Tuesday, October 31, 2017

It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

This is my FAVORITE Time of year.  What I call the Holiday Season (October 31st-February 14th) is here.  The past few days I've been so nervous.  Would I get to enjoy it this year, because last year....I was miserable the entire time.  Yes, I dressed up as the Old School TV Joker, but that was more because Grace wanted to be Harley Quinn and wanted us to go together like that.  Last year I was fighting me, and losing.  I wasn't diagnosed until February 15th, what I now refer to as my new birthday.  (This day use to be Happy Pitchers and Catchers Report Day in case you were wondering)

All week I've worried I won't be happy, I'll sink back into that funk, but I didn't.  I've smiled more in the last 24 hours than I knew was possible.  I'm physically exhausted with all the stuff going on in my life, and at night I just basically collapse, but there is joy, and I can't stress how good it feels.  So for the next 3 1/2 months, I'm going to be happy as can be, post stupid stuff, and some may find me down right looney.  I love Valentine's Day, always have, because it's the hope of love.  The New Year brings the hope of a second chance.  Christmas is family and love.  Thanksgiving is a chance to reflect on all the blessings we have received.  And Halloween, it's an excuse to dress up and just be a little zany...and don't we need zany...

I know some get depressed this time of year because of all they've lost, and I feel for them.  But I also know this life is too short, and I can't do last year ever again, because I only get so many.  So smile, we're all gonna end up in the same place some day, so let's enjoy the ride, let's be kind to each other and have some joy in our life.  Happy Holiday Season everyone!  Now if you'll excuse me, I have some zombie chair dancing to Thriller to do!

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

I can fight

I've been working on this on and off all day.  Should I post it, should I not, but given what this month is, I feel I need to.

Today, I'm full of tears.  A family member is dying, and there is nothing I can do.  She's dying of cancer.

Writing has been my outlet for several years now.  I started writing about this detective, who was different, and I came to realize over the past several months it was my outlet for my Aspergers.  I even wrote him having it, though I didn't realize it at the time.

The past few months I've been open as I can about my mental illness (Aspergers and General Anxiety).  I've written for the Mighty, I've contributed the best I can to campaigns, especially suicide prevention month.

This weekend, I had the worst breakdown I've had in a long, long time.  I was so down in the dumps, and then yesterday news came about my family member.  My anxiety literally said, my bad, and walked away.  See as bad as it gets, the anxiety can't kill me.  Only I can decide to do that.  My cousin, she can't fight that.  She's losing, and soon, she will just lose.  Those may be the most painful words I have ever written, but they are true.  I've learned something from this, and I swear to God, I wish if me not learning it would keep her here.  In the end, it's my choice in this battle, and make no mistake, it is a battle.  Every day.  I am going to lose some days, but I don't have to lose the war.  My cousin, she has no choice, she's going to lose the war.

So do me a favor, hug those that are close, tell them you love them, and those you wish that relationship was different with, do something about it. I love you all.  This life is too short not to say. it.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Why Did I Wait?

If you're like me, you have certain preconceived ideas.  One of mine was the side effects of anxiety pills weren't worth the rewards. Let me tell you what happened to me on Wednesday.  I took my first whole pill Wednesday (before had been all half pills).  We had two meetings at work to go to, one after another, and typically I would have been what I used to think were all nerves before.  What I learned Wednesday is it had always been anxiety.  We got in the car, me in the passenger seat.  I am that guy that when I'm not driving, I always have to tell you which way to go, because you might not know, or pay attention and if I don't we could be late and then people will look at us.  (Breathe.)

As I sat down, I was looking outside, thinking the sky was very bright.  As the driver, my boss, took the exit, my thought was, that's not right, but oh well, what do I know?  From the backseat, my coworker said, "You're going the wrong way!"  The next exit was 20 miles down the highway.  Usually I would be a basketcase, but all I thought was, oh well.  We might have done one of those u-turns you're not supposed to do, and if we did I would have been very upset over that, because that could get us in trouble, but if we did, I didn't care.  (I can neither confirm or deny that last statement).  At this point I looked at my watch saw we were late and did something I never did before.  I shrugged about being late.

Part of me nearly lost it's mind, but the part that was in control said, "Sit back, relax, look at the beautiful sky."  And I did.  After our appointment was done we got back into the car, the driver almost missed the turn again, because I was looking at the sky, and I just shrugged.  I'm not a zombie, it's just kinda rude to always tell someone where to go, right?  You really shouldn't do that unless asked, and I wasn't so why should I, besides, we'll get there when we get there.  I've reached a level of chill I didn't know was possible in me.

Later on in the day, I found my jaw felt weird, because I had been smiling all day.  I danced to Taylor Swift with my daughter last night, ever though I looked ridiculous.  My wife is looking at me like, "Who is this guy?"  I'm changing, I'm not worried, I don't have a 1,000 ridiculous thoughts flooding me and overwhelming me.  They still come, but they're stupid, who cares.  Why did I wait so long?  What was I scared of?  Is this how I'm supposed to live life, because it is pretty cool.  I'm not worried about stuff I can't control, I'm not freaked out about the grass being too high in the yard.  I still remembered to set the bills to be paid next month.  I'm not a zombie, or experiencing mania, I still care about things that are important, but the other stuff, so what.

Why did I wait?

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 me...at 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.  http://www.basic-counseling-skills.com/cognitive-behavioral-therapy.html  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.