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Thursday, August 10, 2017

6 Months Later

February 15, 2017.  That was the day I found out what was wrong with me; I had Asperger's, and General Anxiety Disorder.  For 42 years I had operated under the assumption that everyone felt like me, boy was I wrong.  I've learned a lot in the past 6 months, and I thought I'd share them.

I learned that this rage I felt in my head all the time was not normal.  I can't tell you what it's like not to be mad, not to feel a burning rage, to be happy.  I found out that this rage triggered so many of my outbursts.  I found out that eliminating it, eliminated 90% of those outbursts.  I found out being happy was okay.

I learned that it's important to share what I was dealing with.  The more that people knew, the more they tried to help me not be in those situations that bothered me.  Now I will admit that I've had to gently tell some people not to treat me with kid gloves, but I can't tell you how great it is when I'm going through a stressful situation at work, co-workers will double check with me that I'm alright.

I learned talking about my mental health is important...but not the way you think.  Telling people about my condition had an unexpected consequence.  I've been contacted by so many people telling me that me sharing what I'm going through has prompted them to try to find a way to help a child, a friend, a sibling, a loved one, or just anyone that they care about that they suspect is suffering from Asperger's/autism.  I had many parents tell me I'm a role model to their child.  They can point to me as an adult that succeeded.  I didn't even know (well, diagnosed, I always wondered) what was wrong with me as I navigated 20+ yrs of marriage, work, and my education.  By just talking truthfully about what I dealt with has helped others.

I learned that I do have empathy.  I work with kids to go to college. The majority of my students are low income students, first generation students, minority students, refugee students, and/or foster kids, and for some reason that escaped me for years, I can relate to them.  How a middle class, middle-aged white guy can, I had no idea.  One day my therapist asked me if it ever dawned on me that I recognize the struggles these kids go through, because I had my own, that I suffered in silence with for years.  It was like a light bulb went off.

I learned I don't hate me.

I learned I like me.  (Not the same thing)

I learned I can communicate, it just takes some doing sometimes.

I learned my wife really is a superhero.

I learned that living life being miserable isn't living, it's just existing.  If you take nothing from this, know that you deserve to be happy.  We all do.

I can't wait to see what the next 6 months bring.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Just 5 Minutes

It's been a strange few weeks.  A few days ago, out of nowhere, feeling began to wash over me that I can't even begin to figure where the come from.  Out of nowhere came the thought that others would be better off without you.  I'm not talking suicide, because to be totally honest I'm to much of a chicken to ever attempt it. I'm talking just not being around. Not bothering my family or friends with my problems, with my insecurities, with me. Today, yesterday, and a lot of last week, I simply think I'm not worth the trouble. I find myself crying, just sad. I don't know what has brought it on, and I don't know how to fix it. My mantra for the past few days, just get through the next 5 minutes. It is exhausting. It is embarrassing. It is driving me crazy. I am tired. I am tired of fighting with myself. I am tired of people telling me I'm being ridiculous. I know it's ridiculous, but it won't stop. I will be alright, but whether it's today, tomorrow, or next week, I can't tell you when.  I envy those whose minds don't terrorize them. I envy those who thoughts don't haunt them every night while they try to sleep. Maybe one day I'll get control of my thoughts, but until then I'll keep fighting. But today, today I'm just tired.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Not So Long Ago, In This Galaxy Right Here

Bare with me, this one is two parts, but you need some backstory first, I'll give you bare bones.

Episode IV - They Gave Me Hope

My father had Guillain-Barre Syndrome.  You don't know what that is, don't worry the doctors barely did.  It was 1982, and I was 7.  I was in 3rd grade.  I had seen Star Wars, once.  One night in February my father collapsed unable to walk, within a few hours he was in the hospital and had lost all ability to move.  For all intensive purposes, me and my two sisters moved in with my aunt.  During that time, HBO ran Episode IV - A New Hope, well, alot, and given my state, my aunt let me watch it each time it was on.  During that time, I became friends, if not family, with some pretty cool people.  There was the rouge, Han Solo, the Wookie, Chewbacca, the whiner, Luke, and the beautiful, smart-aleck, witty, princess Leia.  They saved the galaxy and my sanity during that time.

That's a nice story, right?  That would be a great story, but it wasn't the end...I just didn't know it.  2016.  My world was in shambles.  It was December, and I had canceled Christmas in my head.  I love Christmas.  I love the meaning, the songs (I play them all year long).  The decorations, the feelings I get, and most of all, the love.  2016, there was no love.  I did not want to come out of bed.  I knew everyone hated me, thought I was a loser, thought I was a fraud, and mostly, thought I was worthless...and I knew they were right.

