It Was The Worst Day of My Life (Recognizing Emotions and Overcoming Them)


I have written about depression and mental illnesses several times. I wrote about the tragic death of Robin Williams. I expressed great disappointment in Fox News analyst Shepard Smith and his claim that Williams was a “coward” for taking his own life. I am someone who firmly believes that a mental illness should never define everything about who we are. However, the human mind can be a very fragile thing. It can often cause us to do things we never knew we were capable of doing. These things can certainly be wonderful, but they can also be devastating and tragic.

I recently read a story about Virginia Gentiles, a mother from Pasadena, California. She is suing a local Target store for false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligence and wrongful death.

http://www.nbclosangeles.com/news/local/Target-Faces-Lawsuit-Over-Employees-Suicide-289662711.html

Her son, Graham Gentles, committed suicide on July 18, 2014. Three days earlier, store security and local police met him at the front of the store as he arrived early. They grabbed him, emptied his pockets and hat, then paraded him around the store to an office. This practice is commonly called “the walk of shame.” 

“The walk of shame is a Target policy to purposely cause shame, embarrassment and emotional distress to any Target employee who is suspected of stealing from Target. The policy consists of employees being arrested and paraded in handcuffs through the Target store in full view of co-workers and customers.”

Long story short, the alleged harassment was not because he stole from the store. Graham’s mother stated that the supposed theft was all fabrication by the multiple media outlets that have reported on this story. It was due to a previous altercation that occurred between him and an employee, which also happened months beforehand. After being taken paraded around the store, police drove him to the local station for questioning and released without any charges filed. To add more devastation, he was wrongfully fired from his job. When he spoke to his mother about the ordeal, he said it was the worst day of his life. Unfortunately, this day was so terrible, he decided to take his own life because he could not bear the pain and humiliation anymore.  

Reactions from the public have ranged from very supportive and sympathetic to downright hateful and disrespectful. I cannot say that this surprises me, mainly because mental illness is such an under recognized issue in our world today. Normally, I would agree that the loss of a job alone is not a reason to commit suicide. However, this is the dark side of living with a neurological disorder like Asperger’s Syndrome. The emotional pain we experience in life can overpower our ability to think things through and find ways to cope. 

If there is anything this story has taught me, it is the sheer importance of finding positive ways to cope with negative emotions. It doesn’t matter what I am feeling or going through. Sometimes, I have no choice but to think it through and try to understand why I am feeling this way. This is when I like to take time to myself. I use what I do best. My gift in writing. “My Letter to Steve Grand” is one of those examples. I don’t normally share these writings with people. However, I decided to make a rare exception this time. 

Please understand that crushes, love and romance are very new feelings for me. Life with Asperger’s Syndrome has always made me a loner. The high school social scene considered me the loner who was a “loser.” I was an awkward, uncoördinated kid with zero confidence who walked around with a scowl on his face. My “phases” changed throughout that time. I refrained from talking to anyone for most of those 4 years, and then I became this kid who could not control himself and acted out just for the sake of acting out. I desperately needed a way to handle my pain and that was the only release I could find.

When I was a small child, my issue with emotions was not recognizing them. I’ve always known what I am feeling. However, there were times when I knew my emotions way too much. The thing is, it is still one of my demons today. My mammaw and papaw (southern talk for grandma and grandpa) used to tell me this story from when they came to visit us in Pennsylvania. It goes back to when I was somewhere between three and four years old.

We were celebrating my sisters 6th birthday. The local bowling alley was our chosen venue. The familiar sounds of bowling balls hitting the pins, people chatting and music playing filled the bustling local hangout. My attention was not focused on any of that. It was focused on the family to the right of us. They also happened to be celebrating a birthday and rented a helium tank and were using it to blow up balloons. I immediately covered my ears. I was terrified of the possibility that they were going to pop. My attention became hyper focused on those balloons and the possibility that they were going to burst and make a loud sound. 

Crying was the only way I knew how to handle it. My mammaw tried to give me a set of ear plugs, but that didn’t help. My papaw sensed that I needed to get out of the noisy room for a few minutes. I needed to tell him what was wrong and I needed to be reassured. While he did not say it in these exact words, this was the gist of the message he gave to me. 

