Good Friend vs. True Friend

Good Friend vs. True Friend

By: Derek Warren (My version of the poem by Neil Diamond)

A good friend will mail you a get well card when you are sick or injured.

A true friend will visit you and hand it to you in person.

A good friend will have sympathy for you when they see a bully harassing you in any way.

A true friend will confront the bully, and will make sure it never happens again.

A good friend will answer your phone calls at their convenience.

A true friend will talk to you anytime you need them.

A good friend will believe rumors people spread about you or himself.

A true friend will respond to gossip by saying something like “We’re rubber and you’re glue”.

A good friend will want gifts from you at his birthday party.

A true friend will think of your presence as a gift.

A good friend will come to your wedding ceremony.

A true friend will be your groomsman or bridesmaid.

A good friend will expect you to change for them.

A true friend will always like you for who you are.

A good friend makes jokes about topics you find sensitive.

A true friend knows just what makes you angry, and will never “go there”

A good friend will be with you until graduation.

A true friend will be with you until the end.

I wanted to write my version of this poem because even though I have written about my experiences with “friends” in the past, I still do have problems deciphering who my friends are.  The experiences I have written about, and have told other people have made me realize that “good friends” are people who come and go, but “true friends” are people who will always stick with you. I know people will make comments and ask questions like this:

“Why Are You So Quiet?”

“Why Don’t You Find Friends Your Own Age?”

“No More Talking About Fans”.

I have also come to realize that “true friends” are rare. They only come once or maybe twice in a lifetime, but that doesn’t mean one should be discouraged when they have a bad experience with a so called “good friend”. I have learned that there are jerks everywhere you go. It is best just to ignore them and go on with life, which I know it can be very hard for somebody with Asperger’s Syndrome. I speak from the heart when I say that. However, it is something you have to do. You will be a very unhappy person if you let rude people get to you all the time. I still do struggle with this. It’s not fun to be unhappy, because many of them end up becoming criminals.

I hope this inspired you to be more open minded and understanding of some of people in your life who are not who you consider “true friends”. It does feel like the world is small, but it’s really bigger than you think! I will have more posts coming soon.

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“Why Don’t You Find Friends Your Own Age”?

One of the most popular Autism websites out there is one called The website is an online community for people on the Autism Spectrum. It was first founded in the year 2004 by George Mason University student Alex Plank. The title of this blog is identically named after a post from a user on the “Social Skills and Making Friends” forum. I feel this user’s pain, Adults have asked me  this irritating question many times. You most likely can tell from my other fifty-three blog posts that I was not satisfied with the experiences with my peers from Freeport. My last post talked about the meaning of the word “cool” and how it is often misinterpreted with the word “popular”. According to Freeport standards, I wasn’t considered “cool”, nor was I the least bit interested in becoming “popular”. Most of my so-called “normal” peers from that school were mainly interested in things like dating the opposite sex, going to school dances or parties, or competitive team sports. I didn’t have the confidence to ask anyone out on a date, the interest to associate with my classmates at social events, enough hand eye coordination the hand eye coordination to play competitive team sports.

I did try to sit with a few people at lunch, but they would avoid being around me with the lame excuse “I saved this seat for somebody”. If I would try to interact with somebody at school, they would either ignore me, laugh at me or talk about me behind my back. Because of this, I wanted absolutely nothing to do with anybody in school, regardless of whether or not they were a freshman, sophomore, junior or senior. As a matter of fact, most of my real friends have previously graduated from high school or were high school students from another district. Growing up, I was often seen playing with kids that were not necessarily in my age group. I would often play with the kids in my neighborhood during my elementary school days, and they were kindergarten and preschool age. One might find it odd to see a fourth grader hanging out with kindergarten and preschool age kids.

My parents would always try to encourage me to ask for my classmates phone numbers, but I didn’t really have the nerve to do so. During my older elementary school years (4th, 5th, and 6th grade) my classmates started noticing I was different from everybody else and would start ridiculing me when teachers were not around. The kids in my neighborhood were the complete opposite, they didn’t realize I was different and they didn’t try to make fun of me. My parents were not too crazy about me spending time with them so often. This is when they would say “Derek, you need to find some friends that are in your age group. It is weird that you hang out with the little kids in the neighborhood”

During my freshman and sophomore year at Freeport, both my teachers and my classmates enjoyed using threatening and scaring tactics when they would tell me about college. They would cook up stories like: “College is hell, you have to do so much work. My cousin (name) dropped out because he couldn’t handle the work load”. Many people at Freeport and Lenape (myself included) have complained about teachers nagging them because their work is not done. I have heard from many people that one of the crucial differences between a high school teacher and a college professor is they will not nag you about getting your work done. You are always expected to do it, and you could wind up in academic probation or get kicked out. While that statement may be true, there will still be people who will become intimidated by that and decide not to pursue any post secondary education.