This is all nothing I haven't shared before, but what I'm about to tell you is true, and I've been ashamed, or something to tell it, because part of me feels it's my fault.  That's my anxiety talking I know that, but it still feels like it was my fault.  The first weekend in December, I found myself researching, and that's when I started to really wonder, did I have Aspergers?  Was it that simple?  The answer in my head was no.  I got the courage to make the phone call, and the doctor couldn't see me until after the New Year.  I told him I'd get back with him.  For the next week I went back and forth on what to do.

Some friends rented a private screening of Rogue One.  I had my tickets months before, and the day was here, and I didn't want to go.  That's when I knew something was terribly wrong.  I stood in line for over 19 hours for Episode One tickets.  I went and saw Episode One 7 times at the theater.  Do you get it?  I love Star Wars, and I didn't want to go.  Because there were people...that were judging least so I thought.  I sat there, nearly trembling because I was so upset to be in public, but this story began to unfold, and by the end, I was so drawn in.  At the end (Spoiler Alert) there is my princess again, Leia...and my mind started to think about Carrie Fisher, and all of her mental illness battles she has had over the years.  I still was on the fence.  A week later, I was on twitter, and why I don't know, but within minutes of her collapsing, I knew.  Over the next week I read, and read, and read.  I read about her struggles of her mental illness.  I read how this amazing, beautiful, tortured soul struggled her entire life.  Not only did she say she was ill, she wasn't ashamed.  "I am mentally ill.  I can say that.  I am not ashamed of it. I survived that, I'm still surviving it, but bring it on.  Better me than you."  That quote...that quote still brings me to tear, because she saved my life with that quote.  She passed on December 27th.  I know because that was the day I called and scheduled the appointments with my doctor.  Today part of me still feels guilty, and I know deep down that it's not my fault, but part of me, the part that won't shut up because of my mental illness, that I'm no longer ashamed of, keeps telling me if I had made that appointment she would still be alive.  This week in therapy, my therapist told me that when I feel anxiety to just accept it.  Admit it's there, acknowledge it and carry on through it.  She said we are just going to recognize it is a part of who you are.  So I did, but being the nerd I am, I found myself thinking, "I am one with the force, the force is one with me.  I am one with anxiety, anxiety is one with me."  It kinda worked.

So, Carrie Fisher saved my life, not directly, but it was her bravery, that gave me the moment of bravery I needed.  This struggle isn't easy, and I know I have it better than so many.  So let me do this.

Hello, my name is David Carner, and I have 2 mental illnesses, Asperger's (autism) and General Anxiety Disorder.  I am not ashamed, they are part of who I am, and if I can help one person, than that means the world to me.  If you've made it this far, and wonder is there something easy you can try, the following link is ABC Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.  It has done wonders with me.  You may see me in a situation shut my eye and mutter something to myself, that's me working my process.  Also if you ever need someone to listen, then hit me up on twitter @davidcarner If you don't want to talk publicly, you can message me.  Thanks for reading, and thank you Carrie for saving my life.  You been a Princess, a General, and a Godsend.  RIP.

Till next time, whenever that is


Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Everything I Thought I Knew Was Wrong

(Note, this is a piece I submitted to The Mighty)

Most people would have looked at me in July of 2016, and thought, “He has got life figured out.”  They would have seen a person who had just defended his dissertation and earned his Ed.D in Educational Leadership, who was a few months from publishing his seventh novel, and a person who had a wonderful wife and an amazing daughter.  What they wouldn’t know is underneath that exterior was someone who thought, “I’m not good enough.  I have no friends.  There’s something wrong with me.  I’m worthless.”

In the fall of 2016, I was sitting in a departmental meeting at the college I work for and was listening to a presentation of Student Disabilities.  I would like to tell you that I can tell you what he talked about, but I had so many thoughts running through my head that I couldn’t concentrate on what he was say.  Also, there were nearly 100 people in the room, so I had to sit in the back corner and pray no one saw me, lest they would start talking about me.  What I do remember him saying was the majority of the disabilities his office dealt with were ones on the inside that most people would never notice.  What I really remember him saying is these disabilities are real.  All I could think is, “Those poor souls.  Someone out there has these thoughts of being worthless, or can’t even be in a room with a group of people because it bothers them so much.”  (I mean let’s be honest, at this point it had never occurred to me what was wrong, but that was the moment I started to wonder.)

