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Dare to be Different

p.

In Memory of Smokey and Taz

The Joy of Smokey and the presence of Taz have brought

so much happiness to my life

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Credit Page

Author: Eric D. Zimmerman

Head Proofreader and Layout: Nancy Saylor

Proofreader: Shawn Jenkins

Proofreader: Asher Caro

Photography: Kregg Reynolds

Illustration: Charne Kraemer

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*Table of Contents *

[*Introduction………………………………………………………………………………………..i *]

[*Chapter One: Crazy Man……………………………………………………………………..1 *]

[*Chapter Two: Love over Lust………………………………………………………………8 *]

[*Chapter Three: Facebook and ASD; My Experience…………………………….11 *]

[*Chapter Four: An Aspies Opinion on Marijuana………………………….…….17 *]

[*Chapter Five: Marijuana; My First Time……………………………………………20 *]

[*Chapter Six: Elevator…………………………………………………………………………24 *]

[*Chapter Seven: Tattoo……………………………………………………………………….27 *]

[*Chapter Eight: Smokey and Taz…………………………………….31 *]

[*Chapter Nine: Super Gerald………………………………………36 *]

[*Chapter Ten: Dare to be Different………………………………..40 *]

[*Addendum: 2016 Blog Posts………………………………………42 *]

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*Introduction *

These past two years have been incredible, as I have had the fortune to

be able to tour the country sharing my story of growing up on the

Autism Spectrum. I visit many support groups which include parents

who do not know what is next for their children, what kind of services

their child will need, what their child will need to succeed, or even what

happens after the child’s education. My life experience has not been an

easy one, but I have been able to turn my negatives into positives to help

others. Luckily, nowadays, medical knowledge has advanced far

enough that these disorders can be detected and diagnosed earlier, which

allows therapy to be begin and create a better and more productive

quality of life. I have revisited the middle school I attended and even

though I had a horrible time, these kids do not know how lucky they

have it.

It is my honor and pleasure to be able to share these life stories with you, the reader, in hope that these experiences will help others overcome their

fears and setbacks, as well as to show that regardless of disability,

anyone can persevere and come out on top. In the following chapters

you will read about a possible medical treatment for Autism in a green

plant called marijuana, my first experience with it, and how silly it was

in my opinion. You will also read and learn about my continuous

struggle to make friends, and how people with autism struggle with

social media norms, for we cannot read between the lines and take hints.

Since the writing of my past e-book, I have lost my dear friend Smokey

and his brother, Taz. I will discuss the amazing ability for us humans to

connect with non-humans and how animals can without words, express

their love for us even in the toughest of times. It is my hope that this

project will not only inspire people with autism reach their potential, but

also bring a sense of understanding to those affected.

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[*Chapter One: Crazy Man *]

I see myself as someone that “gives” significantly, in many ways. One

of the things that make me so different is my ability to see people as they

are and continue to love them for who they are. It can be somewhat easy

to “pull the wool over my eyes” in some cases, as I may be taken

advantage of by others, but one thing I never do is judge someone by the

way they look or by any kind of disability. As a Christian, I read the

Bible, and in it, it states the golden rule: how you judge others is the way that you will be judged in return. Also, the Bible says that you cannot

pick a spec out of someone’s eye when you have a beam in your own.

This essentially means that as humans, none of us are perfect, and so we

should focus on fixing our own flaws instead of judging others for theirs.

I am not going to continue to quote and explain scripture, but simply

state that in our current society; people are very judgmental of others.

Whether it is out of fear of a particular thing or to use someone else’s

faults as a way to feel better about ourselves, it still hurts and comes

from a hateful place. In both the past and the present day, I have been

judged by others based on my inadequacies and my disability. I was

always the first one to be picked on and the last one to be chosen to join

someone’s project group. I would play games with neighborhood kids

and they would always make it to where they had the advantage.

Because of my background of bullying, I think I learned not to be so

judgmental of others. Even when people turn you off because of their

attitude, sometimes it is just because they are covering themselves from

their own insecurities. There are many who I went to school with that

were not polite to me, but today support my work. However, not

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everyone I know now was present in my childhood.

Through an unusual source, I met this guy named Shawn Young. At a

Sheppard-Pratt office in my hometown of Frederick, MD, I was seeing a

therapist. They knew about my work in founding and running The

Buddy Project, and really supported what I was doing.

Later on in the year, I had a huge cake auction event for The Buddy

Project and that evening, once the program ended, I got an email from

this guy named Shawn. He lived in a residential program and was

interested in what we do, as he is a “Computer Tech” and wanted to help

out. Shawn was given the information about The Buddy Project by the

mental health clinic at Sheppard-Pratt. This has turned into an eight year

relationship of ups and downs.

I have three different people in my life named Shawn, and so I needed a

way to refer to this new Shawn. My friends and family, as well as I, call

him Crazy Shawn, or Crazy Man. It is not a judgement meant to hurt,

but rather a silly nickname based on the obvious observation that he is

crazy. He is very delusional and has bipolar disorder, so if depending on

whether or not he takes his medications, you will see a difference in how

he is going to treat you or what story he is going to tell. He came to

work at The Buddy Project about January, 2009; and he and I started a

close friendship. Due to not having many friends, it made it very easy

for him to become close to me. My family and I have done so much to

help him over the years; however, he has not been able to better his

situation and often makes the wrong choices.

Shawn was in the newspaper as a representative of The Buddy Project

when Hood College donated computers to the organization in 2010.