When I started hanging out with my good friend Aaron from the Computing Workshop, he didn’t know that much about me. I was comfortable about opening up to him because it was a safe environment for me to make a social relationship with somebody. In high school, it seemed like they knew absolutely everything about you. When they see you hang out with your “clique”, they immediately give you labels. People threw labels like “retard”, “sociopath”, “psychopath”, “loser” and “freak”. At Freeport, I decided it would be better off not to hang out with anybody because I didn’t want a label thrown at me. I became so sick of the labeling and gossip I didn’t really care about anybody or anything that went on in school. There are still people who give labels at Lenape, but I eventually learned to ignore them because that is not what I went there for. I went there because I wanted to learn the basic skills I will need for a career in Electro Optics.

If Aaron was a student at Freeport, I most likely would not have the confidence to open up to him. I was afraid to open up to anybody my age because I had the fear they would make fun of me and make my life miserable. While I have overcome many obstacles in life (related to connecting with people), I am still very nervous about what the future will hold for me. I am happy that the staff members at Computing Workshop and the teachers at Lenape Tech have been very encouraging about my future, I still don’t know what it will hold. That is one of the reasons I think senior year will be stressful. You never know what college is really going to be like.

To wrap things up, I have been around many confusing and upsetting situations with people my age.  I think it is easier to communicate with people older than me because of that. There is a slight possibility that my attitude about this will change when I grow older, but this is how I feel about people my age right now. That won’t happen until I finally meet that one person who will accept me for who I am and not misjudge me or try to change me. I just have to keep trying to find somebody who will be willing to do that. I hope Aaron and I will stay friends for a long time. If it were not for him, I don’t think I would have even made it this far in life. It doesn’t matter what age your friends are, it matters if they really like you.

I hope you enjoyed reading this, and I will be back soon!

What Does “Cool” Mean?

High school is the place for cliques and stereotypes. When you walk through the lunch table, you often notice that the same cliques always sit together. I felt like I didn’t belong with any of those so-called “cliques”. I felt as if I was a number during my junior and senior high days. I had trouble figuring out where I wanted to sit, so I decided to sit at a table in the back of the cafeteria by myself and would start crying because I was so lost. People really didn’t seem interested in getting to know me, so I didn’t really want to get to know them. Bullying was a major issue during freshman year and the beginning of sophomore year, but the boy who kept bullying me got kicked out of school during the second or third month of school during that year. The teachers and administration most likely became tired of all the complaints coming from my mother about his immature and disrespectful behavior. The positive side was I never had to see him again.

The “popular” kids are the ones who have lots of friends and who own the expensive cars and live in a big house. They are the ones who are always elected president of the student council, which is pretty much a popularity contest on its own. The same people run every single year and they end up winning because everybody thinks their “cool”. I wasn’t interested in running for student council at Freeport because I was an outcast. These same people were on the sports teams and had a boyfriend or a girlfriend. I felt like people didn’t even know I existed on this planet, and the only ones who did know I exist enjoyed belittling me and making my life a living hell. I tried hiding my Asperger’s and reaching out to the “cool” crowd, but they would either just tolerate me, ignore me or tell me they would “rather not talk”. I have said many times before that a true friend should not just “tolerate” me, they should want to spend time with me and they must always be willing to make time to spend with me.

I do look back and realize that I am better off without people like “Mr. Cool President of Student Council”. As described in my blog entry titled “Four Important Qualities of a Best Friend” I had an unfortunate incident with this same kid. I inadvertently sent a text message to the wrong contact, and he was the person who received it. We chatted online quite often and I thought we would become good friends. He used to pick on me back in junior high, so I thought “maybe he changed and wants to be my friend”. When summer came around, he would start ignoring me when I would start instant messaging him. When I greeted him he would sign off and ignore me. I would then write on his My-space wall then he would Delete my posts. It became even worse when the whole cell phone incident happened. The next day, I text messaged him and his friends. I asked them what they were up to, and then “Mr. Cool” snapped and said “You woke me up at midnight! What the fu** is your problem”? I then asked him what he was talking about, then he told me about the text message. I looked at my sent messages and I saw I addressed it to him instead of the person I intended to send it to. I explained to him that I did not intend to send that message to him, but he then said “whatever, just don’t talk to me”. I asked why he was being so rude to me and he said “I don’t want to be friends with you. Don’t talk to me”. I then started making nasty comments to him, and said things like “You are only going to work at Burger King after you graduate from high school. You may be Mr. Cool now, but you will be a loser after you graduate”. He then responded to me “Yeah, my friends and I are Mr. Cool. You just fu** off and leave me alone”. I continued to send him disrespectful messages, but he just ignored me. I was upset that he became angry with me about something I didn’t mean to do. For the next few days, I continued to experience negative feelings about myself. I felt that everybody in the world didn’t know I existed, and the only people who did know I existed wanted to belittle me. I wasn’t considered “cool” (according to the Freeport Senior High School standards) and I hated that about myself.