“The world is full of things that are much scarier than balloons popping.” 

That is the one thing that we all need to be reminded. The world is full of things that cause a lot more pain. Sometimes, those experiences are directly caused by our tendency to negatively dwell upon those little things. I failed to realize that when I was a young child. I failed to realize it when I was in high school and feared that people were not going to like me. I fail to realize it today when I discover that things just don’t work out the way I anticipated them to. The big question is, how do we stop it from dictating our lives?

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Getting Past My Past (A Blog About Lee Hirsch’s Documentary “Bully”)


I know that change cannot happen overnight. I also know that hope can encourage one person to make a difference in a town, country and world. Filmmaker Lee Hirsch recently accomplished a first in his new critically acclaimed documentary “Bully.” This is a topic that I feel very personal about. I was bullied in high school and it is something that still effects me today. I felt a number of emotions throughout the scenes in this film. I felt sadness when I heard about the tragic death of Tyler Long, the seventeen year old from Georgia who committed suicide because he could no longer take the physical and mental abuse from his classmates. I felt the horrible combination of anger and shame when Alex Libby’s tormentors kicked, stabbed, punched him on the school bus. These bullies did not even care that Lee Hirsch’s camera captured the whole incident on film! Frustration and confusion overcame me when I heard the comments from the school board members in Murray County, Georgia. Some of them were willing to acknowledge the seriousness of the issue, but they had no idea how to intervene and prevent it. They tried to justify the behavior using cliché’s like “boys will be boys” and “kids are cruel at this age.” I felt disgusted when a pastor from Murray county stated that kids went to school the next day with nooses hanging around their neck. This was a blatant mockery of Tyler’s family and the school district seemed to have shrugged it off.  To the best of my ability, I want to write a blog post about this documentary and how it had an impact on me. To all of you out there who are any shade of different, I hope my writing will give you positive motivation. It doesn’t matter if you are LGBTQ and risk being disowned from your family or if you are Autistic and trying to understand the world around you. I also hope my writing will give you the courage to stand up for what you believe in.

When it comes to my experiences, I honestly felt like my tormentors expected the worst of me. They wanted to see me unhappy. Therefore, my academic performance and my desire to interact with others plummeted to the lowest possible level. Most of these bullies wanted to manipulate me into thinking they were trying to be nice. However, I knew they were not to be trusted from the beginning.  I felt like every single person in my Western Pennsylvania high school was out to get me. I didn’t trust anyone. Period. When I look back on it, I question one thing. Paranoid delusions can increase your chances in becoming victimized, can’t they? People will notice if you appear to be nervous, angry or depressed. Some of them will show genuine compassion and understanding, while others will intentionally or unintentionally exacerbate it.

The scene featuring Kelby Johnson in her rural Oklahoma town was all too real for me. “You can always count on something happening when you are walking down the hall at school and in the classroom, after school when I’m walking home, when I am walking through the parking lot in the mornings, to school. I wasn’t welcomed at church. I’m not welcomed in a lot of people’s homes.”  When I look back, I honestly cannot predict what would have happened if I decided to come out as a gay teen while I was still in high school. People in my Western Pennsylvania high school did call me names like faggot, cocksucker, queer, loser and retard. They certainly noticed that I was different and you can bet that some of them tried to use it for their own laughs and personal gain. I was one of those kids who tried to avoid being put into any of those “cliques” that are commonly associated with the high school social scene. We have already gone over the fact that I felt like I could not fit in with anybody. I was a loner. People tried to convince me into believing they “cared” about me. The truth was they did not have that “magic wand.” What magic wand am I talking about? I am talking about the one which would have eliminated my diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome and all the struggles that came with it. Therefore, they were not to be trusted. 

If we take a trip back into the real world, we face the bitter realization that magic wands only exist in fantasy. My writing is no fairy tale. I try to express myself in the most real way I possibly can. It is important for me to get over the phase where I dwell upon the fact that people do not accept me. However, there is one question that still remains. Why does it feel like these experiences are always going to be embedded in my brain? Why does it feel like most neurotypical people are confident enough to (literally and figuratively) throw the middle finger at anyone who makes derogatory remarks about their sexual orientation or any other trait which makes them seem different from the societal norm? I cannot help but feel like I am demanding others to fight my battles for me. Is it normal for me to feel that way? I know that I am not in any way comparable to an alcoholic with codependency issues. But, why do I feel that way? I cannot expect others to fight my battles for me, but I want to know that people are willing to answer questions and are willing to help me when I reach out to them.

