Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Battling With Anxiety and Depression as an Aspergian

So, I have Asperger's syndrome, which is a developmental disorder characterised by significant difficulties in social interaction and nonverbal communication, as well as restricted and repetitive patterns of behaviours and interests. People with the condition are typically extremely shy and introverted, form obsessive habits and interests, and typically suffer from low emotional maturity. I also have dyspraxia, which is a chronic neurological disorder that negatively affects the planning of movement and coordination as a result of brain messages not being accurately sent to the body. Understandably, this makes life just a tad bit harder than everybody elses. Despite being particularly well understood conditions, being 'invisible disabilities' leaves them susceptible to what I like to call 'con artists', i.e. people who claim to have to it. This leads to people who think you're faking it. Then there are the well-meaning buffoons who think you can do everything non-Aspergians can do, etc. It's quite annoying.

One problem with having Asperger's is that it leaves you particularly vulnerable to depression and anxiety. Because of difficulties in nonverbal communication, people with Asperger's might not necessarily appear depressed, and so it is usually not until the condition is sufficiently well-developed that it starts to become more obvious, i.e. total withdrawal, refusal to leave the home, go to work, go to college, etc. Sometimes even aggression, paranoia, and alcoholism may manifest also. Depression is common in individuals with Asperger's, and tends to be frequently connected to feelings of isolation from the world around them, and also loneliness, bereavement, loss, extreme anxiety levels, a growing sense of failure, etc. Most individuals with Asperger's typically report feelings of depression when leaving home, going to college, etc. and refer to instances such as attempts to make friends. Childhood experiences such as bullying and abuse also lead to depression. I have battled with both depression and extreme anxiety for a long time now.

The symptoms of depression: poor concentration, poor memory, thoughts of death/suicide, physical tardiness, agitation, tiredness/lack of energy, sleep problems, disturbed appetite, low mood, loss of interest, loss of pleasure, feelings of hopelessness, feelings of helplessness, withdrawal, bizarre beliefs and periods of mania. Aside from depression, people with Asperger's are particularly prone to extreme anxiety, due to the social demands placed on them. In fact, 84.1% of children with developmental disorders (such as Asperger's) meet the full criteria for at least one anxiety disorder. Such feelings of intense anxiety don't go away either, with such feelings actually getting worse in adolescence and young adulthood.

According to the World Health Organisation, 50% of all mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety, actually begin to manifest around age 14. This is relatively unsurprising me. Being continually forced to attend public (i.e. state) school was easily one of the worst experiences in my entire life. It really is hard to impress just what an abject, unrelenting cesspool of absolute and unremitting misery public school is. Obviously, as a means of actually educating children, such institutions fail spectacularly. The effects of placing education in the hands of the government is rising costs (which are paid through taxes and so are hidden costs), shortages, and lowering quality. Public schooling exists solely as a means to instill conformity into children; compulsory state education is the model of the totalitarian state.

Uniform teaching based on a set curriculum is a failure because it does not conform to the educational needs and requirements of every child. Those at the top will be held back by those at the bottom, those at the bottom will struggle to keep up with those further ahead. I remember being made to re-do certain essays and assignments for being 'too good'. One teacher said it literally wasn't fair on the other children. Being punished for success rather understandably did not send me very good messages. Another problem I had was that when it came time for GCSEs in high school, I was not allowed to use a computer for my exams despite having dyspraxia, which makes handwriting particularly difficult. So, yeah, needless to say I didn't too well in exams. Which makes the fact I did so well in college and university the more amusing. One delicious irony is that my BA and MA degrees are in history, when my Middle School history teacher was Satan incarnate.

Aside from all this, it was just the sheer constant bullying from my intellectual inferiors, but also the constant stream of psychological abuse from teachers. One teacher in particular, my middle school History Teacher to be exact, literally hated me. I'm not exaggerating, she specifically hated all children with special needs, particularly me. She was one of the ones who made me re-do essays all the time for being too good. Incidentally, she tended to get some basic facts about European history wrong too, like claiming that Henry VIII founded protestantism when he was only responsible for the creation of Anglicanism. As a side note, whilst the individual most directly responsible for the Protestant reformation was Martin Luther it's kind of silly to say it was founded by any one person. I hated public school so much, I frequently tried to escape. I ran away more times than I cared to remember. Other times I would fake illness to avoid specific classes, or so I could stay at home. I was ecstatic every time I got genuinely ill. I think the best two weeks of my time at school was the time I the muscles in my ribcage got infected following a bout of flu. Another occasion I was able to get out of an entire year of PE as I had an ingrown toenail, and had the sides of that nail removed. If all else failed, I just hid somewhere and hoped nobody found me.

Aside from the sheer unadulterated horrors of compulsory state education, there were other things that contributed to my ever deteriorating mental state. My mum and dad took it upon themselves to raise my cousin, whose behaviour was utterly atrocious during that time, and my parents later divorcing. Of course, the main thing that really set my depression off was when a close friend of mine brutally stabbed me in the back, by randomly and out of nowhere cutting me off completely. This was somebody I had been friend with for years, and all of sudden they had deleted me from all social media. I emailed them a few times asking if they were okay and if I had done something but got no reply. After sinking into a depression, I got a reply a year later basically accusing me of being a stalker. So, yeah, I learned the hard way that even trusted friends are capable of betrayal. When I left home to go to university, I became more acutely aware of how ill-equipped to handle adult life I was. I still can't cook, and despite having numerous people promise to me they would try and teach me, nobody has ever made good on their offer. I have tried cooking myself, but to call such efforts an abysmal failure would be an understatement. I still can't butter bread of make sandwiches properly without destroying the bread despite years of trying (that would be the dyspraxia).

Despite being disadvantaged and largely incapable of doing lots of things people take for granted, I think the worst part is people frequently claiming that I can do such things if only I practiced. Well, fuck you, I've tried and still can't so show me how to do it, do it for me, or shut your mouth. Another thing that pisses me off is how pretty much every lies to you claiming that going to college and university is enough to get you a good job. Well, I'm 27 and have an MA, and have managed to land: one job where I got made redundant after 6 weeks, a temporary 13 week contract at Tescos that was not renewed, a one month stint at McDonalds where I basically failed the probationary period, and a bunch of unpaid job placements and voluntary work. Of course, part of that does have to do with the fact that the Isle of Wight is an economic cesspit that has three times the unemployment figures as the UK national average.

Luckily, I am fortunate in that I escaping this festering offal pit of a country for San Antonio, Texas, where I can finally be with my wife despite having already been married for three years. Ah, good old government efficiency! I'm hoping my symptoms alleviate when I get to 'Murica, since I don't want to have to go back onto medication again. So, I'm going to try and brave it out until I get there. Ironically, it the stress of having to move to America and deal with literally everything myself that is causing my anxiety and depression to go into overdrive. That and the realisation that life would be infinitely more easy if it weren't for all the stupid shit government does. If government wasn't continually subverting market processes, I might actually be employed right now.

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