I looked up a definition for the word “cool” on the popular website Urban, and this particular one caught my eye:

“Socially appealing; used to describe any behavior, object, ability or quality contributing to one’s social prowess”.

I laughed at this one because it was perfectly true about the kid in this situation. During junior high, he enjoyed talking about me behind my back. He would mock some of the Autistic behaviors I exhibited. I tended to look around the room and stare at things like the wall or the ceiling, and he would start staring at me. When I would look over at him he would point and laugh at me. He seemed to realize I didn’t like it by my facial expressions and laugh at me in front of his friends. His friends would either acknowledge him with a fake smile or try to change the subject. I talked to my mother about it, and she said “Maybe he wants to be your friend”. I found out that was not the case after the cell phone incident a few years later.

You can probably tell that I don’t really need to pay attention to the stereotypes from high school. The social politics make it seem that if you don’t go to events like football games or the prom, you are a nobody. The Computing Workshop summer program I am working teaches kids that would most likely be considered “uncool” in a regular high school. Schools often think they will not be successful in the career field they want to pursue. This program came into existence because the staff members want to prove these school districts wrong. These school districts are not willing to try anything new. They just want to do things the way they are used to. They also try to discourage these students into obtaining a post secondary education because they feel they won’t succeed. They use these threatening tactics by saying things like “college is rough, you get a lot more homework”. They focus on the negative things about college and not the positives. Helping the “uncool” kids has really turned out to be a “cool” thing to do during the summer.

During the board meetings at Lenape, I was amazed at how well students expressed their concerns about the half day issue. Many of these students were also considered “uncool” in their original school of residence. The teachers really cared about them and they want them to be the most successful individuals they can be after high school. I think that is a very “cool” thing.

I am only willing to stick with the friends that accept me for who I am and who will not try to change me into a different person. I will only hang out with a person who will ignore the high school stereotypes and not try to make me into a “normal person”. I made the mistake into trusting “Mr. Cool President of Student Council”. Having at least one friend that really likes you is a very “cool” thing. Aaron likes me for who I am and he doesn’t try to magically make me into a “normal person”. If it were not for places like Computing Workshop and Lenape, I don’t even know if I could have finished high school. I would most likely be working at a fast food restaurant making minimum wage. I have learned that I should be thankful for the things I have and not focus on the things I don’t have. I didn’t have the pleasure of being “cool” at Freeport, and that doesn’t mean a single thing to me because I am not there anymore. I am cool to my real friends and my family, and that is the only thing that matters to me.

How Do You Define A Perfect Person?

If you read my last post about the book “The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Nighttime” the main character Christopher John Francis Boone didn’t like it when people referred to him as “special needs”. There was one particular part of the book that I found pretty interesting. During this particular part, he was stepping off of the school bus and he started walking home. As the school bus left his stop, the kids yelled out the bus window as loud as they could “special needs”, “special needs”. He did not respond to them at all. Afterwords, he described how he felt about people giving him names like that. His outlook on life was that everybody in the whole world has a special need. I know people who take medications everyday, that is a special need. In one of my earlier posts I stated that everybody in the world is quirky in their own way.

I simply am trying to state that nobody is perfect. On the Webster online dictionary, the definition I found that pertains to my message on this entry is “corresponding to an ideal standard or concept”. On dating sites such as E-Harmony or, they say they are going to help you “find the perfect mate”. They take personality surveys that help you determine which person was right for you. I think it is rather insulting when they say “find the perfect mate”. I have listened to people, both teens and adults complain about their husbands, wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, or even their friends. There is one person I knew who in their “About Me” description talks about how her boyfriend means the world to her, and how she wouldn’t give him up for anything. In school, however it seems like a totally different story. She stands there and rants about all the arguments she has had with him, and about all the things he does that make her angry. This almost happens on a daily basis. I realize that relationships have their ups and downs, but if she complains about him so much why would she still be dating him?