I know that I need to learn how to move on from those experiences. Over the spring and summer months, I have deeply thought about ways to move on. I know that I have been very fortunate to have people who genuinely care about me. I have decided to write about some individuals who have made a lasting impact on my life and why they are so important to me. They are all from different parts of my life. I am not doing this just for myself. I know there are people who desperately need to feel good about themselves. Some may risk being disowned from their family because of who they are. Others have loving and accepting families who are willing to fight for what is truly best for them, but still experience cruelty anytime they go outside their home. We all need to learn how to recognize those who do genuinely care about us. One thing comes to mind when I think about those people in my life. I know they would be devastated if I even contemplated suicide. I am offering my words for them and I hope you are able to use them in your own lives! This is an essential step for me in overcoming those wounds.

I know that I am fortunate to have such loving and caring parents. I do not deny that they are on my side and they are willing to guide me through the road to a happy and successful life. Raising a child with any kind of Autistic Spectrum Disorder has it’s fair share of challenges.  It is important to know that no parent is perfect. Am I ever going to pretend that my parents are perfect? The answer is no! My parents are both very intelligent human beings who did everything in their power to support my sister and I. They have tried to understand the pains that result from the challenges associated with Asperger’s Syndrome. It goes back to as far as I can remember.

I was about three going on four. We just finished a trip to Las Vegas, Nevada. At the time, my aunt Teresa and uncle Benny lived in that area. It was very early in the morning. It started out as a normal airport routine until we heard an announcement that our red-eye flight back to Pittsburgh was abruptly canceled and we had to book another one. We had no choice but to wait at the McCarren International Airport.  We went through security, rode on the tram and walked to the gate. Things went smoothly until a few minutes after we arrived at the gate. An ear-splitting alarm was mysteriously triggered and it blared throughout the entire terminal. We assumed that it would only last for a few minutes. Instead, it continued for over an hour. Everyone around us became impatient and sick of listening to the alarm. Naturally, I became very upset. My mother tried to put earplugs in, but that still didn’t help.  I continued to cry and scream until my parents decided to get back on the tram and wait in the ticketing area. They held me and did their best to comfort me because we were all very tired. Despite that we had to go through security again, we were relieved to discover the alarm was silent.

I am 21 years old now. Struggles can become more complex than a loud noise hurting my ears. I am grateful for the fact that my mother and father are willing to guide me through any struggle I may experience down the road. Mom and dad are still trying to understand my communication barriers. I feel these barriers are comparable to a crying infant. A baby cannot use words when they are hungry, in need of a diaper change or craving attention. I did not know how to communicate the emotions I felt during high school. So, my high school life consisted of withdrawing from people and just having an unhappy outlook on life. I happen to know that many Aspies go through their high school lives wondering the many complex reasons behind those communication difficulties. I refused to accept answers like “that’s just the way you are.” I hated being placed in special education classes because they treated me like I was an idiot. I hated being placed in mainstream classes because I felt distant from the majority of my peers. If I tried to explain this to adults, I can guarantee they would ask that one question I hate. “Why is that?” Do you know why I hate that question? It’s because I do not know how to answer it. My mother and father do not know all of the answers. I don’t think they ever will. However, they were proactive in advocating for me when professionals were only willing to do what they felt was best for me. This was the case when I was a student at the Computing Workshop summer program. Long story short, my school district felt that their services were superior to those offered by Computing Workshop. They wanted me to work with a traditional one on one tutor for two hours a week. We went into due process, and the hearing officer ruled that the services offered by Computing Workshop were the best fit for me and that they must reimburse my family for summer tuition. The next summer, they came up with a new extended school year program. They were extremely vague about the program and the officer ruled in favor of the school district. The fact that mom and dad possessed the patience to deal with such difficult people is truly astounding to me. 