Hood College donated several computers. Because of this, Hood

College thought that Shawn was allowed to pick up donations for The

Buddy Project when he showed up at the college. Shawn had been given

permission to pick items up and take them to The Buddy Project, but he

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took advantage of this situation, and kept items

for himself. This caused The Buddy Project to

lose creditability with Hood College, and

Shawn could no longer take on this

responsibility.

Shawn met up with a previous girlfriend. After

Shawn rekindled the romance, he would spend

*Eric, Dave, Shawn, and *

*Hood College *

several nights at my house a week and then go

*Representatives *

back home to Brunswick, MD where he was

living with an accountant. In exchange for

working for The Buddy Project, my family let him stay at the house and

also fed him. In addition to room, board, and meals, we gave him some

computers which he could in turn sell to make a few dollars on his own.

Shawn did not have a driver’s license so I would drive him everywhere

at no charge. Once he met back up with his old friend Melissa, things

went downhill fast. She took significant advantage of Shawn and knew

how to manipulate him based on his mental illness. Melissa was living

with her baby’s father in a rented apartment. She would fool around

with Shawn during the daytime and had him spend the night a few times

a week. I, being his ride, would have to shuttle him back and forth.

Over time, he was told by Melissa and his mentally ill mother that I was

taking advantage of him by having him work for ‘free.’ As mentioned

earlier, this was not the case as Shawn was being taken care of quite well

by me and my family. This went on for a while, and he became

increasingly upset that he was not allowed to have Melissa at my house

and was agitated and jealous whenever I did anything with my girlfriend

at the time, Christi. As a guest in my parent’s house, this was pretty

disrespectful in my eyes. There were other places for them to see each

other: he could have even taken Melissa to Brunswick. One night he

had a mental health emergency when I had Christi over to watch a

movie: he was not making any sense and clearly had a dangerous mental

state change. I had him sent to the hospital that night. I even brought his 3

clothes to him, but despite showing care for him, he did not want to hear from me. The officers that came to my house offended me because they

asked as to why I let him live with me and stated that I should not hang

out with him, even though I know that he is a decent person inside.

After he got out of the hospital he moved away from the accountant’s

house in Brunswick and moved in with Melissa. Shawn unfriended me

on Facebook and did not want me to contact him in any way. This

continued until the summer when he needed help moving back to

Frederick after he moved into someone else’s house outside

Westminster: the man that he was living with got drunk and decided he

wanted to kill Shawn. I helped him move into his parents’ house, and

around that time, the man who he was living with pressed criminal

charges against Shawn for taking his money to help take care of the

house. When the guy was in the detention center, Shawn had some

people move in with him and he paid the mortgage from the guy’s

disability money along with some other things that he did not have

before, like DirecTV service.

Crazy Man was summoned to court but he never showed. If he were to

show, not much would have happened because both the defendant and

the plaintiff were not mentally ill. The facts would have been

questioned and any punishment that came out of the trial would have

been slim to none. Shawn was afraid that he would be sent to jail so he

talked to me about driving him to Florida. Eventually, Shawn decided he

was going to flee to Florida because during this time he was talking with

a fake person on Facebook who claimed to be royalty and stuck in

Florida because she had not gotten her money yet. She was supposed to

be working as a nurse at a Mercy Hospital in Tallahassee, FL. Yet, she

stated that she needed money to inherit her family’s estate. He sent her

many things that she asked for, like an iPhone and money. When he

moved down searching for this girl, he thought that he was going to get a

job flipping hurricane damaged homes in Pensacola with her to make

money. She wanted to marry him. However, once he got to Florida, he

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found a girl in a

homeless shelter

that looked like

a much skinnier

version of the

girl he was

interested in.

Crazy man was

upset with me

because I did

*Shawn and his girlfriend *

not take him to

court in Maryland. This was way before what I was just writing about

happened, before he moved to Florida. He said he was not going go to

court and then he was and then he was not. He was going to go but then

he became upset with me because I was unavailable to pick up a woman

he wanted to have sex with and take her to his house. She lived about 45

minutes away and the day he wanted me to do this was a day I was not

free because I just got back from a business trip. I do not care if he has

sex with anyone, I don’t care if he ever has sex AGAIN. I will do

everything to help him but I am not going to provide means for him to

be impure. I could care less. My friend Big Shawn and I have a pact

that we will not buy Whores, Cigarettes or beer for crazy man.

Since his move, he repeatedly has asked me and Big Shawn for

assistance. The last time he wanted me to send him money via Western

Union to him was because he needed some food to eat. I would

generally not entertain this idea as he has used me so much in the past,

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[*Shawn’s Trailer in Florida *]

but since hurricane Hermine just went through the area there, I decided

that I would help. I told him that I would send him a Publix gift card for

him to buy food with, which you can send online. He said to me that he

has food but needs charcoal for the grill to cook the food. I told him I

could send that as well. He got upset with both Big Shawn and I

because we would not send cash. We do not give him cash because he

will not buy food; just adult entertainment and booze. He eventually

told big Shawn and I to F*ck off. We were willing to help him with

food and other things but he did not like that we were restricting the

donation to him to grocery store items.

On one visit with the Crazy Man, he wanted me to buy him a tire and

rim for his bicycle. Big Shawn had promised to buy the tire. We went

to Walmart there in Tallahassee and when we were walking (Big Shawn

riding) through the store, Big Shawn told Crazy Man that he would buy

him some food. Crazy man kept adding stuff to the cart on top of the

tire he was being bought. When we got to the register, the total between

Big Shawn and crazy man was $160.00, with Big Shawn only having

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about $20.00 of items. Big Shawn was pretty ticked off, especially when there was no “Thank You” from the crazy man. After we went

there to Walmart he wanted us to drive him around the city looking for

his girlfriend who ran away. After we could not find his girlfriend, he

wanted Shawn and me to pick a whore for him. Shawn and I thought

sarcastically “Wow that is REAL Love”.