One of the things I wish therapists would do with their clients is to not focus on the negative things about them all the time. I have been through this far too often. In the introduction to my memoir, I talked about how depressed I get when I read all the clinical reports written Asperger’s Syndrome and how my diagnosis personally affects me. They pretty much read this “Derek lacks social skills, doesn’t have friends and needs psychiatric help”. I wish therapists would come up with ways to help their clients express themselves using their strengths. For example, I write blogs to help people understand my diagnosis, and to help others with Asperger’s Syndrome realize that it doesn’t have to be all bad. A quote from the introduction to my memoir states ” Asperger’s Syndrome does not mean that they are a “loser”, “freak”, “retard”, “sociopath”, or “psychopath”. I know that I am not a perfect person, but I have helped people understand my diagnosis more by my writing skills. I have written over forty blogs so far, and writing it on paper has also made me understand myself more.

I am not trying to sound egotistical, but when people say nasty things about me behind my back I think “they could never write a blog or a memoir even if they tried to”. When I am around my friends or family, I try my best to appreciate the good things in both myself and other people. That can be difficult sometimes. Sometimes I obsessively worry about a person because I am concerned about them. For example, let’s say your best friend started spending more time with one of their new friends. You recently noticed the friend is spending more time with the new person than with you. You hear rumors that this friend got fired from his job at the grocery store for stealing $200.00 from the cash register. This new friend also has been in trouble with the police for use of illegal drugs. If I were to put myself into this situation, it would be very difficult for me to come up with a resolution. I know it is not good to be judgmental about this new friend. If I had a friend who was a drug addict, I would want to try my best to help them with their habit. One thing I would definitely be afraid of is my friend giving into peer pressure regarding the illegal drugs. Once you start getting into those drugs, it is not easy to stop. I would be pretty angry and sad that my friend is spending more time with their new friend than with me, but if I talked to them I would have to be respectful and honest. Many kids with Asperger’s are too honest, which causes them to get into trouble in school and loose any friendships they have. Both of those are equally important when talking to a friend about a situation like this. The best way to start this conversation is to ask them if you are still friends. I would then tell the person they haven’t talked to me in a while and ask them if they had plans for the weekend. What if they talk to me rudely or tell me they don’t want to be friends? I would then move on and find somebody else to be friends with. Sometimes that friend you thought was “perfect”, didn’t turn out to be the person you thought they were. It is really sad when a close friend changes, moves on to other people and they forget about you. It is just one of those things that happen sometimes.

To sum things up, I have realized that no person in the whole world is perfect. People mainly judge my behaviors because they don’t understand my Asperger’s Syndrome. I am not perfect, they are not either. When you are meeting a new person, it is good to see beyond their quirks. It is difficult for me sometimes, but I do try my best when I meet a new person, or around my friends or family. I pretty much answered the title question for myself. You can’t define a perfect person. One person who is good at drawing or painting may not be good at sports, or vice versa. I ask all of you to keep that in mind when you meet a new person. There are still people out there who don’t see beyond my quirks and make judgmental comments about me. I try my best to ignore them. I thank you all for reading this, and I will be back to write again next week!

Four Important Qualities of A Best Friend (part two)

I wanted to expand on one of my earlier entries titled “Four Important Qualities of A Best Friend”. The qualities I mentioned were honesty, kindness, trustworthiness and sacrifice. Nobody wants to be around someone who is dishonest, unkind, unreliable and lazy. The qualities I mentioned on that blog are just as important as the three I am going to mention on this entry for one main reason, and it is because they all tie in together.These qualities are just as important as the ones I mentioned on my other blog about this topic, and they are in no particular order. I don’t really have that many friends in school, so high school life has been pretty difficult for me. In another one of my other entries I talked about my social anxiety, and how that contributes to why making and keeping friendships is very difficult for me. If I expected these qualities from all of my friends, I would not really have that many. These qualities, and the ones that I mentioned in “part one” are really only expected for close friends.