As you can see, my mother and father are just two examples of people who do genuinely care about me. I have begun to accept that my parents will never have all of the answers when it comes to understanding my diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome and the fact that I am a gay man. My next challenge is to think about people from other parts of my life. I hope to reach out to people who are experiencing the same (or worse) feelings of loneliness. I could sense these feelings of hopelessness throughout the documentary because this is the first film to ever raise awareness about the profound impact that bullying can have on people’s lives. I hope people will use these experiences and understand that they are worth a lot more than those people who punch, kick and call names. This message is a message that needs to be spread more than it is now. 

To be continued soon!

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Asperger’s Syndrome and Depression


Doctors and Psychiatrists have discovered that there is a high risk of depression and anxiety in kids with Aspergers Syndrome, especially in their teenage and young adult years. Teenagers with the disorder usually deal with the stress of not fitting in with the crowd. Individuals with the disorder have the difficulty dealing with change, as I have mentioned before. The change from living in the house to moving to college on their own can cause some depression and anxiety as well. Because of their odd, and limited interests, they don’t understand how to appropriately interact with other people, especially peers. Because of the fact that they don’t know how to interact with other people and stand up for themselves, they can be susceptible to verbal, physical and cyber bullying. Dealing with situations like this are the most common causes of depression and anxiety in people with Aspergers Syndrome. Because many teens and young adults with this disorder don’t know how to handle these situations appropriately, they could get into behaviors such as drugs or alcohol. This can most likely worsen their depression and anxiety and cause them to even resort to more extreme behaviors, even suicide. Depression in individuals with Aspergers Syndrome is very common, suicide however is not, but it still could happen if nothing is done about the symptoms. I never have and never will think about doing something as extreme as that, but if I didn’t get the help I needed for my symptoms, I most likely could have. I am going to talk about some of the experiences that caused my depression, a few of them I have mentioned before.

In my very first blog, I mentioned how high school was an even worse experience than junior high was. The Freeport Senior High school is larger than the junior high is, but not by much. The first reason the transition from middle school to high school was miserable for me was because it had more people than the junior high did. Yes, I realize that its not as big as places like Butler or Fox Chapel, but it was pretty crowded. Another thing that really caused me to be depressed was that I we were the youngest grade in the school, and I was picked on more than most of the people than my grade because I was shy. As I have mentioned many times before, people would often take advantage of me and try to convince me that they were trying to be my friend, when they really were not. They seemed to realize that I had a difficulty understanding when people were trying to be friendly to me versus trying to make fun of me. Because of this, I did not “fit in” with the people at my school. I didn’t really have anyone to sit with at lunch or hang out with after school or on weekends. People tended to avoid letting me sit with them, and they would often make excuses like “More people are going to sit there, you are going to have to move”. They were your typical snobby, stuck up high school student. That was one of the things that really contributed to my loneliness, depression and anxiety. This, however could have been prevented if I put myself out there more, letting all of the arrogant jerks get to me really contributed to why I was so depressed and lonely when I attended Freeport. With the exception of a few individuals, students at Lenape Tech have enough sense to realize that teasing someone is uncalled for, because they are going into technical fields that involve working with people.

Aside from depression, I also had problems with anxiety in school, and I still do now. Anytime I would get put into social situations, I would always tense up and fear that they would try to do something mean to me. I would prevent that from happening by  simply ignoring the person when they would speak to me. This was because of all the teasing and bullying I got in past years, and I still tense up when I am around new people. When you are teased and picked on by people, it’s real hard for a person to come out of their shell and open up to somebody. I opened up to my friend Aaron B at Computing Workshop real easy because it is a safe environment for me, this program is supposed to help students on the spectrum with their academic and social goals. I know that if they do try to harass me or any of the students in the program in any way, they are automatically removed. That is not true in most public high schools, they usually get that same old “don’t do that again” lecture, which usually doesn’t do anything. As I have mentioned before, many schools tend to blame the victim instead of the bully. Because I would tense up and ignore people when they would see me in the hallway, they tended to judge and label me. I got labeled loner and reject by most people.