Another time that Shawn gave up on someone that was helping him was

when he first arrived in Florida. To set the scene, he was in homeless

shelters for months until he met a guy who transported and sold trailers

as a business. The man let Shawn live in a trailer for $400.00 a month

and also paid him to work for him what would be about three to four

days a week. The trailer was huge and was very nice. Shawn seemed

happy. After a while he said he had to move out because the guy was

taking advantage of him. So he goes and lives with a girlfriend of his at

her parents’ home. As mentioned before, I see Crazy Man for who he is.

He is a good friend and can be a very productive person. I do not mind

helping him out. When I get down his way I take him old laptops that

we cannot use form The Buddy Project and we cannot get working. He

can fiddle and play with them and it will keep him out of trouble. I kind

of keep him in his “Place”. I know how to get him what he needs

without him taking advantage of me. I understand the “Using” of others

because it is something he learned growing up with a mother who could

not adequately provide because of her own mental illness. A lot of

people wonder why I am friends with him. I just feel that if I can do

something to make a positive change or help him in a positive way as

well as make the quality of life better, it is all worth it for me.

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[*Chapter Two: Love over Lust *]

I am not too sure where I am going in this chapter. Do you ever feel you

have something to say but you can’t really bring it full circle to make the

point you want to make? This is kind of one of those times for me. I

have a really good friend and I am not going to name her because she is

really close and it is something rather personal. She has been recently

separated from her second husband where she is getting out of a

marriage of 16 years where her husband was really dependent on her.

She picked her last husband like she did the first. She picked him on

looks and the fact that he had issues that needed to be fixed. She

thought that she could fix him and they could have a perfect marriage.

She has gotten into a lot of debt and has had a lot of stress because the

second husband took advantage of her so much. After her second

husband, while she has been separated she started messing around with

an old flame what she had on and off throughout her life. He is fifty

plus and has been a bachelor all of his life. She has fallen for him again

and wants to have something with him. He accused her of trying to

“Buy” him.

None of these guys really show true affection to her, and if they do it is

to simply get “In her pants”. I feel that my friend’s situation is not just happening to her. I feel that so many women and men are making poor

choices based on their sexual desires. Also many may be going through

a hard time and simply find familiarity in an old relationship. Let’s face

it; dating is very difficult and scary. Back to the physical desires: one

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may want something more than just sex but they let their desires lead them in the wrong direction. They may go after a guy who is ripped or a

woman that is able to run for Miss USA simply because they look at

them with lust and not for who they are. They will hook up with these

people and then end up in a relationship that does not work. It is usually

anchored by a child. My friend is not looking for anything exclusive;

but when she does she needs to find someone who wants her for her and

wants her all the time, even when it is not feasible for them to be there

for her. Love is friendship set on fire. That is what everyone should

look for. When you find that person, everything else just comes

naturally. You will find that you will be doing nothing with them; just

talking, to going to a concert or watching a movie. No matter what you

are doing you will just be so happy being around them.

My brother married a woman for the wrong reason. He was not one to

ever want to be in a relationship with anyone and was the typical man in

that he just wanted Sex. I could just be generalizing but most men think

of and want sex…and from life lessons I think that many women think

the same way as mentioned before. One weekend when I was in the

eleventh grade Eddie brought over Stacy. I found it kind of odd that he

brought a woman over for a football game. It was just supposed to be

for the football game but before we knew it she was a regular guest.

Next thing we knew, my brother was at her house all the time. My

brother changed from a tough guy to being a more sensitive and caring

man it seemed. The guy who would usually beat me up over not much

of anything is now “Mr. Softy”. Besides having her in my house and

just in my comfort zone, my brother was not his usual self. That in a

way made me uncomfortable because even though we fought like

brothers and he did not quite understand everything about my disability,

we did have some fun times. It was a big change for me and being on

the spectrum it was hard for me. She was also really disrespectful in that

she would get on my computer and eat pizza. I don’t care that she used

my computer but she had greasy pizza. The next thing we know she was

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pregnant. At that point she ended up moving in with my family. Today, she has many issues and has caused my brother a lot of grief as well as

the entire family. She has stolen from our family and myself as well. I

am not going to go into any detail because it is not just stuff that should

be shared. My brother is most likely not even going to like that I put this in. My brother is a prime example of how our sexual needs can get in

the way of finding you best friend. I think that I got my point across

about how Love conquers Lust but I am sure I rambled a lot. I was not

sure where this was going.

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[*Chapter Three: Facebook and ASD: My *]

*Experience *

*Making friends on Facebook *

Social networking has been a big development over the last 15 years. I

remember when I graduated from High school and I first became a

member of Myspace. Remember, Myspace? It had Tom as the

moderator and very interesting features. Not that Myspace did not exist

before 2005; I know it did, but I was new to the network. I friended a lot

of my friends and colleagues from Best Buddies on this platform. As I

was lonely, I decided to try to make friends and eventually a girlfriend.

No, I was not looking to “Get Laid” like a lot of my peers where. I just

simply wanted companionship. I became friends with a few women on

Myspace and a few that I knew in person that were also friends with me

on Myspace. Mind you that my maturity was about the age of a 17 year

old and sometimes, lower, depending on what was the issue at hand. I

grew a pretty extensive friends list for Myspace and it mostly did have

my high school peers and Best Buddies peers. The purpose of this

chapter, before I really get ahead of myself and ramble about the topic,

is to show how social networking i.e. FACEBOOK and the previous

MYSPACE was both a hinder and a help to society, just as it had the

more extreme effect on people on the spectrum whom deal with

communication barriers every day.

