a victim and turn on others. I have no sympathy for those people at all. Fortunately, that was the worst of the psychical abuse I would take in school. However, I do believe, to an extent, that verbal abusive is the worst.

Seventh and 8th grade were not my greatest times. I didn't really have any good friends or a group of friends established. I dreaded the cafeteria and lunch time. I sat at many tables like a nomad. I dreaded sitting alone, although there were those who did. I wanted to fit in somewhere and at least be welcome, if not accepted by others. We all go through this period of wanting acceptance. I was in the thick of it. Kids were verbally mean with mostly jokes about my height or my quietness which showed off as awkwardness. I was so obsessed with being accepted that I somehow was able to sit with what I looked as to be "the popular kids." They DID have the center lunch table and were all attractive. I sat there for maybe one or a few days but felt uncomfortable. What was I doing? They were clearly mocking me and even worse, ignoring me. I did not feel welcome at all. All this mixed in with rejections from girls and other people who I wanted to be friends with was normal for me at this time. I didn't have anyone to really go to at this time who would listen and talk to me. I was convinced by the many kids who said, "no one like you" that it was true.

As time went on, more and more people changed and I hardly knew the kids I went to elementary school with. High school came and I was nervous as any freshman would be. High school is and I am sure was tough for most people. It was no exception for me but it also was one of the times in my life where I actually grew up. I learned things about others and myself and finally befriended someone who was and still is a true friend. The first two years sucked. I was still shy, small and awkward. I was considerably innocent too. Not having done the things the kids have done (I didn't really want to either). I never drank, touched drugs or engaged in sexual activity in high school like many kids started or continued doing. I still had some verbal abuse from people and mocking. Kids in high school were now learning how to be fake and I got to be the guinea pig. I did have one main bully in the beginning years. He was primarily verbal but with some minor physical abuse mostly on the bus on the way home from school. It got to the point where I told my parents and they spoke to his. Apparently, he had been bullied or was being bullied. I still didn't feel for him but glad I talked and it was taken care of. After that, I was just to myself. I guess I wasn't bullied in the traditional sense. I can't think of a time I was really humiliated because kids then were fake so they would do nothing in front of you. All the laughing and teasing would be done behind your back. I knew this only cuz people would tell me or I'd catch them. Sometimes you could just feel when you are being laughed at and not really in the joke but you are the joke.

I was in a play in freshman year. I decided I wanted to be in the drama club just to try it out. I was OK but was a very minor part. I hated the experience though. The kids were into drugs and acted like they were God's gift on Earth. I was not welcome and was not comfortable. It was not be and I didn't want to be a part of that at all. I did find something I liked though. I had been part of the orchestra for a long time but the high school orchestra was a great experience. It was one of the few classes I looked forward to attending. I met good friends there and made good memories as well.

Beyond high school, I was going through the whole religious exploration and family backlash as well as sexual questioning. I am glad that things took a turn for the better. So I am gonna end this with a positive note that leads to me today.

In sophomore year I was able to get out of being in the special education program (why I was in there in the first place, I will never know). In freshmen year, I met someone who I'd consider and still do, my best friend. Someone who I still talk to today even though we are thousands of miles apart. She helped me through high school and all it's craziness. Even though she had her own group of friends, she still made me feel like she was a part of her life just as much as they were. And even though her friends may not have been crazy about me, she would spend one on one time with me. By senior year, I knew what I wanted to do and I felt like I had established myself pretty well. I was more outspoken and vocal and tried to be more social. I gained more confidence and changed my appearance and way of looking at things as well. By college I remained pretty much the same. I tried to be more social but I realized that was going nowhere for me. I thought by being in the dorms it would help, but it didn't. I was still an outcast and even on a trip to Ecuador in 2008 with a small group of people my age, I was still not a main player. I didn't make "long lasting" friendships as these experiences promised. And you know what? Looking back at it I am OK with that. My friendships have come from nothing. They were not forced or done in a way that made me feel like I had to make a friend. They were as simple as sitting next to someone everyday in class or every day in an office. I didn't have to talk to anyone in class or at work and a lot of people don't. I am happy I still talk to these people today considering school is over and we are no longer working together. Sure, I had friends in high school and college but they were just convenient friends. I don't see them or hear from them today. That's what makes a true friend. Someone who doesn't forget about you after you have been together in a class, job or some travel group, etc.

At work, I don't like to be in the center of drama and everything but I am no longer being ignored. I have a a voice and can make friends easy. I like to make people laugh and tell stories. I always have. I am glad I am back to that and the days of me being suppressed and beaten down mentally are over. I know I have obstacles now as an adult but I always remember how I was when I was young and it just makes me keep on.

Bullying sucks and no one deserves it. It doesn't just happen at school. It can happen with adults at work too. It can be physical or verbal. Even ignoring someone can be a form of bullying. Being ignored and shunned is just as bad. I would say that's the majority of my experience in bullying. People need to realize that no one is worthless. We all have worth and we need to recognize that. Whether that takes a good friend or a nice letter or note, we need to be told how much we matter. I have contemplated suicide a few times in my life when I was younger. When I was close to death back in November, I realized that if I was gone, a lot of people would be sad. I would hurt a lot of people if I were to end my life. I thought my family would be the only ones who cared but I was wrong. I knew I had a purpose and I meant for something. I know I have always been at the end of the line for things in life but it has to be for a reason. Life is no fun if things are handed to you first or if you are socially privileged from the start. Just know that there are people who care and you are special. Never forget where you came from and what you went through. Whether you are gay, straight, lesbian, transgender, Black, White, Asian, Latino, short, tall, fat, skinny, pretty, ugly, cute, weird, shy, goth, nerd, jock, popular or just plain different, you are loved by someone.