Monday, February 16, 2009

In This Valley of Tears

In this month of Our Lady of Lourdes, I should mention my own miraculous healing. Per my post about the leopard movie, quite possibly I brought this on myself, when God said, "To achieve enlightenment in one lifetime would take almost unbearable suffering," and I said, "Bring it on!" At least, that is how I would comfort myself when things were almost unbearable, by thinking it was all part of some grand plan.

It was always clear that something was wrong with me as a child. My parents would take me to experts, saying I seemed to be autistic except that I could talk. A lot. In fact, usually the hard part was getting me to shut up about my favorite topic, zoology. I knew EVERYTHING about animals and had a nearly photographic memory for anything I'd read, although I could barely understand what people said to me. My mother would yell at me constantly for not being able to follow verbal instructions.

I didn't like people and mostly tried to ignore them. The experts diagnosed me with a bewildering array of issues: avoidant personality disorder, hyperkinesis, schizoid disorder of childhood, borderline personality disorder. Finally I had to go see a child shrink who somehow convinced me that it was BAD to live in my own little world and that the highest good was to win the approval of others... but he didn't tell me how to do this. I found people totally bewildering; I took everything they said literally and couldn't pick up on their body language. Heck, I couldn't even recognize them by their faces! People would get so furious because I could remember everything about them and yet couldn't recognize them out of context.

Obviously I found this all a little discouraging. My parents were more concerned with my brother's academic struggles than my social ones, but my mother saw something on TV about Attention Deficit Disorder and decided she had finally figured out my problem. She dragged me to see more experts who said I definitely had ADD and a personality disorder on top of that, but because I did well in school, I didn't need any treatment. So I started seeking my own treatments. I read about the Feingold diet and tried to avoid additives and artificial colors and flavors. I tried different herbal teas and discovered that ginseng and yerba mate helped with my attention problems while ginkgo and rooibos helped me think before speaking. I saw a shrink on my own who prescribed a drug for the ADHD which caused me to have a seizure, but to my amazement it gave me depth perception, which I had never had before. It did something even more incredible, although I didn't realize the significance at the time: it made me feel the emotions of others. One day I watched a muskrat eating clover by the side of a pond, and it was so happy that I felt happy.

From then on it was as if my emotional development, which had somehow never begun, unfolded in real time. Now that I am in my teens emotionally, I am almost indistinguishable from my peers, since teens are almost as mature as adults. I didn't understand exactly what had happened until getting a job at a clinic that diagnoses children with autism. Some of the children were obviously autistic, but some of them were just like me when I was a child. I was shocked that they were diagnosed with high-functioning autism, or Asperger syndrome. "How can they label these kids when they're just a little different, like I was?" I wondered. Then it occurred to me - did I have Aspergers? Do I still? "Autism" literally refers to someone in his own world, which I definitely was as a child. Now that I can pass as normal but just offbeat, holding down a job and owning my own condo, it doesn't quite seem to apply. But when I talked to my mother about it, she said once upon a time the experts had told her I would most likely need to be institutionalized as an adult. Looks like they were wrong! Maybe it was Our Lady of Lourdes begging her Son to heal me, because to me it seems like a miracle.

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