Now that I kind of talked about Myspace and how I feel it was the start

to the social networking age, let’s talk about Facebook. I remember

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when I was still mainly using Myspace and Facebook was on our local news and how it was gaining popularity even though it was meant to

stay in touch with college friends and acquaintances. Kind of like an

online yearbook, if you will. It was started by Mark Zuckerberg at

Harvard University in 2004 with a little help from some roommates. It

sure has evolved in the past twelve years to being almost the center of

everyone’s attention.

Facebook is great at making new friends, catching up with the old

friends, but it has also has been able to do so many things in addition to

what Myspace could do. It works with several different other

applications; some owned by Facebook and some not to allow people to

leave feedback on businesses, let businesses market, share videos,

stream in real time, and to instant message each other.

The big issue with Facebook is, just like in the real world, people expect

others to have this social etiquette into place. Everyone’s portrayal of

this invisible and unwritten etiquette is different as there are so many

different ways of life and religion. So someone might be more sensitive

to someone’s post or comment on Facebook than others. It is almost as

if we all really talk on Facebook now as well. People with ASD who

can communicate by typing or talking and have a Facebook profile

really take a beating sometimes from our peers (other neuro-typical

people). For example, I use to see an Indian friend that I meant on a

dating website. It did not work out for several reasons, but one of the

things I think turned her off was the use of Facebook. My friend Big

Shawn, who lies on the spectrum somewhere along with other

diagnoses, had friended her and one morning when I was with her

commented on how I was awake earlier than usual and how we should

go on a double date. This was put right smack dab on her wall for

EVERYONE she is friends with (including most of her family in India)

and Shawn’s and mine friends to see that she had went out on a date

with me, and spent the night at her apartment. While nothing physical

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happened (I am very conservative) it was implied on Facebook that we

did spend the night and that was not even really mentioned. But we all

know, one imply leads to another. That afternoon, my friend Komal

called me up and was cursing me over the phone for my friend’s actions.

I explained that I could not control what he does and it is like him to be

socially awkward on Facebook. He often does not know how to respond

or comment on topics so sometimes he writes a whole message in a

reply or on someone’s wall, kind of similar to what he did to Komal.

Komal’s issue was that

in India, you do not

announce that you have

a boyfriend until you

are ready to marry. In

fact, most Hindu

people, including her

mother, like to do

arranged marriages, but

she did not quite like the idea. She had already defriended Shawn and I

on Facebook and I agreed that it was a good idea until we figure out

where we were going with our relationship: if it was just friends or was

there more there. Komal and I did not work out, mainly because of her

getting another job and some small cultural differences. I really did not

care about the differences and I really thought she was cool but things

happened and we moved on. My experience with Komal was definitely

a way that Facebook can be bad for those on the spectrum. Yes,

someone that was neuro-typical may have not put that information on

her wall like Shawn did, but they would have still tagged her in

something once they gotten to know her, leading people to believe we

spend a lot of time together.

I will give a few examples of the cultural differences that occurred while

I was getting to know Komal. Once while visiting Komol, she handed

me a bag of cat treats. I was holding them, and decided to place then on

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the refrigerator. Komal was offended by this because of her idol which was also on top of the refrigerator. I just thought it was a statue.

Another time when we went shopping, she told me that I could not go

into this special Indian store with her. I wanted to go in, but she said the reason that I couldn’t go in was that the people in the store wouldn’t like

it that we were together.

I have used Facebook to stay in contact with friends, acquaintances, and

professional colleagues in the healthcare, autism, and IT industries.

Sometimes I would like to get to learn more about someone and they

make take my interest in them the wrong way, specifically ladies. I am a

very social person and many with high functioning Autism are, or they

seem the opposite where they do not talk much but when they do

communicate they may not know what is proper. What is proper

anyway? Again, the etiquette expectations from one situation to the

other may kind of change. I have an older friend at the hospital that I

volunteer at who works in the Cardiac Catheterization laboratory. I have

been in the Cath lab to observe when we had patients with STEMI

(Heart Blockages) or what someone would call a Heart Attack come

through the Emergency Department. I got to be friends with her and I

wanted to invite her out to some of our fundraisers for The Buddy

Project. I did not have a romantic interest in this lady but I just wanted to be friends and get her support. She was always great to work with in

the hospital. One day, I noticed that she had unfriended me. What had I

done for her to do this? At the time I had not talked to her on Facebook

for a few months, so what was so offensive or creepy? I refriended her

and then I noticed that she had then blocked me. I still do not know

what the issue is and she has since seen me at the Hospital and joked

around with me that she had not seen me in a while. This is with a

person that I did know in person, how about people that I do not know

much in person and I friend them. I once friended our chairman of the

Department of Surgery at St. Agnes on Facebook and I noticed that he

also blocked me. I was kind of hurt, because he did vaguely know me

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but I am really interested in what he does as a surgeon.

So, I have many other examples of other issues that Facebook has

brought such as the time I very first got onto Facebook and I befriended

a young lady who I had went to school with but did not formally know.

We got to be friends over Facebook and I guess that I was too pushy in

getting to know her that she became uncomfortable and had blocked me.

I did not want anything that typical men want from her, but I think that I

came off as weird. I think that I had sent a birthday card to her college

one time and since we really never got to spend any time together, she

might had been uncomfortable.

