Part 1 of 2
I’m 33 years old and have lived in Baltimore, Maryland for my entire life.
I work as a library processor. It involves a lot of things, but my primary responsibility is putting spine labels and barcodes on books and shipping them out to various library branches. I actually enjoy it very much. I grew up going to the library a lot, so it’s kind of cool to work behind the scenes so to speak.
I have ADHD and Asperger’s. I was diagnosed with ADHD when I was about three years old and diagnosed with Asperger’s when I was around twelve years old. Because the traits overlap so much, I can’t really pinpoint exactly which of my traits are from ADHD and which are from Asperger’s.
I was pretty smart when I was a kid. I could read by the time I was three years old. The only real issue was that I had trouble focusing in school. When I started second grade, I was prescribed Ritalin. I didn't really understand why at the time. All I was told was that I had to go to the office before lunch to take medicine. I couldn't walk down to the lunchroom with the rest of my class, I had to make a detour to the office first. There were three other kids who would go down at the same time as me, two of whom took pills like me (I'm not really sure what for) and one who was a diabetic and needed insulin shots. In elementary school, this wasn't really a big deal to me, probably because my best friend went to the same school as me, so whatever the other kids said about us (mostly bad) didn't matter too much.
Middle school was when everything changed. My best friend had transferred to another school. I tried to get in with the popular girls that I had been going to school with since I was seven, but by that point cliques had already been formed and you had to be pretty fucking special (in a non-clinical way) to gain entry. I also had to start taking my medication after lunch, which was annoying. I hated having to weave through the large crowd of middle school kids to find my way to the office after lunch. I started avoiding it, but they would hunt me down. Usually it was over the intercom ("Will you please send Danielle down to the office for her medication?"), but one time the school nurse came on the soccer field in the middle of my gym class with my pills and a cup of water. After that, I never tried to avoid going to the office for my medicine.
Around the same time, my medication was switched from Ritalin to Dexedrine. I wasn't really sure what the difference between the two was and I still don't understand to this day. I had also started going to a psychiatrist once a week. I had seen one the year before, but it was after school. My appointment was in the middle of the day on a Thursday, which meant that I had to be taken out of English class. I didn't mind too much at first; I hated English. I hated diagramming sentences. (Seriously, when in life have you ever had to do that?) I also hated school because at the time school hated me. I'm sure the kids in my class were thrilled to not have to deal with me for half a day. Sitting in a room talking to a strange perky lady for forty-five minutes while I got to play Candy Land and Barbies (Yes, I was still playing with Barbie dolls in middle school.) was a better option. The fact that I got to eat McDonalds afterwards for lunch was an additional bonus.
A few months later, it wasn't so great. Eventually the psychiatrist realized that I was paying more attention to the toys than her, so I was no longer allowed to play with them during my sessions. Instead I had to sit there in a chair while she wrote stuff down on a pad. I often wondered if she was spelling the names of people and things that I was mentioning correctly. My little mini vacation from school was put to an end as well. The principal told my mom that it wasn't good for me to miss an afternoon worth of classes once a week, so my mom decided to start driving me back to school after my appointments. This meant that I had to either awkwardly sneak back into the herd of kids that were running back from the cafeteria from lunch or awkwardly walk into my gym class. I still got McDonalds, but I had to hurry up and finish it before going back to school.
It was that psychiatrist who would diagnose me with Asperger’s. I didn’t fully understand what she was talking about. The only word I got out of their conversation was "ticks” (in reference to me constantly flapping my hands around). I made the mistake of telling my classmates that I had “ticks”, which they thought meant insects. As a result of the verbal misunderstanding, middle school became even worse.
After surviving and graduating middle school by the skin of my teeth, I went to a special education I was given very little or no homework. For the first time in several years, I was getting mostly A's and B's on my report card. Those were some of the best years of my life. I actually had friends there. I was getting invited to sleepovers and birthday parties. I actually had a table full of friends to eat lunch with. We went to the bathroom in groups so we could gossip. I was finally starting to experience all of that fun teenage girl stuff that I saw on TV and in the movies. The only drawback was that I lived in the city and my friends lived forty-five minutes away in the suburbs, so I didn't get to hang out with them as much as I wanted.
Yes, I was still getting picked on, but it was mostly because I was this goody two shoes who listened to *NSYNC and Britney Spears all the time and raced home from school to watch TRL. A lot of the guys at my school had even bigger issues than me. Despite the fact that the schoolwork was easy, they still couldn't be bothered to do it, so I was a dork for doing it on time.
Going to a psychiatrist was perfectly normal at my new school. Some kids saw the same one and would even carpool together to their appointments. (However, I had stopped seeing one on a regular basis by this time.) Taking medicine was also normal there. Every day during lunch, the school nurse would come through with a tray of pills. It was kind of like being in a retirement home, but at least I didn't feel alone. I was also taken off medication in tenth grade and I haven't taken it since.
To make a long story short, my school wound up undergoing serious problems (both personal and financial) halfway through my junior year. I wound up going to a regular religious private high school for my senior year of high school, which I hated. My friends wound up going to a newly formed special education school that I begged my mother to send me to, but the higher tuition and the fact that it was an hour away from our house made it very unappealing.
I was terrified because I hadn't been to a regular school in three years. My grades were horrible in middle school. I was able to get up to a C average in eighth grade, but I couldn't bring myself to study a lot or care in sixth and seventh grade. I came very close to getting held back in sixth grade. It wasn't such a big deal at my special school (I was one of four kids in my class that was actually in the correct grade. Most of the kids my age were a grade below mine.), but at my previous school, it labeled you as unintelligent.
Like I said, I hated the school I attended my senior year. It's kind of difficult to be all sentimental about senior year and memories with a bunch of people that you've just met a few months before. Also, it was strict as hell. I studied my ass off because I didn't want to get held back there. I didn't want to endure another year of wearing a uniform I hated (polo shirt, pleated skirt, knee socks) and being away from my friends. I wound up graduating with honors, which I guess you could consider my biggest accomplishment, but it happened almost sixteen years ago, so it kind of loses its luster after a while.