Saturday, June 1, 2013

School Essay #1: What is Wrong With Me? An Essay of my Disorder

What is Wrong with Me? An Essay of My Disorder 

It was confusing. It was helpful. It was the moment that would forever change my family’s lives, my friends’ lives, and, more importantly, mine. It would also change the way that I viewed myself as a person. I knew for some time now that I was different from my other shallower friends, and not in the good way, either. I knew that my more sensitive, girlier friends thought that I was weird. I read more than any of my friends. I hang out alone and with my teachers. I have a stutter. It’s hard for me to make friends with my, at times, indifferent nature. Then, I come off as mean or stingy when I don’t mean.

I suppose you’re wondering where my awakening started. I remember it like it was yesterday. I was spending the summer with my loving grandmother, Beverly Jean Bird. She may be old, but she stays hip and in-the-now; she’s a real modern granny. Anyways, I was watching TV in her old apartment out in the beautiful countryside, in a town called Arcata. Out in the mountains, where it was perfect weather during the day, but freezing cold at night, I spent altogether three to five summers with my grandmother before she moved to Huntington Beach. As I was watching her TV, the phone rang in its repetitively monotonous ringtone. My grandmother answered the phone and talked to my mom for about 10 minutes until she gave the phone to me. My mom called me about a few things: 1) I was going to a whole new school to get a fresh start, 2) She was checking up on me to see how I was doing because I was going up there every summer for a few years until she moved down to Huntington Beach with my aunt Melissa, and 3) she  had told me to look up a mental disorder called Asperger’s Syndrome. Reasons being because Tracy, my uncle, said that I might be able to get social security and there could be a possibility that I have this mental handicap. After I questioned what this was, she gave me a list of symptoms and signs associated with AS, and, all of a sudden, it clicked! I had all those symptoms, almost all of them. I thought about it; when I looked at website after website after website of this, I burst into tears and think to myself “Oh, so this is what’s wrong with me…” Asperger’s Syndrome has affected me, my childhood, my social life, and how I view myself as an overall individual, and yet, to this day, only a tiny handful of my friends and teachers knew what this disorder was, or at least had a clue of what it was. In this essay, I will tell you a lot more about AS and how it affects people, like myself.  It shocked me, flabbergasted me, scared me, but on top of it all, I got a feeling…an unexplainable feeling. It was as if the final puzzle piece fell into place. It was as if I found the light at the end of the dark tunnel that symbolized my horrible childhood. 

The one, single, enlightening thought that went through my mind was, “Oh, so that’s what’s wrong with me…” I had all of the mental disorder’s symptoms, which included the following: Inability to make and keep friends, communication problems (stuttering and cluttering), lack of ability to pick up social cues, inability to empathize with other’s feelings, not being able to understand humor, dislike of routine change, and heightened sensitivity to loud noises, strong smells, etc. People with AS find it very hard to change their daily routine, making them appear as inflexible and rigid in nature. Repeating body movements and behavior patterns means that Asperger individuals like to do the same thing, over and over again, without getting bored. Some Asperger people don’t use their imagination a lot and they may not socially play with their peers. For example, a young kindergartner with AS may prefer to play alone, or isolated, from the other kids, playing with their friends. Some of the most prominent symptoms of AS include the inability to make and keep friends, lack of social skills, and lack of eye contact. My mother wanted to ascertain whether I really had this disorder or not, so I made regular visits to my therapist, Yisun, and after a while, she toldmy mom and I that I definitely had Asperger’s Syndrome. Some other signs include not being able to maintain a conversation, limited interests, inability to pick up social cues, lack of “common sense,” and odd/eccentric behavior. People who have AS may not seem to have it at first glance, but when you interact with them, that’s when you can usually tell that they are different from other people.  I didn’t stutter as much when I talked to her and when I didn’t stutter, I could communicate better and I made a greater impression on her. I had to make a few changes to my life since I technically had the “developmental skills of an 11 year-old.” So, I started to do things that normal teens my age do. I have chores every day now, I’m trying to get over my fear of driving, and I’m trying to loosen up and be kinder to people.   

I have lost a lot of friends over the years, especially when I moved to Santiago High School, and sometimes I don’t know how to react to a new situation, so my first approach to a new event may startle, frighten, or anger someone I know. The reason why I don’t like to look at people is they stare at me too much and it makes me more likely to stutter, or repeat certain sounds, mostly vowels (a, e, i, o, and u), which is another AS symptom. Sometimes I don’t look at someone because I feel like they are judging me and assuming who I am as a person. It’s not as easy as it may seem to you. I don’t like meeting new people because this is whenmy symptoms get enhanced or “amplified”, so to speak. I stutter more, I tend to look down and not at people, and I run out of things to talk about after awhile, partly because I only spend like a minute or so on each subject I talk about. These “symptoms” that I may seem to have are explainable. I don’t like looking at people because I feel like they’re judging me. I tend to not be very helpful because there are certain things that teens my age should be prepared for. They should come prepared to class without asking me for paper or a pencil. This is partly why my friends think I’m mean or stingy. And I don’t let people copy off me because I don’t want to get myself in trouble. The reason I may not cry at a funeral or relate to someone that’s going through a bad breakup is because I haven’t experienced these kinds of things yet. The only reason I come off as mean is because I like it quiet when I am in my classes. It’s hard for me to think when people are talking all at once, even if they’re using their “indoor voice.” And finally, I get along better with older people because they are more accepting and more understanding of me when I spend time with them. Plus, I don’t stutter as much. I don’t choose to be alone or to be mean. I just don’t feel comfortable when I’m around teens my age.