Talk about neuro-typical. My father has even gotten in trouble with

others over Facebook, mostly because he does not understand the

difference between sending a message and tagging someone. I have a

friend Tiffany, who he is friends with her father and he tags him in all

kinds of funny videos and stuff that he would enjoy, well Dad thinks it is

going to him in a message and not on his wall, and on top of that he is

getting notifications left and right that David Zimmerman just tagged

him in a post. That would actually get kind of annoying to me too. My

dad is not on the spectrum (for sure) and I feel he just has a hard time

understanding because of age.

I guess in finishing this chapter, Facebook has both helped and hindered

our society. It is great for sharing things of interest and sharing photos, 15

but our society has become so engaged in it. I am not sure how many reading this is familiar with Rockstar’s “Grand Theft Auto”, but it

GTA5 they almost hit it right on the nail when they called their social

media “Life Invader”. Also many people whether on the spectrum or

not have such different views of an invisible social etiquette that it can

cause issues between people. People on the spectrum are going to have

that social awkwardness where they do not always know how to handle

certain social situations rather online or in person.

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[*Chapter Four: An Aspie’s Opinion on Marijuana *]

Marijuana for many years has had a place in popular culture as being

able to make one relax or something that someone would “Party” with.

It has been the focus of many school Anti-Drug campaigns and is also

known to be a “Gateway” to other things. Marijuana has started to get

more and more attention in the news and legitimacy for its use for many

different conditions. One of the conditions that is it has been deemed to

be helpful for is Autism. I am a very straight edged person and a law

abiding person. I am not one to go to parties or buy drugs to get high

with, so I definitely do not look at marijuana in the same way most

people do. I am rather unbiased.

Along with having high functioning autism (Asperger’s Syndrome), I

have dealt with a few mental health issues through the years. The most

debilitating thing that I deal with the most is “anxiety.” Many

individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder have other diagnoses with

them whether it is Attention Deficit Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive

Disorder, or even a Mood Disorder like Bipolar Disorder. Many

children and adults will have one of these conditions along with their

main diagnoses of Autism Spectrum Disorder. Over the years I have

dealt with issues where I fixate on something that I know is irrational,

but cannot get the thoughts out of my head. There are usually simple

thoughts like losing my parents or dying myself, or even time going too

quickly. When I had the issue with time, I didn’t want to see the clock. I

even went so far as to tape over the clock on my car so I couldn’t see it.

I will fixate on something that will remind me of the passage of time and

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it causes me great stress. I have a friend who fixates on things like dating and cars. He also has Autism and he wishes to have things that

signify his independence. Like this individual, I can relate to the

fixation issues.

Drugs that are used to help with these comorbid issues of anxiety are

usually antidepressants and Benzodiazepines. Examples of anti-

depressants are Prozac, Effexor, Lexapro, Cymbalta, and Trazodone.

These meds are usually great at helping keep the obsessions to a

minimum while maintaining an upbeat mood. Benzodiazepines work by

slowing down activity in the central nervous system and works on

dampening the activation of the “Flight or Fight” response that we all

naturally have. The combination of both an antidepressant and

Benzodiazepines are usually helpful in combating obsessive thoughts

and anxiety. Usually maintenance drugs are identified for the treatment

and additional drugs are used for “flare-ups” in symptoms.

So, this is where marijuana comes into question. Marijuana has been

shown to obviously help calm the nerves and take away the pain and

agony of people suffering from other conditions such as terminal cancer,

chronic pain, Glaucoma, and many more. How about its use with

Autism? It has a legitimate place in the world of Autism. Again, many

suffer from anxiety. Marijuana can be used to keep these individuals

calm and allow them to function. I am not suggesting that people use it

to get “Wasted” but to have an effect to where they would be able to be

functional in life.

Everyone knows that THC in Marijuana is calming and has effect in

treating many things, but what many do not know that there are more

than one active ingredient in the mix. Another one of the 60 compounds

found in Marijuana is called Cannabidiol or short term CBD. This can

also help with Autism in another way. A lot of the symptoms of Autism

or exasperated because of our poor health choices. The gastrointestinal

tract is disturbed by some of the, well, frankly JUNK that we consume.

18

People want cheap food and food companies are meeting this need by using cheap ingredients, and more processes to keep food on the shelf

longer. Someone who has Autism might be much more sensitive to

these toxins which then cause the behaviors and anxiety issues that we

see. So before we even get to the point where we need to provide a

medicinal dose of THC, we can fix the problem where it begins. CBD

has been shown to improve the health of those who consume it.

Inflammation is at the root of many issues as well and CBD has been

shown to reverse inflammation. So it allows our GI tract to operate

more normally. Also and here is the BIG one, CBD is proven useful in

preventing psychotic episodes such as fixating on something. It causes

the thoughts in the brain to slow.

I have to say I once met someone on one of my speaking tour dates that

gave her daughter THC through the intake of a special honey. She said

that it has done wonders in helping with her behaviors. If we could get

just both THC and CBD together, we can have a wonder drug. With this

wonder drug, these two compounds which have a zero tolerance, would

clearly be a winner over Benzodiazepines in the treatment in Autism

related Anxiety issues. Instead of making you sicker, which

Benzodiazepines can do, it actually helps heal your body. I am not a

medical professional, and you should talk with your or your child’s

primary care physician or Psychiatrist and get their opinion, as this is

only my take on the subject. Let’s keep an open mind about Marijuana.

What do you think about this topic?

19

[*Chapter Five: Marijuana: My First Time *]

For a while now I have wanted to try the wonder drug that is Marijuana.