The main reason for why I got labeled by people was because they didn’t understand me. Who were they to judge someone without understanding why? I have learned that most people my age have similar feelings of not belonging. Even the popular kids feel insecure about some things, and making fun of somebody makes them feel less insecure about themselves. I feel that having only one or two close friends is enough for me, I don’t want to be “normal” or “popular”. Even though Aaron doesn’t have the time to spend with me, I am still very glad to have him as a friend. One or two friends is really all I need. Popularity doesn’t really matter after high school is over with, so why should I get all depressed about it? I’ve learned that people who think something is wrong with me, means that something is wrong with them. I hope that you all found this informative and inspiring, and I will be back to write again soon!

My blog about my high school experiences:

https://dwarren57.wordpress.com/2009/07/21/problems-i-faced-in-public-high-school/

Aspergers Syndrome and understanding others


Many people often don’t understand what goes on in the mind of a person with Aspergers Syndrome. Because of their lack of social skills, there are many things that they don’t understand when relating with people. One of the important skills someone on the autistic spectrum needs to learn is insight. A simple definition of the word insight is understanding another person’s actions, thoughts or behavior. One question you might ask when you notice a person doing something unusual is “why do they do that”? For example, at the Computing Workshop summer camp I worked at this summer, I noticed that one of our students would ask if he could be excused to go to the restroom. I noticed that he would ask to be excused when he was working with a staff member that he wasn’t used to working with. My assumption of this situation was that he would ask to go to the bathroom to get out of the stress from working with a different staff member. I also thought that he feared the person would make fun of him for whatever reason. This is one of the things that many kids with an Autistic Spectrum disorder may do to try to get out of a stressful situation. There are two reasons why I wish the staff members worked with this particular student on this issue. First off, in many public schools across America, you have to ask to go to the restroom before you could go. There is also a sign out sheet you have to fill out, and you had to include four things, your name, the time you left and returned, and the reason why you were leaving the room. If this student was in school, and he would constantly ask the teacher if he could go to the restroom, they would most likely say something like “no, go sit down and do your work”. At computing workshop we had a very similar situation with another student, but this particular student had a more severe case of autism, and was also diagnosed with Down Syndrome. He was not able to communicate like most people do, instead he would use a special computer device called a Dynavox.  This device gave him the ability to communicate his emotions and needs, such as when he needed a restroom break or a snack break. He had two therapists working with him the day the staff members noticed this incident, and during instruction time he used the Dynavox to communicate that he needed to go to the restroom. The one therapist rudely snapped at him and said “it’s not time to go to the restroom, it’s time to work”. We didn’t really understand what was going on in this students mind, and what if he really needed a restroom break? A few minutes passed, and he stated that he needed a restroom break on the dynavox again. The therapist then said her usual “it’s not time for a restroom break, it’s time to work”. I then noticed the student get up and try to walk to the restroom himself, then the therapist restrained him and told him to sit down.

As I have said many times before, there are people who push students on the spectrum to learn social skills, when they demonstrate ignorant behavior like this that shows a lack of social skills. I am going to tell you another real life example, it all began my freshman year in high school. Eighth period, the last class period of the day, I had this real grouchy and bitter math teacher. I noticed that everyday she would make a negative statement about her students, or work in general. An example of something she would say was “Out of all the students in this school, (student) is the one I hate working with the most.” At first I decided to just sit there and ignore her negative statements about the world. That changed until I noticed her say something very rude to a student with high special needs. It was the end of the class period, and the students were getting ready to leave school for the day. The teacher was sitting at her desk, not doing anything at the time. This student started a conversation, which sounded something like “I haven’t seen Mrs. (teacher) at all today”. The teacher responded with a real irritated tone of voice “Well, maybe they just didn’t want to see you”. I was shocked when I first heard her say that. I never imagined that a school teacher would say something like that. This student was only having a casual small talk conversation with the teacher, and she was doing nothing to offend her. And the question I was asking myself was “Why would she say something like that to a learning support student?” My guess was that she was in a bad mood, as usual. I mentioned this to my mother that night, and she emailed the principal about the situation. The next day I noticed she wasn’t in school, and my assumption was she got a one day suspension for her mess up. Weeks passed, and I still kept asking myself why she was so bitter and mean, and I came to think that some time along the line, bad kids may have taken advantage of her. That was the only explanation I could come up with about this situation. People that have been mistreated usually will turn mean, grouchy, bitter. This is obviously not an excuse to say something that rude to a learning support student, but it is the only explanation I can come up with.

