Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Into the Rabbit Hole

 Trigger Warning: Mass murder

  Mass killings in America are nothing new I am afraid.  When something like the Gabby Giffords incident comes up, or the theater shooting in Aurora happens, I digest it, call family, make the obligatory "OMG I don't believe this" comments at work.  Say a prayer for the victims before bed, then go on.

   Its not that I don't feel horribly about this, it is more of the feeling that this is just a fact of life.  Some young man the media claims is off his rocker will shoot up a place every so often.  It could happen to anybody.  Its an assumed risk you take on when you walk out the door in the morning.

   But something about Sandy Hook made me think.  Was it the proximity to me?  Was it that it was children?  Somewhat.  What got my mind racing and my heart sick was the early media speculation that autism and asperger's syndrome played a role in this.

   I will admit that I was not the leading expert on autism.  I knew from experiences from school and work that people with autism were a unusual bunch, prone to tantrums on occasion.  But not the kind of people that would premeditate a massacre on innocent children.  It seemed like the mass media cop out of the moment.  I really needed to understand how asperger's could have possibly contributed to this incident.

   This led me to research it for the first time in my life.  I say that as if it is a shock that I researched something.  When I want to know something, I become as stubborn as a bull until I have that which I seek.  I latch onto something and I devour it until there is no more.  Considering I deal with the mentally disabled at work 8 hours a day, you would have figured I would have latched onto this.  But up to that point, I had chosen ignorance on the topic.  Complete ignorance.  Complete denial.

   Reading the symptoms of asperger's syndrome was like reading the instruction manual that came out of the birth canal with me and was consequently tossed in the trash.  No eye contact:  Yes, it hurts to make eye contact.  I trained myself to do it about 10 years ago when my sales job was in jeopardy, and unemployment would have meant certain homelessness.  I even remember the showers of praise I recieved from management during a performance review.  It still hurts but I do it

  Physical gestures:  My friend who worked at the same place and helped me get the job literally taught me to parrot his gestures.  I went the first 22 years of my life stand stiff as a board when I spoke.  I had actually always wondered why people gesture with their hands and bodies when they speak.  Just get the information out and be done.

   Vocabulary development:  My grandmother would gush on how I was able to read and discuss a book on Oceanography when I was 3, and I had consumed most of Carl Sagan's Cosmos before 4.  She really believed I was headed for NASA.  In 3rd grade I was made to spend lunch break with a speech therapist, who worked with me on the flow of a conversation.  Particularly letting other people into the conversation.  I rather enjoyed the therapy because it got me out of the cafeteria, which horrified me. 

   Obsessions and Repetitive behavior:  The first absolute obsession I recall having was "Back to the Future".  I watched it three or 4 times a day at least.  I recited the movie word for word as it played along.  My mother bought me a nintendo in 3rd grade, and I became hooked on the repetitive music (still am).

  Stimming/hand flapping:  I could not sleep well at night.  I remember when I was 3 or 4 I would lay in bed and let my imagination run wild.  I would turn my head back and forth on my pillow for hours at a time.  If I did not do this, the vivid pictures in my mind would not come to life.  I still slept in the same room as my parents (we were broke), yet nothing came of this.

   I didn't start hand flapping til I was in 2nd grade (that I can recall).  Group work and book work stressed me horribly.  I could not use my imagination.  I would twirl my fingers, scratch myself violently and get out of my seat and spin around in circles, right in the middle of class.  This earned me a few trips to the school shrink.  But again. nothing came of it.

   The ridicule and subsequent bullying I recieved as a result of this taught me that I was weird.  My "Street smart" older sister and my father ironed into me that under no circumstances can I be weird or different from anyone or I will not survive.  And I took survive literally...meaning that I believed that kids were going to kill me if I acted weird.  So I learned to keep the stimming and other eccentricities as private as I could.  To the point that I began to deny these behaviors both outwardly and inwardly. 

   Also I skipped til I was about 12.  I skipped as much as possible.  I rarely walked unless forced to.  Whenever I skipped, my mind would take flight,  just like with the head rocking.  I skipped so much I plled my hamstring several times doing it.

   Details orientation: Have I included enough details in this first post.  I have many. many more which I can share, but I have much need for sleep.

   Point being, I had come to realize, through my research that I had been living a lie, the lie being that I am normal, or that I can choose to be if I try a little harder.  This is what I am, undeniably so.
They say the truth sets you free.  The truth has sent me to the bathroom with indigestion the past 5 weeks and made me reaware of all my social quirks and insecurities.  But I have not gone far in life making myself out to be something I am not.  I will give this self honesty thing a try. 

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