I have always been very conservative politically and ethically I have had

issues with the idea as I have been taught throughout my life that drugs

are bad and that Marijuana is usually just the beginning of problems for

drug addicts. People tend to have the idea that weed or marijuana is

used to party and has the stigma of “Cheech and Chong”, the Mexicans

that starred in several films that involved the substance. The reason why

I wanted to try Marijuana is because of my severe anxiety disorder that

has at times crippled me from my work and personal life, so pretty much

not letting me do anything. Because of my anxiety there were times

that I wish that I was struck dead, even though I did not want to die, and

had a will to live. It is mostly probably why I was able to beat these

bouts of anxiety. I had heard a lot about marijuana and it can change

lives for the better. As I wrote in a past blog post, one of the individuals at one of my presentations actually gives her daughter who has autism

special honey with cannabis mixed in. The mother claimed that it keeps

her calm and happy and she does not exhibit the behaviors that she

usually has trouble with.

My first time experiencing this came kind of out of nowhere. I did know

that is was going to happen a day or so before but did not know how I

was going to do it. My friend Shawn has a friend named Laura he met

in a domestic work camp he volunteered in as a teenager. They have

remained friends since except for some time where they lost contact with

each other for a little while. When Shawn and I head south to our

20

favorite vacation spot in the Miami, Florida Area we often swing up to Bradenton, Florida as a stop on our way home. Shawn was talking to

Laura about visiting a day or so before and we had brought a laptop that

we wanted to give her since she does not have much. Shawn mentioned

to her, Laura about how I would like to try marijuana for my anxiety and

if she could make it happen.

We left the South Florida/ Ft. Lauderdale area earlier in the day after I

visited with my friend Dr. Hackie Reitman early in the afternoon. We

headed up I 75 to Bradenton, Florida where Shawn had got us a hotel

room. We arrived about 8pm in the evening and Shawn arranged to

meet Laura. We took her out to a favorite hibachi buffet of hers in town.

We of course shared new things that have been going on and of course

they were really into each other talking, as I am just a new friend she

had met about two years ago. I did not share the special experiences of

the volunteerism through the work camp. After we went to eat, we

swung by Laura’s place so she could grab her truck and her dog to drive

back to our hotel room. I wanted to do this because I did not want to

drive after getting high on marijuana. I never had it before so I had no

clue how I would react. Apparently she is high most of the time so she

did not care much about it. Since there was no smoking or PETS

allowed in my hotel room, Shawn watched the dog and Laura and I went

out to her truck. I do admit that I was kind of unsure how this was going

to go down. I was not afraid of the marijuana but how it was going to be

consumed. When I climbed into her truck it was like a flash back into

time as she had a late model GMC Sonoma and my father had a 1993

Chevrolet S10 Tahoe.

21

I spent a lot of times in the S10 pickup my dad had so it was like a time

machine back into when I was a small child. She produced before we

even got into the truck a prewrapped cigarette full of the substance. She

lit the cigarette and instantly the cabin filled with smoke and this nasty

smell. She turned on a classic rock radio station and asked what kind of

music I like. I explained that I enjoy modern Country, Classic Rock,

and Eighties music. She told me how she likes similar music but her

husband LOVES modern country. She passed the blunt to me and I was

unsure what to do with it. She asked me “Have you ever smoked

anything, even a cigarette”. I explained how I never smoked anything in

my life. I asked her if I just “Suck it” and she said “Yes, and then inhale it”. I took a few hits on the blunt. I can tell you that it was one of the

most nastiest things that I have EVER tasted in my mouth. Not only was

it one of the nastiest things that I tasted it was one of the most nastiest

things that I have ever felt. It was like an oven in the back of my throat, like the area between where my tonsils used to be and my lips were its

smokestack. I stayed in the truck with her for a few minutes, about ten

and then we both went back into the hotel room. At that point I felt a

22

real calming effect from the marijuana. It was definitely odd especially

with that taste in my mouth. It turns out that it was tobacco paper that I

was using and Shawn KNEW that I was not going to enjoy it. I wonder

how anyone can smoke ANYTHING: it is that gross. My dad smoked

over 50 years and I do not know what was so appealing about smoking.

Shawn said

that I was

talking a

mile a

minute and

that it was

the side

effect of

weed. The

three of us

talked for a

while and

then Laura left.

My thoughts on my experience are that I will NEVER smoke anything

again. I was able to see the benefits of the marijuana and I would

definitely try it again, but in honey or a brownie, or maybe just simply a

pill. I have seen it work wonders in other people who have some mental

illness and as long as it is not abused, meaning you get “wasted” or

“Stoned” it really improves your life. I have a friend with really bad

PTSD and Bipolar and he was actually able to be productive when he

smoked moderate amounts of the substance. My parents were curious

about my experience but my father was not all that pleased. Of course,

the way I was raised I would not be excited if my son told me he had

smoked “pot”. I tried to explain to my father that marijuana can be

ingested in other ways than just smoking it and that it is WAY healthier

than Benzodiazepines, Opioids, or Alcohol. Of course my father does

not want to hear any of that.

23

Chapter Six: Elevator

One of my biggest fears growing up was the elevators at Frederick

Memorial Hospital. These set in a corridor, in a darkened corridor.

Having to visit Frederick Memorial for either health care for myself or

mostly visiting my elder family members such as my grandmother when

she was admitted as inpatient it was always a source of great stress for

me. These elevators were very plain and had gray doors. I always opted

to walk up the stairs to whatever floor that my family was going to. The

hospital only had four floors. I mention Frederick Memorial Hospital’s

elevators but in actuality I was terrified of ALL elevators period. The

worst experiences just happened to take place at Frederick Memorial.