In December, after the program I worked for, hired a new director, even though I had been co-running the program for over a year, the thoughts of worthlessness flooded me like a constant tidal wave.  Most mornings it was a struggle to get out of bed, much less face my students I try to prepare for college.  As I stood in front of a group of seniors talking about scholarships and making sure their FAFSA was complete, all I could wonder is what I was doing.  I was a complete, worthless fraud.  They had to see it, they must have seen it.  I was passed over for the job I was already doing, so strangers even saw it.  That was the low point. 

That weekend, I was on twitter and saw a lady who was in her 30s, had a Ph.D., and had self-diagnosed herself with Asperger’s.  I read her blog and was in shock.  The things she talked about sounded like my life, but I couldn’t have Asperger’s.  I was 42, they would have caught that by now.  It wasn’t possible.  I mean sure, sometimes when no one was around, I would make noises to amuse myself, or when I was nervous I would pace until someone saw me and asked me what I was doing.  Or maybe I clicked a pen, or tapped my foot, or tapped my thumb on my forefinger to relieve stress.  Ok, maybe I would have these rage moments, in which I found myself wondering who let this irrational person in my body screaming these things that were nonsense, then break down in a sobbing mess, and then five minutes later I was fine, but that’s just my way of dealing with stress…right?  So the question began to burn into my brain, and like everything else in my life, I began to obsess over it.  It took a while to find someone, but testing began.  What was supposed to take three sessions took four, and then it took the Psychologist sometime to make sure of his findings, but on that piece of paper, on February 15, 2017, I learned what I already knew, I had Autism and General Anxiety Disorder (I did ask, and he said if it had been five or six years ago, it would have been Asperger’s.) 

I scheduled some therapy at the university, but it was a few weeks away, so I did what I do best.  I started researching it on my own (hey, make it work for you, right?)  I had such mixed emotions.  I finally knew what was wrong, but what was wrong was incurable.  In so many places I read, “It’s manageable.”  I don’t know about you, but that sounds horrible.  That sounds like making sure someone is comfortable before they die.  At that moment, in the heart of some of my biggest doubts of myself in my life, I promised myself that I wouldn’t just survive anymore, I was going to live.  I was through wrestling these disorders, and fighting for air.  I was going to find a way to grab its hand and walk through life, and live.  Of course the first week, I had a meltdown.  However, for the first time in my life I was able to see it coming, I couldn’t stop it, but I saw it coming.  I decided I could beat it, it wouldn’t happen.  It did.  It was one of the worst meltdowns I ever had.  It was in that moment I understood why some people use the word manageable.  For the first time in a long time, I did something I hadn’t done, I didn’t get down on myself, but used it as a learning experience.  I examined everything in my life that lead up to it, and realized a few small changes could stop it from happening.

The next week my wife feared the worst.  I had three school visits, my daughter had two performances, three practices, a competition on Saturday, and my wife’s family wanted to have dinner that Saturday night, in public.  To her, there was no way I wouldn’t melt down.  I finally began my self-care.  When I went grocery shopping I put my headphones in and listened to music so the voices and noises wouldn’t bother me.  When I was somewhere that I could feel those levels building I politely left for a few minutes, or just left.  I let my wife take care of some of my daughter’s practices.  I have this feeling because I work shorter hours than my wife and she is the breadwinner that “I should” do things so she doesn’t have to.  I’ve learned, “I should” leads to me losing it.  By Friday night, I felt great.  I was absolutely amazed, but Saturday, with over 100 10 yr olds, all day, was going to be a test.  For the first 6 hours, it went great, but by 4:30 Saturday afternoon, sitting on some bleachers, with dozens of kid’s voices behind me, kids bouncing on the bench I was on beside me, and the lady in front of me not understanding personal space and had touched my knee three, nope, make that four, times, I could feel the meltdown.  I turned to my wife and simply said, “I need a break.”  She pointed to an open space away from everyone where I could go, “pace to my heart’s content.”  I was never more thankful.   I walked the crap out of that little area, and I was fine.  I took my daughter and met her family at the restaurant for dinner.  As the restaurant filled, and more and more people’s voices assaulted me, I began to worry I wasn’t going to make it.  I had finished eating, and my wife looked at me and asked if I was done.  I told her I was, and she said, “go.”  God bless her.  By the time she and my daughter got home, I was fine. 

Last week was the first time I felt like a real human in a long time.  The self-doubt is a little quieter, the worry is a little less, but most importantly, the biggest fear I had didn’t come true.  I just knew many people would think I made this up, was doing it for attention (which is the last thing I want!), or worse, make fun of me, have been nothing but supportive.  This is the beginning of my new story.  My old story ended a few weeks ago, because now, I know, and I understand.  I know some days will be horrible and a fight just to get through, but now there can be, and will be good days.  Entire, whole days that I can enjoy.  That is living, and that is what I’m going to do.  Everything I thought I knew was wrong, but I’m learning new things, and I’m going to make my life right.  

