I’m reading Estelle Ryan’s Genevieve Lenard mysteries and I’m really enjoying them. Dr Lenard is a Behaviour Observation specialist and is high functioning autistic but sometimes it makes me a little more than a little uncomfortable. I don’t have a non neurotypical diagnosis but she has some behaviours that I can relate to and I’m very glad I got out of school before they labeled kids.
In first grade my teacher who hated me anyway because of my blindness/ wandering eye did everything she could to get me out of her class. She did some good things like getting me into gymnastics class, that was one hour a day away from her and into the school choir but she also insisted I was hyperactive and made the doctor put me on Ritalin.
They couldn’t get the dosing right and every time I took it, I fell asleep. They halved it, quartered it and it got down to a sliver and I still was out like a light and I’d wake up in the nurse’s office with no idea how I got there. If it was calming down that far I was probably hyperactive but I found out my mom went to my teacher and I guess, yelled at her that the only thing wrong with me was that I already knew how to read and she didn’t know how to teach anybody who already had the skills. I just knew it stopped and I was allowed to read what I wanted and not boring old Dick and Jane.
But I had other habits that were fairly obsessive. I used to make lists, illustrated lists of everything I loved and some things I hated. When we moved mom out of the house I found one I had done on shells. Little tiny writing and little drawings in pencil and coloured pencil of every shell I could find a picture of or see when we went to Carlsbad every year. The worst was my fixation on listing every vegetable. I did that over and over. Probably because my dad had force fed me a couple of times when I couldn’t really see before I got my first pair of glasses at three. It was something green and a certain texture which developed into the ability to panic attack at a very young age at the very suggestion of the same texture. I would sit in the basement when we moved to Glendale in front of the rows of soup cans so I could get them all and get the picture from the can right. I remember doing it over and over. For some reason that stopped in 7th grade, maybe because for the first time I had some teachers that gave me other directions to go. Putting me in library science in 8th grade was heaven, any book I wanted to read and I could put them in recognizable order. I did Dewey Decimal our home library once. Mom was not in favour of that.
I also started being fixated on learning hymns from choir. I was in two at the time. If there was one I particularly liked like “Be thou my vision” I would sing it over and over and over. I once woke up and mom was staring at me. I was sitting up in bed and singing it in my sleep. Now with Mp3s I can put it on my Kindle and put it on repeat and no one has to know I’m doing it. Now I can sing it in English and in Gaelic and Irish.
I’ve learned to accept being touched but unless I like you a lot it can make me very uncomfortable but that may be from not being allowed to say no as a kid when doctors and other health professionals never consulted me as a kid as to whether it was okay or not. I even had to tell the family GP “ouch, thank you, doctor” when I got a shot. Even the time the damn needle went all the way through my skinny arm. He used to get so mad at me because I was anemic and would refuse to eat, which lead to all sorts of concoctions to make me eat or at least hungry, none of which worked because no one bothered to find out that I had gastroparesis from my eye surgery. I never got hungry so why would I eat?
But I also developed a huge antipathy for food in general. I just didn’t want to eat and for awhile it had to be orange, orange juice, apricot nectar, cheese, fish sticks, or white like milk, or ice cream but only vanilla. This led to my weight getting lower and lower and I started 7th grade at 56 lbs. I didn’t know how low that was until the school nurse freaked out rather loudly. But what went into my mouth was something I could control and I was going to do that at all costs because I hated having panic attacks and that ramped up with the thought of having one in public, still does, but now I can control that impulse a little better. One of the best days of my life was my first visit to my therapist, because she told me I was the one in control and if I never ate something that could make me have an attack again, I could do that. The guilt over looking stupid and having an attack was gone. I’ve also learned that if I get that certain texture in my mouth it’s okay to excuse myself and take care of me, how ever I need to do that. The relief was huge. The thing that got me out of it was my cousin getting anorexia and that scared the hell out of me because she looked like a skeleton. Her breast bone stuck out and the rest of her chest was caved in and she had to spend every night in the hospital so she wouldn’t purge or cheat.
One of worst things for my parents was the head banging and rocking. They didn’t really know how bad that was until Dad went to paint my brother and my bedroom and found the 2 inch deep gouge down the entire wall from me banging the crib which had a metal edge into the wall when I needed to sleep. It was that or escape bondage and go wandering. This lead to adventures like ending up on the roof and jumping off and sleep walking and getting into the car in a locked garage and no one could figure out how I got there. I think I still walk but Alison doesn’t wake up for it and before that I lived alone so who knows. I do know that when I had whiplash the doctor wanted me to tie my thumb to the bed post so I wouldn’t roll over and in the morning it was always untied. And when mom used to put curlers in my hair as a kid on Saturday night before church a lot of times they were out of my hair and neatly lined up. I did sleep walk at camp once and found myself on the far side of the lake when I woke up so I had to have crossed the rock dam in my sleep.
When I moved to Glendale things got really weird. My dad had taught at that school until the year before and he transferred because my parents didn’t think having Cam and I at the same school he taught at was a good idea but they got this hair up their butt about my IQ. They would drag me out of class and test me. The Standard tests, then tests with blocks that were timed and really stupid, art tests and back to written tests, this went on for weeks. That was 5th grade. I have no idea what reading level I was at but that was part of it. In 3rd grade the teacher had shamed the class because I was reading at 10th grade level and they weren’t and I know they wanted to skip me 2 grades but mom wouldn’t allow it but I soooo wanted to. She’d been skipped and hated it but I hated my school and classmates so we moved to Glendale instead which in a way was worse because my first school had a huge area for all kinds of science and was the one thing I loved and Glendale was learning the water cycle in 5th grade and I’d learned that in our cloud chamber in 1st grade.
I have no idea what the conclusion was except being told that I wasn’t working up to my potential and I just wanted them to stop boring the fuck out of me.
So I understand not fitting in and having allegedly normal people expect you to be like them and you aren’t and you don’t really care to be like them because most “normal” people don’t read and don’t learn new things and they don’t like people who aren’t like them but the world would be a really dreary place if the world was all like them.
The other good thing about being a weirdo was it was Karma for my mom. She hated anything that made her look odd or not like everybody else and she got me. The non-girlie girl geek who just wanted to do science experiments in the backyard and who had disabilities. Not the perfect daughter her narcissist self wanted. Oops!