Do They Truly “Care”? (Part 2- A Blog Post About Facing Fears)


A Continuation of Part 1

When we experience a life threatening situation like a car accident, it reduces our self-confidence to great amounts. We think that cowering in fear will make the problems go away. Anxiety is a common characteristic in people diagnosed with Autistic Spectrum Disorders, regardless of whether or not they are actually diagnosed with a particular type of Anxiety.  I’ve always hated therapists who tell me that I need to “put myself out there” if I want to make new friends. I am in college now, and the feelings of not “fitting in” have been with me for a long time. I am sure they will stay with me in any social situation. 

Throughout most of my (almost) twenty years of life, I have always known that I was “different.” I was “unpopular” in high school and the vast majority of my classmates either didn’t know that I existed or took advantage of it. Because of that, I found it extremely difficult to decipher whether or not people were merely trying to be kind. My former therapist, Mike thought that forcing me out of my comfort zone would magically cause an epiphany and end all of my problems. His demanding personality and use of scare tactics made me believe that he was not really trying to “help” me, even though he tried to convince me otherwise. The truth was that I really had no idea what was bothering me. I was just bitter about the fact that I was “not like everybody else.”

You are probably asking me to answer that one burning question. What is that thing that has caused me to feel so empty? So, you should know that I am “putting myself out there.” I now know I am a gay man. I knew that I was not ready to say that during my high school years. My classmates seemed to notice this and they used it as a way to provoke me. My small, unincorporated hometown in Western Pennsylvania mainly consists of Conservative Christians who are not very accepting of the GLBT community. Life in the Freeport Area School District was about conforming, fitting in and doing what was expected of me.

The school claimed to have a “zero tolerance policy” towards bullying. From elementary school until tenth grade, the schools seemed to think that displaying signs that read “bullying will not be tolerated” or “teasing hurts” would give students the message that bullying was not acceptable. The truth was, it did the exact opposite. The vast majority of the students paid no attention to the signs. My teachers were under the kind of mindset that we were in a perfect school in a small town and that any forms of intolerance and bullying are just a little pigment of our own imagination. As a matter of fact, I remember my tenth grade health teacher rambling about how he thinks it’s “funny” that our school district even needed a bullying policy. He was just one of the many Freeport teachers who lived under the “perfect small town” mindset. If you are still not convinced, look at the website greatschools.org and read the one and two star reviews written about the junior and senior high schools. 

Going back to my “drill Sargent” therapist, I can remember one thing about his tactic that truly infuriated me. His tone of voice was often very questionable, meaning I had trouble figuring out whether he was being genuine or being sarcastic. I was “not like everybody else” and I was not interested in most of the neurotypical activities, in particular, dating. I wanted to “be like everybody else” but I didn’t know how to. Just about every single session consisted of him trying to cause that magical epiphany. He wanted to me “put myself out there.” He would go on and on about how I should be interested girls, the sarcastically said “unless you like boys or something…”  That was one of the many comments that caused a major personality clash between the two of us. I didn’t know I was gay back then, so I just refused to respond to him. If I had known, I still would not have “come out” to him. This was due to the lack of respect and understanding from the vast majority of my peers, teachers and counselors. So, I am sure you can guess why I felt this comment was pretty questionable. His tendency to bombard me with questions, to get in my face and tell me how much I need to “open up to people” caused even more resistance. I most likely will never change my opinions about the man. He had no regard for the fact that I simply was not ready to discover and reveal what was really bothering me. 

If there are any Autistic and/or gay people who are reading this blog post, I am sure you know that we have many stereotypes and labels thrown at us. This is why I felt that “coming out” during high school was not safe. When people think of the word “gay”, they picture a male who is effeminate, materialistic, shallow and overly obsessed about sex. When people think of an Autistic person, they picture someone running out of control and throwing things in a screaming meltdown. It is true that there are gay and/or Autistic people who show those characteristics, but that most certainly does not excuse the acts intolerance and hatred that society throws at them. 

I have also noticed one thing when it comes to “cultural and neurological diversity.” There have been times where I have been around Aspies who negatively use offensive slurs such as “faggot”, “cunt” or “dyke.” I have also heard LGBTQ people negatively use offensive slurs like “retard”, “freak” or “psycho.” It infuriates me to hear anybody use those slurs, but especially those who know how it feels to be different. I have come to the sad realization that they use these slurs for the same reason that anyone would use them. They fear people who are different because they still believe the ridiculous myths and negative stereotypes that are always thrown at that particular “group.” It’s called the fear of the unknown. 

My Asperger’s has always caused me to be very careful who I choose for a friend, and I know I will have to be even more careful now that I know I am gay. This could very well mean that I could lose support from friends and family due to their religious stance on “homosexuality.” I will most likely endure my fair share of  the bible says it’s wrong” lectures. Those family and friends could start negatively gossiping about me and even use those slurs that always have and always will infuriate me. I know that I shouldn’t let them bother me, but it will truly hurt if this ever ends up being the case. All I can do is expel them from my life, tell myself that it’s their problem and hope they change their ways. However, homophobes usually don’t change the way they feel about people who are different. Their religious propaganda “molds” them into that kind of mindset. 

My priorities in a friend are now starting to change. I am experiencing a friendship where I am always the one who reaches out to the person, when they never seem to reach out to me. It makes me feel like I am the only one who seems to truly care. I’ve had friends who say they are going to help me with things then turn around and not do it. It makes me wonder if they really want to spend time with me. It also makes me wonder whether they are avoiding me or just “forgetting” about me. I know not to automatically take it personally, but I always have wondered what the real answer is. I ask myself two questions. Are they using that as a cover up? Do they truly care? This is the hardest part, but I must accept what the real answer is. 

I thank you for reading this very important post!

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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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