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

New Day in Queens Landing Chapter 1 and 2

Chapter 1
Terrance stood beside Cal and looked over at the farmer not believing what he heard.  He looked over the bodies of the cows in the field, and then back over to the farmer.  Eddie, as he was known, had called the sheriff’s department numerous times over the years.  Eddie’s real name was Benjamin. Eddie believed that the name Benjamin was the name given to him by his alien abductors when he was ten.  Terrance always referred to Eddie when he talked about why pregnant women shouldn’t use crack. 
“You want to run that by me again?” Terrance said, wondering if this was withdrawal from not having smoked in the past few hours, or had he smoked some really good stuff today and had forgotten about it.
Terrance was currently a member of LaCompt County Sheriff’s Department, and a frequent user of marijuana.  He kept telling everyone it was for medicinal purposes, but since Kentucky didn’t recognize medicinal marijuana, that was really a moot point.  Terrance was a former linebacker in high school, and apparently once a member of Special Forces.  Cal couldn’t get Terrance to talk about it, so he let it go.
“I’m telling you zombies killed my cows,” Eddie said just as calmly as if he was talking about the weather.  Terrance shook his head and looked over the cattle.  There were four dead animals.  Two of them seemed to have cut marks on them and had bled out.  The other two . . .   Terrance didn’t know about zombies, but something had bitten them. 
Terrance looked over at Cal.  Cal was looking the other direction, like he was trying to track something.  Terrance started to speak, but Cal put his finger to his ear.  Terrance listened, and heard something that didn’t match the sounds he would expect to hear on a farm.
“Are you having any lumber hauled, Eddie?” Cal asked.  Terrance nodded.  It did sound like a large truck trying to navigate the tiny back roads. 
“Naw,” Eddie answered.  “You’re probably hearing those oil guys over there at the Miller farm.”  Eddie pointed behind him as if there should be a boundary line visible.
 “The Millers have a lot of oil on their property?” Cal asked, peering off in the direction Eddie pointed.  Eddie made a snorting laughing noise, and Cal turned toward him, amused.
“Apparently, someone didn’t do their homework right,” Eddie said, amused.  “The Millers have some oil, but most of the oil in the area is under my property, and Uncle Brody’s.”  Terrance’s mouth dropped.
“Crazy Brody is alive?” Terrance blurted out, before he thought about what he had said.  Eddie didn’t seem to notice or care. 
“He’s 88 next month,” Eddie replied proudly.  Cal chuckled.  Crazy Brody, as he was known around town, still didn’t have electricity or running water.  He lived in what could best be described as a shack.  He bathed about once every six months, and at one time had all the grass around his house burnt away so he could see any snakes coming.  “He said if he reaches 100 he’s going to put electricity in.  He thinks it will get too hot in the summer for him to handle it at that point.”
            “Do you check on him often?” Terrance asked, more from curiosity than anything else.  Eddie shook his head.
“Naw,” he answered.  “He got bitten by a dog a while back, and we wanted to take him to the hospital, but he don’t believe in hospitals.  He didn’t show any signs of anything so we left him alone.  I tried to stop by more often, but when you only bathe every so often . . .”
“Rank?” Cal asked.  Eddie burst out into a laugh.
“I’d say,” he answered.  “Now what are we going to do about these cattle?”
“I’m going to start looking for zombies,” Cal answered, keeping his face straight.