Parents, you absolutely must teach your Autistic child about being insightful, it is a very important skill to learn. Not understanding someones actions or behavior may cause them to make fun of the person, which could get them into trouble in the near future. There are many things people don’t understand about Autism and Aspergers, and there are many things people with Autism and Aspergers don’t understand about interacting with other people. It really could benefit them in the long run.

How did I deal with bullies?


Bullying has been a large problem in schools for many years. It happens in almost every school in the entire world, and has been the cause of many school shootings. The two largest ones were The Columbine High School Shootings on April 20, 1999, and the Virginia Tech shooting on April 16, 2007. No matter where you live, every single person in the world has been through some type of bullying at least once in their lives. Whether it be physical, verbal, hazing, emotional, indirect or cyberbullying. The website kidshealth.org says that the two main reasons kids are bullied are because of their appearance or social status. Reasons for why their social status may be low are their religious beliefs, gender, perceived sexual orientation, or skin color. This cruel behavior not only affects the person being bullied, it affects school teachers and administrators, the student body, and even a whole community. In this blog entry, I wanted to tell a few of my bullying stories, and how I dealt with them.

I never really was physically bullied, because I was taller than almost everybody in the school, but I have been verbally bullied, and cyberbullied. Freeport Area School District has a zero tolerance policy towards bullying, and in every classroom they have a sheet posted about what it is, and the consequences you can face for it. On the bottom of that sheet it said that it is supposed to be posted in every classroom in every school building. I just finished my sophomore year this year, and they just started requiring every teacher to post one of these in their classrooms. I remember one day I was an office assistant, and they just finished photocopying all of these sheets. I was supposed to walk into every classroom and place these sheets on the teachers desks. In one of the classrooms I went to, I handed the sheet directly to the teacher, and they just crinkled it into a ball and threw it into the recycling bin. This is living proof that a zero tolerance policy isn’t enough. “Social skills” groups try to teach kids on the autistic spectrum how to stand up for themselves to bullies, but there have been many situations where the victim gets in trouble and not the bully. Far to often, the bully pushes the victim to the limit until they have had enough, and the victim end up physically hurting the bully. Of course, this is when a teacher sees this happen, and the victim get the punishment. Far too often teachers end up giving the one minute long “don’t do that again” speech. The bully will obviously pay no attention to this, and think “I hate this person, so I’m going to bully them even more.”

As I said before, I was never really physically bullied. The only two types of bullying I ever experienced were electronically and verbally. Freshman year was by far the worst year out of all my years in school. There was one student named Cody that made school even worse for me. He was considered our “class clown”, and was also one of the trouble makers in the school. I am about six foot, and he would have to be even more than a foot shorter than I am. He thought that because he was “Mr. short class clown” that he had the right to make fun of other people. He would always make kissing noises and say things like “I love you Derek”. I noticed he would do this in places like the locker room, where the teacher’s didn’t usually supervise the students. I noticed that he would also do this to try and make the other students laugh, which he usually didn’t succeed because nobody payed any attention to him in the first place. I didn’t want to tell on him because I was afraid that he would make fun of me even more if I did, so I just kept it quiet. I also noticed that he would try to do these strange and inappropriate behaviors to try to get a reaction from me, which he didn’t. I just kept on ignoring him. When he noticed that I ignored him, he would ask me “What’s wrong Derek? I’m only trying to be your friend.” He seemed to think that I had trouble understanding whether someone is really trying to be my friend, and who was not. I’m obviously a lot smarter than he thinks I am, and he thought that I would fall for it.