1.) Humility:

Have you been around a person who always talks about themselves in a conversation? Somebody left a comment on one of my others entries about how they had a friend who had a child that was behind academically. He had a friend that would always complain about how behind their child was, when they would rub it into their face that their child was ahead of his. A definition of humility is the quality of being humble, meaning a person who is not proud or arrogant because they are better than another person, whatever the reason may be. I once had a friend who would rub into my face that his parents would let him get away with things that my parents wouldn’t. He would always tell me that he would get away with looking at bad websites on the internet and watching inappropriate TV shows. I went to his house one day and he offered to watch a movie that was R rated, and I was only in about second or third grade at the time. I told him that I was not allowed to watch an R rated movie without an adult watching it with me. If my parents found out that I was watching that movie, I would have been in trouble. I couldn’t tell you what the name of the movie was, but I do remember it was rated R. I then decided not to hang around this person because he tried to convince me into doing something I wasn’t allowed to do and he would try to rub into my face that he was better than I am because of how different the rules of his house are from mine. He moved shortly after this whole situation, and I decided to lose contact with him. I will repeat myself again, a true friend doesn’t convince you into doing something wrong, or rub into their face about why they think they are better than you. I also can’t stand people that try to rub their religious or political beliefs into my face. Politics and religion are very touchy subjects for many people, and some can be easily offended by the way you say it. People need to learn the phrase “enough is enough”. Parents do not teach that to their kids enough. Kids on the Autistic Spectrum especially don’t understand this because of their lack of social skills.

2.) Uniqueness:

I can’t stand people who don’t want to be friends with me just because I don’t act like a “normal teenager”. The social shunning that I have gotten in high school is the main reason for why people judge me and don’t want to be around me. I have said this before and I will say it again, I don’t ever want to hear from somebody “you should do this because everybody else is doing it”. They judge me because of the fact that I don’t play any sports or that I am not interested in dating. Teenagers often hang out with groups of people with similar interests. These groups are called “cliques”. If you don’t have the same hobby interest as they do, then to them you either don’t exist or are worth absolutely nothing. I think it is good to talk to people who have slightly different personality traits and hobby interests than everybody else in the crowd. It helps to ask them for advice because they can give you a different perspective about the problem. To me, if you constantly avoid somebody because they don’t have the same hobby interests as you might make people think that you are stuck up. It’s good to be different from other people, the people who are different are usually the ones who end up being very successful in life.

3.) Acceptance:

As you already know, I can’t stand “friends” who are judgmental. For example, just because somebody is not like you doesn’t mean they are a bad person. Another thing I can’t stand is when a “friend” doesn’t listen to you when you tell them that whatever they are doing is bothering you. For example, let’s say they are a person who loves to joke around all the time. You laughed along with them until they told a joke that went way too far. You tell them to stop, and they just say “Come on, it was just a joke”. The jokes still continue, until you finally tell them to knock it off. I can say one thing about a situation like this, they are definitely not your friend if they keep doing something you don’t like. A true friend should know when things likes jokes go too far. They should know what gets you pissed off, and they should never do it. Plain and simple. A true friend also does not try to change you, they will love and accept you for the person that you are. They won’t ever push you into doing something you don’t want to do, and they won’t ever try to make you uncomfortable in front of your other friends or their friends. I’ve had “friends” in the past that have done that also, they are obviously not my real friends if they are going to do something like that.

4.) Forgiveness:

Have you ever had a friend that has held a grudge against you for something that was not a big deal, or something you didn’t say or  do at all? A true best friend will forgive you for the mistakes you have made, even the big ones. I can relate to that very well. I once had a friend who I have talked to online and in school for a few months. School eventually let out, and he became busy with his summer job. One night I was text messaging one of my other friends, and I sent it to him by a mistake. It was about thirty minutes past midnight, and it woke him up. The next morning he called me and started throwing a fit at me about it. I explained to him that I didn’t mean to do it, and he just said “whatever”, hung up on me and refused to talk to me. About a week after that, I tried talking to him again and he just told me to “fuck off”. I guess our “friendship” was over after that whole incident. He held a grudge against me for something that was a “little deal” and made a “big deal” about it. That shows just how immature my peers really are. Life is about making mistakes, and people are supposed to learn from them. I guess the only thing I learned from that “friendship” was make sure you send your text messages to the correct person on your contact list. There are obviously better people to be friends with than this kid. A true friend also sticks with you through the good and the bad times. I’ve gone to a few of my friends for a few of my problems, and they then try to avoid me. What kind of a true friend is that? Yes, there maybe is the chance that they haven’t been through a situation like that, but it still makes no sense to avoid the person. I have been ignored by people before, and it is not a good feeling. In school it seems like the only people that ever try to talk to me are the ones who want to make fun of me and bring me down.

