On Anger

I have severe issues with anger.  Very severe. They have followed me my whole life. I fear on some level they will eternally.

I do not pretend this comes as a shock to a single person reading this. Many of you have witnessed my outbursts. Most have been targets. The truth is my issues with rage are less a dirty little secret and more of a blotchy disfigurement that I bear. They are the single most traumatic part of my life and the most painful manifestation of Asperger Syndrome. And yet, until today, I’ve never written about them in any real depth if at all. Why?

It’s simple. I’m horribly ashamed of this side of me. I struggle to reconcile it with the other pieces of me. How does a strident intellectual who graduated with honors justify falling to pieces an hour after graduation. Which happened. That’s the first of a lot of admissions ahead, I concede. Yes, within an hour of graduation with those gold tassels, I was throwing a screaming hissy fit. That was my final act on my college campus. I have to live with that.

I have to live with a lot of things. Even as I write this note, it hits me. That sense of frustration with the world. That anger that the world doesn’t get it! That nobody follows logical rules. Having Asperger syndrome is to live with anger. Sadly it is not to live with knowledge of how to cope.

Where does it begin? There has to be an origin for every story, right? Obviously not this one. What I remember most strongly is this: in Kindergarten, I didn’t like feeling guilty. I still don’t. So I cried a lot when I was punished. I’d lie to say that’s changed. The point of this note isn’t dignity. I was humiliated a lot growing up. I cried a lot. Vicious cycle.

Of course there’s family. You always face that fight. But more on that later.

But the true beginning is elementary school. You start to outgrow fits, right? Not I. I fell prey all too easily to them. There were two sources. The first is the school system which was lax in elementary school but suddenly all consuming there. The experience is wall to wall confusion. And so you scream at it because you don’t know what else to do. You fight back. And what triggered it was silly. A roll denied at lunch was a big one for me. Lunch in general was hell for an aspie child. You’re food sensitive. You want what you want. I hate being surrounded by people when I eat. Still do. And then school in general is confusing. It’s a lot of rules. And you’ve got rules inside your head. Conflict.

But there are others. The others are the children. And they spot you. You’re weak. They find out that you’ve got a trigger. So they use it. And the trigger develops. And it does. not. stop. And with it comes a new force: the loneliness. You desperately want to be liked but you’re not liked. And you see it. Teasing is another issue. But my point is this: I became reliable. But I did develop a base. Some ground.

So I moved.

And I was excited to rebuild. I was new. But the issues followed. And once they came out, they became me. Fourth grade was almost my bottom. I was hunted, chased, and teased as I tried to get home. And I suddenly had nothing. Nothing to lose myself in. The issues were no different but they were intense. At 6, everything’s expected to be surreal and weird. At 11, not so. It’s more intense.  But again, I rebuilt.

Sixth grade. New rules. And now you’ve got hormones. Everything is in flux. And the anger reached its peak. I was reliably a source of mockery. And I screamed. I cried. I wailed. I wanted help. This is a key point.

I don’t want to discuss the rest of school because at that point, even up to college, the truth is I got better, Those stories are another day. But even college was the same. I got frustrated and I went off. That last time, I went off horribly because the room wasn’t clean enough to move out. When The West Memphis Incident came, there was just tears, I should note though.

I now must address family because for the 15 months after college and before the ADG, I lived at home. And there were three incidents that stand out. The first was as school was starting up again. It was the moment I knew I’d failed. So I went off. My mother could barely handle me. No longer was I 12. I was just angry at the world. I couldn’t express it right but what I was trying to say was this: why? I’d always been the golden boy academically. Why was the working world not seeing me like this? I was deeply lonely too and in a hole. The second incident was at New Year’s. The third was minor in February. But in all cases they could barely handle me.

I live with these things on my soul. I stress this. I must live with this shame forever.

But, there was light in time. And I landed a job. And surely I could avoid my issues here. In an ideal world, yes. We live not in one. And I have broken.

I’ve talked a lot about my issues in a biographical sense. Perhaps as a way of facing penance. But mostly as a way of expressing that the issues I face are real. And this brings me to an individual in Newtown, Conn. Let me make one thing clear: that monster had far greater issues than mine. But, the topic has finally been opened for national discussion. So it’s time to talk. One thing that I learned at long last was that my issues are not limited to myself.

So in this moment, I’m writing this note in the hopes that parents of aspies will see this. I’m hoping that my brethern will see this. Because I want to explain why.

Why do we act out? Three reasons. First: we are angry. Of course. We are upset and we lack the abilty to quite grab ahold. Meds help. But there’s another level to it. Secondly, we are frustrated. The world sometimes makes precariously little sense to us. Rules are bizarre to us because we see through the bullshit I think. But there’s the big one. We want to be heard. We’re pounding our fists on the table because nobody is understanding us! We want to be heard god damn it! And our disorder makes that hard. We’re desperate though. In the unemployment time, I wanted an answer to why. I wanted to know how to solve that paradox that I needed experience but couldn’t get it. And nobody could answer it for me. The world is frustrating.

I wish this note was a summation of these issues. It’s not. It’s a checkpoint. But I have come clean at least. All we ever want is to be heard. I hope we are.

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