My freshman year was the time I also had a Myspace profile. I remember getting a friend request from a guy named Michael. He did one of the things that many bullies do to people, pretending to be nice. The incident started off when I asked him what he was up to. Keep in mind that I had no idea this was going to happen, then he started sending me pornographic pictures of himself, and Cody. I text messaged him a message demanding he stopped, then he sent a message asking me if I wanted to fight with him. After he sent me about four more pictures, I called him and said “If you keep sending me this pictures, I will report you to law enforcement.” He responded saying something like “wow, that’s gay”. The end result left about 30 pictures from him on my phone. The next day I reported him to the principal, and he gave the two boys the usual “don’t do it again” speech. My next period class was gym, and Cody was in it. I walked into the locker room and he started telling everybody this ridiculous story that he and Michael were sending pictures of his arm, and that I accused them of sending pornographic pictures of himself to my phone. Sophomore year, I had to sit behind him in my Drivers Ed class. He always performed the rude tricks he always tried to perform on me, making the kissing noises, and saying “I Love You”. Of course, nobody paid any attention to him in the first place. My mother and I finally had enough and they talked to the guidance counselor once again. Yet again, he gave the typical “don’t do that again” speech. As usual, the behavior continued until I put my foot down and went to the guidance counselor myself. They finally decided to kick him out of Freeport. They said this kid also had some other behavior issues that were effecting his performance in school. They didn’t say what they were, and I really didn’t care what they were. I was just happy that I didn’t have to deal with him in school anymore.

Unfortunately, not all bullying situations end in a positive note. One of the things that happens to people that have been bullied is that many of them become bullies themselves. They might think “I don’t have to deal with this, I can do it myself”. Bullying has also lead to many teen suicides, one of the most notable being the death of Ryan Patrick Halligan, a thirteen year old from Vermont that was physically bullied and cyberbullied by students from his middle school. The students befriended him so they could get his personal information, and later humiliate him about it. On the morning of October 7, 2003 Ryan hanged himself. John P. Halligan, Ryan’s father discovered the cyberbullying on Ryan’s personal laptop. Ryan’s story was on the PBS TV show Frontline, on a special titled “Growing Up Online”. Mr. Halligan later discovered that he had an online relationship with a girl he had a crush on. Ryan apparently told the girl “something too personal”, which Ryan thought would be funny. Immediately after he said that, the girl started a rumor that he was gay. The girl told Ryan in person, “Ryan your a loser, I was only pretending to like you online for a good laugh”. Ryan then said, “it’s girls like you that make me want to kill myself.”

Stories like this are the reasons for why I think a zero tolerance policy isn’t enough. I would never think of doing something as extreme as Ryan did, but bullying did affect how I trust people. I am doing better at understanding who my friends are and who they aren’t, but it still is hard. When I ask friends if they want to get together, and they say they are too busy, I have the tendency to worry that they have may have something against me, or that they might later try to make fun of me. When I meet new people, especially peers, I have the tendency to worry that they might have something against me and not want to talk to me, or that they might trick me into thinking they want to be my friend, when they really want to use me and make fun of me. There are times when my friend Aaron doesn’t have the time to hang out with me, and I understand that. I have known him for a long time, and I understand that he is still my friend. Bullying caused me to worry about things like that, and I’m getting better at improving my confidence around new people. I’m not going to let one or two bullies bring me down. If you can sense that someone is being bullied, be sure you tell an adult as soon as possible. Think of the consequences that could occur if you don’t do anything about it. I really hope you found this blog informative, and I hope that you will show this to someone who may have trouble with bullying in the future.

http://www.denpubs.com/Articles-c-2009-04-15-52351.113116_Bullyingthe_tragic_death_of_Ryan_Halligan.html
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How can an Aspergers Teen know who their real friends are?


You probably have learned from experiences in my other blogs that my high school years have been a nightmare for me. I was isolated ever since I was in the junior high, I was teased verbally, but I was never physically bullied by anyone. I’m guessing that was because I was taller then everybody else in school, and they thought that I would try to do something to get revenge back at them. During my years at Freeport High School, I was verbally harassed and isolated so much that I didn’t really have that many friends in school. I didn’t really have the skills of making and keeping friends, and because I was bullied so much, I didn’t really have the confidence to reach out to people. When someone would say something to me in the hallway, regardless of whether they were being friendly or mean, I would just walk by and ignore them. I tended to generalize about people, and think that all of them were going to try to do something that would embarrass me, or cause me to be verbally harassed even more. That contributed to my depression and social anxiety quite a bit. I also had trouble understanding who my real friends were, and who my real friends weren’t. In the second paragraph, I will mention a guy named Eric, who I thought was my friend, but turned out not to be.   In the third paragraph, I am going to mention Aaron, who I talked about in my last blog entry.