I am happy about the fact that I don’t have tons of friends, to keep me happy I only need one or two friends. Quality is better than quantity. Even though I don’t get to see my good friend Aaron that much, I am happy he is going to school to learn skills for what he wants to do. I am really hopeful that he will have a job he will enjoy going to in the future, and that he will remember that his friendship made an impact on my life. When breaks come around, hopefully we will have some time to spend with each other. We don’t have all of the same hobby interests, and I don’t agree with everything he says, but he is still my friend.

Like I said at the beginning, if I expected all of these qualities from every single one of my friends, I probably wouldn’t have them. These qualities are really only important for close friends. You definitely should not consider being good friends with me if you don’t posses these qualities. Friends are what make living your daily life easier. Thank you for reading this and I will be back to write again next weekend!

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My experiences with Social Anxiety

Gossip, rumors and labels are the things that all teenagers have to deal with. Most of the gossip and rumors about people are not even true, and the people spreading them usually don’t know what they are talking about. The labels I get are extremely hurtful as well, such as loner and reject. If you think what you have been going through during your teenage years is bad, try putting yourself in the shoes of someone with Asperger’s Syndrome, Depression and Social Anxiety. In school, people have always given me the nasty labels such as “loner” and “outsider”. People seem to think that I don’t want social interaction with people and that I want to be alone, when that is not true at all. I really do want social interaction with people, but people don’t want social interaction with me because of the labels and gossip people have that spread about me.

My social anxiety started when I was in seventh grade at the Freeport area Junior High School. Everyone in the school grew up from the adorable little kids they were in elementary school to snobbish, immature junior high students. This was the year “social cliques” started to develop and gossip, and it seemed like gossip and rumors spread even more than any cold or flu bug. As soon as a person got detention or suspension, it spread around the entire school. The reason for why this gossip spread around so much is because of how small the junior high really is, it can only fit about 200 students total. Those were also the years that people started to notice that I was different than everybody else, I had odd interests in things like fire drills and school buses, and I did not have the confidence or the skills to reach out to people and talk to them. Because of this, I was one of the most frequent targets of bullying and gossip. When I would try to reach out to people, they would either sit there and ignore me or speak to me rudely and tell me not to sit with them. It seemed like anytime I would try to open up to somebody, they would avoid me and make fun of me for no reason. Most of the social cliques in junior high were only into making crude adult humor jokes and making fun of people that did not act just like them. One particular incident was in eighth grade at our end of the year field trip. If you remember the student name Eric who I mentioned in my other blogs, this was the incident that really triggered my social anxiety when interacting with my peers in school. We went on a cruise on one of the Gateway Clipper fleets in Pittsburgh, and it was a dinner and dance that was held in the evening. Since I didn’t really have a group of friends to sit with, I sat alone. I remember I got up to get my food for the dinner, then I sat down to eat. Right after I sat down I heard Eric say a real nasty comment about me. I heard it loud and clear over the loud music that was playing, and that comment really upset me for the rest of the night. I am not going to mention what he said on here, but it was a very ignorant thing for somebody to say to a person that he was a classmate with. I got so upset by the comment that I couldn’t really focus on eating my food, then I just got up and sat on a chair outside and cried about it. I figured that telling on him would cause him to talk rudely about me even more or he could even start saying rude things directly to me,

My social anxiety worsened when I finished eighth grade and became a freshman in high school. Because I was no longer the highest grade in the school and didn’t really know anybody there, I became so tense and nervous. It was very intimidating for me because everybody was older than  me, and they were all in their own social clique of friends. Most of the upperclassmen were your typical freshman haters, and they all had absolutely no interest in associating with people like me because they were in their own “little group” of friends. I knew that Freeport is a rather small high school, but it seemed a lot bigger to me because it was a new environment with new people. In junior high I had a difficulty understanding who was my friend and who was not. I was “set up” and tricked by people many times. When I started high school it was very difficult for me to move on from those experiences and make a fresh new start. I had this generalization that everybody was bad and that everybody has something against me, which I still do now. I am working on getting rid of it, but it is very difficult for me because of all of my past experiences with people. Many people tend to think that social anxiety and depression is something that you can just “snap out” of, when it is not. People who suffer with it now will suffer with it for the rest of their lives. Yes, there are medications they can take, but they can sometimes worsen their symptoms.

I have gotten help for my symptoms, but social interaction with people is still a very difficult thing for me. I am not one for talking on the phone with people, even when they are close friends. In the rare times that I have called my friends, I feel that they will have something against me and try to avoid me. When I give them invitations over the phone, I tend to fear that they will not want to be around me and make excuses for why they want nothing to do with me. I especially have difficulty dealing with that, being avoided by people really hurts someone that has been through it countless times. I also worry that it might be the wrong time to call and they will get angry at me and avoid me in the future. Yes, I realize the phone etiquette rules, such as don’t call after nine o’clock, and two call attempts during the day is enough.

