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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.