Whenever I had to go on a

class field trip in

elementary or middle

school I had to worry

about how we were going

to get above the first floor

of a museum, aquarium or

wherever we were headed.

I cannot remember

exactly where and when but I am guessing it was when I went to Luray

Caverns here in Virginia. They had an old school elevator that they were

taking people down to a lower lever with. The fear that I had definitely

did not provide me with a pleasant feeling.

So, why was I afraid of elevators so much? At the time I really wish I

24

knew. Many people felt it was claustrophobia where you are fraud of being in a very small space. Kind of like being locked in a closet or

being in a MRI scanner. Elevators are kind of just like rolling closets

anyway. What bothered me about elevators so much was that for me at

that age, 3 years to about 15 years old is that these elevators were huge

steel machines with no windows. I guess when reading this you would

think it was claustrophobia as well. Those parts were a little, I mean a

lot intimidating but what killed it for me was the feeling of dropping. It

was always the feeling of moving down and especially right before you

level out on a floor where the elevator drops a little. You get that feeling of your stomach moving and blood going to your head. It is a very

unpleasant feeling. My parents had to either let me take the stairs or

they would have to carry me in their arms. This only made the situation

a little easier to deal with and a little less scary. With many people once they have a bad experience they do not want to be re exposed to the

situation. For years, I would not go on any elevator. The only time that

I would get on the elevator was at a resort in Orlando, Florida by Disney

World where there were open glass elevators to where you could see out.

Even after that, I stayed away for years.

It would not be until 2003 that I would ride an elevator without the

Grimm fear that I had before. As a preteen and teenager I was really

into pro wrestling or sports entertainment as some would call it. It is

faked and it is scripted but I always enjoyed the events. My friend

Mark, his Dad Keith, and girlfriend Athena were at what is now the

Verizon Center in Washington DC. WWE has a show on Monday

nights called Monday Night Raw and we had tickets to see the show live

from the nation’s capital. We of course had cheap seats because being

that Mark and I were both high school students we could not afford

anything nicer. In fact I think that my mother may have bought the

tickets for us. It was ten minutes before Monday night raw was to start

and we could not find stairs to get to our section. All of the stairs to go to the higher concourse were locked. Why was this I was thinking? Our

25

tickets were for the 400 level and we needed to get there. Apparently WWE did not sell the show out and in order for the arena to look full on

television they made everyone sit a level below and just put black fabric

over the seats on the 400 concourse. We did not know that at the time

and it was 10 minutes before the show started. The only way upstairs

was by an elevator. I was pretty scared but I hopped on that elevator

without question from anyone and we went up a level. I was thrilled that

I did not have any bad feelings and it was as easy as anything. I was so

excited and in called home to tell my mom. I think the highlight of the

evening was me being able to ride the elevator.

Riding the elevator was a huge victory for me. I am unsure if I can ever

appreciate how lucky I am for that night to have happened the way it

did.

26

Chapter Seven: Tattoo

I have a Cross on my arm, a sign of my faith to my lord and savior Jesus

Christ. What do I mean by having a “Cross” on my arm? What I mean

is that I have a tattoo. While it was out of character for me to do this,

get a tattoo, I have always thought about what it would be like to have

one. I am not one to outright tell people “Hey, I have a Tattoo”. I

oftentimes forget that I even have it. I am a Christian and believer so

when/ if I got a tattoo I wanted to have a cross. Another reason that kind

of gave me the thought is that my favorite eighties rock star has a cross

on his left arm as well. I am a very conservative person and I never

really was serious about getting a tattoo. The closest that I ever had

gotten was to get a henna tattoo when I was visiting the beach in Ocean

City, Maryland. I was about 19 years old at this time. I was always

afraid that getting a tattoo would be very painful, and also cost a lot of

money. My parents were against tattoos, and I always thought it had a

stereotype to it like you were a criminal or part of some kind of gang. I

tended to associate tattoos and motorcycles as well. I considered it

something that I thought would be “Bad Ass” on me but that is as far as

it went.

My brother got a tattoo right after he moved into his first house with his

wife Stacy. Stacy already had about five tattoos at the time and they

decided that they were going to get the initials of each other’s names

written in small letters above each other’s butt cracks. I can assure you

27

that it looks very beautiful (being sarcastic) I mentioned that it was after they moved into to their new house, but it was really when it was

revealed to us that Eddie had his first Tattoo. My mother was very upset

in the way that he handled this in that first; he got a tattoo, which she is against, and second; he waits until he is out of the family house to show

my mother. I said show my mother, because I can tell you that my

father did not share the feelings my mother did. My father could take it

or leave it and my mother was outraged. If you know my mother, you

do not get on her bad side at all.

I am not sure how many aspies or anyone on the Autism Spectrum

Disorder actually has tattoos, and I am wondering how I can possibly

find this out, now that I think about it. Thinking about it, if many of the other people in the spectrum have anxiety issues like me, I am thinking

there is a small percent that have ink on their body.

My friend Nicole, who I dated for a small period of time, got to be

interested in tattoos. I am not sure why, but I speculate that it was

because a lot of people in her yoga class had some ink on them and/or

also because she worked at a warehouse that was dominantly male blue

28

collar workers, which stereotypically have a tendency to get tattoos. I

was floored when Nicole actually got a tattoo. I knew she was interested

but I thought that it was just something

she was just thinking on. She decided

one day to take a step that was rather

impulsive (Still think that the decision

on her end was rushed) as she was

checking out tattoo parlors and one

decided to talk her into doing one on

the spot. As much as I cared for the

girl, I was actually rather offended that

they would take advantage of her

impulsiveness. I also imagined some

old biker guy who spent 20 years in

prison doing the tattoo for her.