Chapter 2
Terrance and Cal walked back to the SUV.  Cal looked around, enjoying the fall weather.  He thought about how much his life had changed in the past few months.  Cal had been what many would refer to as a dirty cop.  He took money to look the other way while a drug lord named Hernandez sold drugs in LaCompt County.  Cal’s boss, Chris Rogers, had figured out what was going on, and had been killed for it by Hernandez and his crew.  When Cal finally figured out that Hernandez was selling drugs besides marijuana, and in more places than just LaCompt County, he decided to do the right thing and stop Hernandez.  With the help of Carol, and Terrance, they took down Hernandez and his crew. 
Cal had expected his sister Carol to make him turn himself in, but Carol and Terrance had wanted someone who was going to try and clean up the drug trade in LaCompt County.  Cal cleaned up his act and began to live the right way.  A few days later, while out on patrol, he met Sam, a beautiful blonde.  They had begun dating.  Life was good, until he woke up one night and found Hernandez’s brother sitting on a chair in his bedroom, with a gun pointed at Cal.  Cal had spent the next few weeks double checking the locks on his home after that episode. 
“Trying to decide if you can call him Hernandez?” Terrance asked, pulling Cal from his thoughts.  Cal chuckled, opened the door to the SUV and climbed in.  Terrance did the same.  They closed the doors, and took off.
“It would makes thing easier if I just called him Hernandez,” Cal admitted.  “What do you think of your first Eddie case, T?”  Cal had called Terrance T for years.
“He’s twenty-five pounds of crazy in a five pound bag,” Terrance replied, eyes wide and looking disgusted he had to be bothered with him.
“Did you notice anything strange?” Cal asked.
“The dude thinks a zombie ate his cows, and you’re asking me if I saw anything strange?” Terrance replied.
“I expected more of you, T,” Cal said, and then drove in silence.  Terrance kept looking at Cal.
“What did I miss?” Terrance asked, trying to play the scene back in his mind.  Cal shrugged, a smile on the corner of his mouth.  Terrance sat and thought for a little bit, and then noticed they weren’t headed back to the station, but deeper into the county.  “Where are we going?”
“The Miller farm,” Cal replied, straightfaced.  “I need to see a man about a zombie.”

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Bucket List Part 2 or It's Chris George's fault

There's this prevailing theory that you should write down your goals in life, because when they're written down they mean more.  I don't know if I agree with all of that.  What I do know is if you do write it down, you do know what was important to you when you wrote it down.  What I do know is I've crossed 2 things off of my bucket list that I created 2 years ago.  Is my bucket list the same today as it was back then?  I don't know, and that's the rub.

See that's the problem, because if it is, then I have have another opportunity to knock something off of my bucket list.  #7 have something published that is not an academia paper, is done.  I've done it.  I am working daily on #10 make a living writing.  That goal is one of those things that will be a work in progress until its done, or I'm dead, so essentially I've done all I can do on it.  That leaves two new spots, and one of them is to write 9 John Fowler novels (as of now 5 are complete and 6 is 90% done) and I've done 2/3 of that goal.
That brings me to why this is Chris George's fault.  #5.  Earn a PhD.  That goal was written incorrectly.  It should have been Earn my doctorate.  I've found the program, and there's the rub.  The cost is one of the cheapest I have ever found in a doctoral program, and the residency issue is taken care of.  SACS certified, so there's no question about the program's legitimacy.  Now the questions begin.  Do I want to do this again?  Do I want to complete 12 classes and write a dissertation?  Do I want to put my writing career on a slow down, if not a hold?  Those are the negatives.

Now the positives.  Do I want a seat at the table to help some of the people I work with everyday if I have those two little letters in front of my name?  Yes.

So I break it down.  Class work, can do, but do I want to.  Writing the dissertation.  Please?  16 weeks to write a 60 to 100 page paper double spaced?  That's called a good weekend.  The research?  I can do, but do I want to?

And that's what it all comes down to, do I want to.  Do I want to sit thought these classes (admittedly online)?  Do I want to do the work (admittedly 90% I can probably sleep walk through)  I guess the biggest question is do I have the want to complete the goal.  I don't want to be ABD (all but dissertation).

Then I think about one of my students.  I've helped him, his brother, and his sister.  Let me tell you about his day.  He goes to school, when he gets out of school, he goes home, gets the mail, translates it for his parents, helps them pay the bills, then goes to work for 6 hours to help pay the mortgage, comes home, does his homework, goes to bed, and gets up does it all again the next day.  Did I mention he's pulling a 3.6?  I asked him why once, and he told me that's what he had to do for his family to make it here in America.  He was given a chance here, and he intends to make the most of it.  That's the students I help, and they deserve more.  Then you have lawmakers and others who talk about changing things that they have no idea what's going on in schools, homes, or anywhere else.  When I speak, I don't count.  I'm just a counselor, I'm just some guy at a university.  I'm not a lawmaker, a politician, or a Dr, but I could be the last.

I could be.

I should be.

I think I will be.

No, I will be.

So, if you like my writing, I would like to apologize.  It will more than likely slow down a bit.  Now remember I've written 6 novels in 2 years.  Surely I can still write one a year while doing this.  2 1/2 years it what it will take me if I go slow.  5 semester if I go fast, and only three semester of actual classwork if I go lightspeed.(doubt that will happen.)  Of course I have to get accepted, but I had to accept it was what I wanted to do first.

I'd like to thank you all for listening to my online therapy session today.  :)   Now if you'll excuse me I have a novel to finish.

Till next time, whenever that is