I also used to fear being around peers in public places other than school. I have seen my enemies in public places like the mall and the local grocery store before, and I try to avoid talking to them as much as I can. I don’t really have a problem around adults, but its peers that I really get uncomfortable around. When I see other teenagers whispering to their friends, even when they are people I don’t even know, I tend to fear that they are whispering about me, even though that most likely is not true. I still have the tendency to worry about things like this even though a few people in my high school have started rumors about me. When I talk to someone that I consider close friends, I tend to worry and think that they change and all of a sudden have something against me. I realize that change in a person is something that occurs overtime, and it doesn’t happen in just a few days or weeks.

I disagree with a lot of the therapists that work with people with depression and anxiety who think that pushing them to the limit and shoving therapy down their throat will cause them to magically “come out of their shell”. I have mentioned such a person before, and his name was Mike. I don’t think that he is bad at what he does for a living, but I disagree that overwhelming them and trying to change who they are will cause them to learn social skills and get through their depression and Anxiety. I think that his therapy would work for some people, but not for someone with Asperger’s Syndrome and Social Anxiety.

One thing I wish is that people were not so judgmental about me when they first met me, I don’t try to avoid new people when I meet them, I just tense up and get nervous. Because of this people tend to think that I am stuck up and don’t really want to be around them. I have also been around ignorant people who make rude jokes about people with these kind of mental disorders, and that is totally uncalled for. I think the world needs a zero tolerance policy towards that, but unfortunately that is not going to happen. Individuals with these disorders are teased all the time, and it sadly is not going to stop. But when you are around me I will not stand for it. To me, making fun of somebody for something they can’t control is totally inappropriate in any situation. You can bet that I will tell you that I don’t like what you are doing, and that it is uncalled for and needs to stop. I get very angry when I see comedy shows on TV make fun of people like this, even if it is “just a joke”. It is sad that there are ignorant people in this world that do things like this, but unfortunately it happens everywhere. I hope you got some idea of the things I experienced with my Anxiety, and I hope that you will take this into consideration when you see someone who may exhibit some of these behaviors. The next time you think about judging somebody, think about some of the things that this person may be going through. Be helpful to them instead of making fun of them and judging them.

Social Isolation Hurts

The high school years are difficult for anybody. Teens face the difficulty of figuring out who they are, and have to deal with the peer pressure coming from dating, sex, alcohol and drugs. Being a student in high school, I have noticed that parents do not teach their kids respect and understanding others as much as they should. I have been a target of bullying and gossip throughout my entire life. Ever since I was in kindergarten, not a day goes by without having to listen to somebody point and laugh at me, or make a rude and judgmental comment about me. Because of this, I don’t really have that many friends in school. Many times, teenagers act like this because they want to look cool around their friends. They think that friends will accept them better when they make another person look bad for no clear apparent reason.

If you remember on my two blogs titled “do social skills groups help all students on the spectrum”, I mentioned my odd, obsessive interests that changed throughout the years. During my preschool and toddler years, I had a huge interest in fans. When my parents would take me out places and I would see a fan, I would perseverate about it. I remember my mother telling me one day that I would always stop and stare at ceiling fans and refrigerator fans. If you recall from the same blog I mentioned earlier, there was one incident where my mother lost track of me when we were shopping at a grocery store. She was shopping in an aisle that was on the other side of the store and tried to ask me a question but I wasn’t there. She then looked around the entire store for me, and then she saw me staring at the fans inside the refrigerator. My mother also said that when she found me, I was staring at the fans for about 30 minutes.