Eric and I were in the same homeroom together ever since we started junior high. He was in my homeroom since we were in the junior high, and we also went to the same gym together. In eighth grade, he would repeatedly talk about me in front of his friends, he would call me names like f***in retard, and just say tons of other horrible things about me. During freshman year, I had a my space account and he added me as a friend, I accepted, because at the time I assumed that he matured some and grew out of the whole gossip thing. I would chat with him on aim, and he seemed like he was being friendly to me, and not making fun of me. A few months passed by, and I sent him a message asking if he wanted to hang out that weekend. He replied saying something like “I’ll see, maybe.” I sent him a message a few days reminding him about it, and he said “No I can’t, I’m too busy.” A few weeks passed, then I asked him if he wanted to hang out again, then he answered with a flat “no.” After that, I would try to instant message him, and he would either ignore me, or tell me he didn’t want to talk. A month passed, and it was the start of summer going into my sophomore year in high school. I sent him a text message the next morning asking him how we was doing, then he snapped at me and said “you woke me up at twelve forty five last night”. I asked him what he was talking about, then he said that I text messaged him in the middle of the night and it woke him up. I looked in my sent messages, and it said that it was to him. I realized that I meant to send it to somebody else, but I accidentally sent it to him. I told him that I sent it to the wrong contact, and he just said “whatever”, then ignored me. I got angry about it, and started sending nasty messages to him. That obviously wouldn’t make him interested in being my friend, which he wasn’t interested in it when I first started talking to him. It was obvious that he didn’t want to be my friend in the first place, and I shouldn’t have escalated the situation by sending rude comments to him on his phone and his Myspace.

Aaron and I, however went to my summer computer camp program, Computing Workshop. As I mentioned in my last blog, he was a real laid back, and shy type of a guy. I worked with him periodically during the first two summers I was in the workshop, but I never really got to know him. During our summer 2008 program, I got to hang out with him and have some social time with him during the camp. I sat next to him on the couch, and I noticed him pull out his phone. He showed some of the pictures and the ringtones he had on it, then I asked him if I could have his number. He gave it to me, then I gave him my number. I remember after he gave me his cell phone number, he very nicely said “you can call me anytime you want to talk to me.” Going back to Eric, I asked him if I could have his cell phone number, and he made an excuse that said something like “I can’t give you my phone number because I get prank called a lot.” I thought he was joking around at the time, than I later realized that he was trying to avoid me. When I asked him if he wanted to hang out, he would give me answers like “too busy, sorry” or even just a flat “no”. Aaron, on the other hand promised me that we would be able to hang out, and he would explain to me why he didn’t have time to do it. He would not give me general answers like Eric did. This past summer, we did get a chance to hang out. We would go out and buy ice cream, and he also invited me to his house. That was something that nobody has done in a long time, and I am very happy for that.

I have a better understanding now of who is my friend and who is not my friend.  I am better off without people like Eric anyway, so why should I even worry about him? Since I’m not going to Freeport this year, I won’t have to see him in the first place. Like I have said in almost all of my other blogs, I won’t let mean people get to me and bring me down. I won’t let them interfere with what I go to the Lenape VO Tech school for, which is getting training for a job I will enjoy in the future. Also, Eric wasn’t interested in being my friend, so he obviously didn’t appreciate me for the person I really am. What kind of a friend wouldn’t appreciate you for who you are? A quote from Arnold H. Glasgow states that “A true friend never gets in your way unless you happen to be going down.” A true friend goes out of their way to help you, and does not use other commitments as an excuse to not help you. Aaron is not able to spend time with me all three hundred sixty five days of the year, because he lives about thirty minutes from me. When he tells me that he’s not able to spend time with me, he does a good job explaining why he is busy. After that, I would suggest that you ask them what other day they are going to be available. But remember, if you are in dire need of help with something, be sure to explain that to them. Also, if they say something like “too busy, sorry”, they are obviously not a true friend. A true friend never makes excuses like that.

One more tip to remember, everybody is different. Not every person in the world is going to be your true friend. You might show interests in being their friend, but they won’t show it back to you. If they don’t show interest in being your friend, don’t take it personally, it’s their loss. Best friends are rare, you will only find them once or twice in life. And again, make sure that this person accepts you for who you are. I hope you find this blog informative, and I hope that you will show it to someone who may have trouble making friends in the future.