My awakening has shown some light on the things that have left me confused or stuck. The only good thing about my awakening is that I am obsessed with reading books of all varieties, unlike some of my other friends who have never read a real book in their whole lives, and this gives me an advantage when reading books like “The Scarlet Letter”, “Rip Van Winkle”, and “The Awakening”. I’ve only told a handful of myfriends that would understand me best because not a lot of people know about this mental handicap that I possess. I haven’t really changed that much, physically, but I have changed more mentally. It’s clear to me that I’m going to be alone for most of my life due to my disorder.

I suppose you are wondering where this disorder came from or how it was discovered? Actually, it was named after a man named Hans Asperger. In Austria, he found a unique  group of children that possessed normal or above-average intelligence, but they had very poorly-developed social skills, such as relating to people. Asperger’s Syndrome is actually a disorder associated with Autism. AS is a mild form of this other mental disorder. It was a Level Two Autism, in other words. Even though Hans identified AS in the 1940’s, it wasn’t officially defined and recognized until 1994 and added to the DSM-IV (the Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual). This Asperger’s Syndrome is often confused with schizophrenia and Tourette’s syndrome. Asperger’s Syndrome affects more boys than girls; in 1966, AS affected 4 or 5 infants out of every 10,000 born, but, in 2003, it increased to 14-39 per 10,000. AS runs in families with histories of depression and bi-polar disorder. Hans Asperger’s group of kids revealed that they all had fathers with Asperger’s symptoms. Also, half of his group had history of oxygen deprivation (not getting enough oxygen) during pregnancy and birth, which might suggest that babies with AS may have brain tissue damage before or while their mother was giving birth.  Most psychologists and therapists wait a little longer to diagnose someone, so that they can get an idea of what their behavior is and how they interacted with their friends and family. Therefore, they can correctly identify what symptoms of AS they have before making assumptions and incorrectly diagnosing someone’s child. But fortunately, people with AS have a much better life as they mature and become responsible adults (at least that’s what I’ve read)…

Treating Asperger’s Syndrome takes patience and a lot of therapy sessions. Sadly, it can’t be cured or get rid of like a cold or flu can. But, for some people like me, they can go to a therapist and cope with their symptoms, improve their social skills, and learn how to deal with problems they may have at school, at home, or anywhere they might have a problem. For AS people with speech problems, they can go to a speech therapist and work on their speech imperfections. Some people are given prescription drugs, or psychostimulants, to calm down people that are hyperactive and fidgety. Some drugs can treat anger and depression in AS people, lower their rituals and make them more flexible, and some treat those with anxiety. With a lot of work and therapy, people with Asperger’s syndrome can live their life like their peers do and not worry about people, judging them. I have gone to speech classes since first grade and I was always really nervous and shy as a kid because people always teased me. I couldn’t even say hello to some people because they would run away from me or say something mean to me. I would come home almost every day, crying about what happened in school. In fifth grade, I almost missed the bus and when I got on the bus, everyone was chanting, “Leave her! Leave her! Leave her!” My speech improved when I went to a brand-new high school because I would be able to make a good first impression on people and make a bunch of friends. I started going to a therapist a few months ago, and my therapist, Yisun (ee-SUN), has helped me to improve my social skills and deal with my problems. Now that I am in eleventh grade, everyone around me is focused on their work and not teasing me and it just takes a whole bunch of weight off my shoulders. I’m glad this year got off to a great start. But I still can’t be myself around my peers because my friends still think I am abnormal. 

In conclusion, Asperger’s syndrome is an autistic disorder that affects more boys than girls and it can interfere with their everyday lives. With the inability to make and keep friends, lack of empathy, lack of eye contact, and difficulty in changing their routine, people with AS are just unique individuals that don’t know how to socialize with their peers that well. But, on the bright side, “An Asperger child may be very open to all people, regardless of age, or size, or species, and he may choose friends others wouldn’t have thought he would like…/…and he feels as if he belongs on a different planet… (pages 49-62).” I have a normal life , I have normal problems, and I am just like everyone else, I just have a hard time, getting along with my friends. But speech therapy and counseling have changed my life, and for the better. There are just a few things that people with AS need: “He needs love and encouragement, the occasional bit of advice, space to be himself, and then everyone can sit back and enjoy the unique individual he becomes (pages 62-65).” One of these days, I will become a famous author and people will remember my name for many more years to come. Withmy intelligence and inner beauty, I will go on and become successful. Only time will tell of where I’ll be 10 years from now…In the end, I will COME OUT ON TOP!!!

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