As I got older, my interests in fans faded away. When I was in third grade, I became fixated with fire drills. Our school was completely remodeled, and we got a new fire alarm system. Ever since the first time I heard the alarm, I would constantly talk about it with around the other students. I didn’t even realize that the students have had enough with me talking about them until they finally said “Derek, stop talking about fire drills already”. My limited interests also caused some bullying when I was in elementary school. During recess when most of the students were running around and playing with their friends, I would always walk around the playground alone. I realized that nobody really liked me, and that they wouldn’t be interested in playing with me during recess anyway. My parents talked to the teachers and explained that they wanted me to join in activities with my peers, but I simply didn’t want to because they didn’t like me. If you remember from my blog about understanding others, there was a student at Computing Workshop with a more severe case of Autism than I have, and he also had Down Syndrome. He used a special computer called a dynavox to communicate. He had a set of beads that his mother gave him to play with, and during free time he would always sit in the corner and twirl them around. He was in his own little world when he was sitting and playing with those beads, and this student’s parents would always complain about his teachers taking the beads away from him as a punishment for not paying attention to the teacher. The teacher would not let him play with the beads during free time, and he didn’t know what to do with himself. The staff members at Computing Workshop also seemed to think that this particular student used playing with the beads as a method of dealing with stress, and when an adult that doesn’t understand his diagnosis takes that away from him, he won’t know what to do with himself. That is when he will start being uncooperative and not listen. I can identify with this student when I think about my experiences during elementary school, I was in my own little world when I would walk alone during recess. I didn’t pay attention to anybody, and nobody payed any attention to me. Because my parents wanted me to “play” with my peers during recess, my teachers would try to force me into doing it. There were times when I would try to resist to throwing a football with another student, or playing on a jump rope, but my teachers would grad me by my shoulder and push me into doing it. Back when I was in elementary school, I didn’t really have the coordination to catch footballs or play jump rope.

My coordination with catching a ball and participating in team sports have gotten better over the years. The majority of kids in high school should know that making fun of someone because they aren’t gifted at sports, or for any other reason is not acceptable. You have one of those arrogant jerks in every crowd, and the best thing to do is to ignore them. I still do have coordination issues now, and I have been around people who do not understand my Aspergers and that don’t have the patience to cooperate with me. I had to deal with one of those people recently in my electronics class at Lenape Tech. We were putting together a windmill that is going to power the greenhouse that belongs to Lenape’s Natural Resources shop. I can’t remember exactly what we were doing, but it was one of those activities that required strong hand/eye coordination, which is also required for playing most team sports. I didn’t quite understand what we were doing, and the teacher was not in the classroom at the time. We were working in groups, and a student very inappropriately lashed out and had a fit with me. He said something like “God fucking dammit Derek, I can’t believe you don’t know how to do this. You are so stupid, damn junior”. Yes, I realize this student didn’t understand my lack of coordination, but there was no excuse for him to lash out at me like that. After the whole incident, I walked away and asked if I could work with another student or have the teacher give me an alternate task to complete for the day. I should not have to deal with somebody that is going to treat me so rudely.

Because of all the social isolation I have been through throughout the years, I still have a difficulty trusting people. When I meet a new person, I have the tendency to think that they are going to try to make fun of me. It’s hard for anyone to get out of thinking that, especially for people like me. If you remember me mentioning how Mike, my old therapist would try to shove social skills down my throat. From my perspective, he seemed to think that depression and anxiety are things that you can just “snap out” of right away. When he would push me to the limit by putting me in social situations where I felt very uncomfortable, I would resist to it. I don’t like it when people put me on the spot, especially when it’s in a group of peers that I don’t know very well. It has always been difficult for me to deal with people like Mike who are “in your face” about things. If you are one of those kind of people, I will try my best to avoid being around you. It will take time for me to develop social skills that I am going to need for life, and hopefully they will help me deal with all of the rude people that I will have to be around. Those kind of people are everywhere you look, and you have to try your best to avoid them. If people are not willing to get to know me as a friend, then it is their loss, not mine. I have no need to worry about people that want nothing to do with me, they are the ones with the social skills problems, not me.

I am willing to be friends with any person who will accept me for who I am, and that will not try to change anything about me. I am beginning to have a better understanding of who are my real friends and who are not. If you are trying to trick me into believing that you are trying to be nice to me when you are really not, I will eventually find out. It hurts to be rejected by people, and it also hurts to be “set up” by them. I don’t really care if I don’t have a whole bunch of friend to talk to, one or two is enough. As I have said before, “quality is better than quantity”. If I do ever lose a close friend, than I will move on and try to find someone else to be friends with. It’s not my problem if you want to be friends with me, it’s yours. Forget about all of the people that want nothing to do with me, I’ve got other things to worry about. Graduation is coming up next year, and these people won’t mean a god damn thing to me.

Before I go, this is a message to all teens and young adults. Always remember to stay true to yourself, and don’t ever change. I have had to deal with countless people that have rubbed it into my face that they want me to be like they are, when I don’t want to do that. There will be people in life that act that way, and the only thing you should do is to just sit there and ignore them. My “social status” with my peers in high school doesn’t mean anything to me. I hope you enjoyed this, and that you will take all of this advice, and share it with anyone who may need it in the future.