Recently, I have been writing about pride, as well as the realities of living with mental illness and how to view it in a positive light.
However, I also promised in my first column that I would attempt to bring a more light-hearted air to this issue. It is in that spirit that I write this article, a comedic piece that speaks to some of the day-to-day problems the mentally ill might have that are very minor, when taken in stride with the larger, human rights context. Keep in mind what follows are specifically my experiences. Keep in mind I cannot speak for everyone, so please refrain from joking about these things around people unless you know they are comfortable with it.
I had kind of an obsession with the swing set when I was little. Throughout elementary school, it was all I ever really wanted to do. I would even find excuses to work swings into games I was playing with other kids. What can I say, it was a great place to think? Apparently, this isn’t just a personal thing either. A lot of kids on the autism spectrum take to the swings when they are little. I never knew that.
I also had a habit of following people around, droning on endlessly about stories when I was little. My mom still clearly remembers one instance where she got a message from my aunt saying something to the effect of, “Help! Tony’s following me around telling stories.” At some point, I learned to talk less. I don’t really want to imagine what life would be like if I hadn’t.
My rocking back and forth was, predictably, a bit of an issue when it came to the other students. They weren’t mean or bullies as a general rule, though they did imitate me from time to time. From what I was told, they were more just confused and curious. They weren’t sure why I moved the way I did. I explained it as best I could, though in grade school I wasn’t aware of the exact reason, more just that it made me feel good, helped me to relax. My dad used to hate it, and my mom was convinced I needed to get rid of it at some point as well. Of course, that was before any of us were aware of the exact situation. As far as they were concerned, it was just a weird habit I’d picked up.
Perhaps the strangest story comes from elementary school. One of my teachers thought I was too energetic and didn’t want to to deal with me. The problem is that at that point, my mom had already made it pretty clear that I couldn’t safely be medicated. The teachers would just have to deal with an excitable, jumpy kid. Most of the teachers didn’t have problems, but would still rather not have that responsibility. Since I already had an issue of constantly reading in class, the teacher decided that the best solution was to send me to the principal’s office and have me read there rather than attend a few of my classes. I don’t remember when exactly Mom found out, but needless to say she was none too pleased. That was about the worst issue I had in grade school, and things got better through middle school and into high school.
Those are some of the funnier stories to come out of my life with Asperger syndrome. I’m not sure how funny they are, if at all, but this is what came to mind. Do you guys want to share stories? Perhaps you want to ask questions or perhaps send in tales of your own identify and quest to discover it? Whatever the case may be, feel free to write to me if you feel so compelled. I’d be more than happy to post your letter in my column.