I had always had a thought in my head

about getting a tattoo but never did as

mentioned before because of cost and

how much it would hurt. I actually

found some tattoos to be disgusting

and ruining of our natural beauty of

our bodies. I actually still do feel that way in some cases. So, my friend had gotten a tattoo and I thought as a special thing to do on her birthday

was to pay for the second tattoo she wanted for a gift. Even though I

was not excited about it, it was what was making her happy and I was all

for that. In the weeks leading up to her getting her second tattoo I

thought about the cross that I always wanted and how and what it would

be like to have one. I talked to Nicole who draws very well, and she

came up with my sketch of the cross. My cross is very unique in that no

one else on the planet has one like it. I ended up getting the tattoo on the same day that she got her second one. I have to say that it did not cost a

lot of money at all and it actually kind of felt like a massage in some

29

ways. I did have it numbed, so I cheated on that, but it in a way felt kind of good. Oh My Gosh!!! I just did something that I NEVER thought

would happen. I got a tattoo.

Almost immediately after getting the tattoo, I had some issues that were

sinking into me that, yes this was rather permanent. I had difficulty

dealing with my decision but I kept and still have the tattoo. The tattoo

is about six inches tall and four inches at its widest part. At first, I did try doing some laser tattoo removal and of course the sun faded it some

that summer, but I have since kept the body art. It is important to me

because when I did get the tattoo I was struggling with a lot of anxiety.

My faith in Jesus Christ helped me through some of the darkest of dark

times for me. I feel that the tattoo shows my faith to Jesus, but also

almost serves as a scar in how I survived some of the worst bouts with

anxiety I ever had. The anxiety had nothing to do with the tattoo but it

did not help the tattoo. It being thought of as a scar just shows that

whatever does not kill you makes you stronger. Also, those who live

through Christ are strengthened.

My mother specifically did not take too kindly that I got the tattoo, she

knew about that I was getting it and I told her unlike my brother did.

My mother has warmed up to it. My brother has since gotten at least

two more tattoos on his body. He has a beautiful one on his arm of his

two daughters. Stacy continues to get them as well as my friend Nicole.

My mother has a saying that they both can go to the circus as freaks

when it is in town. As for me, I have one and it is the LAST one I will

EVER get.

30

[*Chapter Eight: Smokey and Taz *]

It was a Wednesday afternoon and I was supposed to do my normal

thing, go to see my therapist Matt, and then I had an errand to run to sign

the title of a car I sold to a car dealership almost two days prior. When I got up out of bed, we found him. He was meowing and could not sit up

straight. He was under my parent’s bed and I took him downstairs to the

main floor where the cat food is. He just laid there, very limp. When I

tried to tempt him with treats, he did not respond. When I called his

name, he would not react. I picked him up and I sat in my favorite

recliner with him on my lap, laboring to breathe and having the

occasional cry. I spent about four hours with him on the chair, keeping

him comfortable, rubbing him, and telling him that I love him. I started

to fall asleep myself we were such at peace. Time to time he would kind

of look around and meow. He kept wanting to hide his head. My

mother tried once to straighten it because is looked uncomfortable. He

clearly did not like it and his heart started to pound and he started to

shake a little. He stopped breathing. I felt a pulse and then his pulse

went away.

I have never experienced anything quite this difficult in my life. I have

lost grandparents, went through a very hard breakup, but I never have

hurt as bad as I do now. Many that know me would say that the breakup

was really bad, and I agree. I really think I am just able to process

things a little better. What I am talking about? The loss of Smokey this

last Wednesday and Taz the Sunday before, my two beloved Siamese

31

cats. Above I spoke about Smokey’s and our last time together.

Smokey and Taz, along with one of their siblings, were found at the old

Blockbuster video store on the golden mile in Frederick, Maryland. My

sister’s brother Shawn found them behind the store in and around the

dumpster. There happened to be a Chinese restaurant next door where

the dumpster was. There were some jokes

about them being there, but I think they had

nothing to do with the restaurant and might

have been just dumped there by a careless

person who saw them as an inconvenience.

It was by luck that someone told Shawn of

their presence and he went to catch them.

He was able to put out some tuna and the

cats came out. He trapped the two Siamese

and a black and white cat.

I had closeness to Siamese cats because we had lost a Siamese cat that

was older than I was at the time. This particular cat lay with me in the

crib in when I was an infant and I would

continue to take him to bed every night

as a child. Even though I had nothing

but love in my heart for Ti, I did not treat

him the best. Being a little kid I was

kind of rough with him, sometimes

carrying him around in a cabbage patch

bag when my mother’s daycare kids and

I would play “house” in the backyard.

He was always the baby.

Shawn and his mother (my dad’s ex-

wife) knew that I had a fondness in my

heart for Siamese cats and they contacted

my mother about maybe wanting to

32

adopt one of the Siamese. My mother kept it a secret and visited the cat

that we would name Smokey and decided that she would take him for

me. Connie and Shawn visited a day or so later with Smokey in her

arms. He was not happy about being carried around. My mother had

ruined the surprise earlier in the day by telling me that they were going

to visit and why. When we got Smokey on to our kitchen table and I

“Examined the specimen” I was unsure if I wanted to settle for him. He

was obviously not one hundred percent Siamese and my parents were

funny about how many cats that we had, so I was funny about just

saying yes to it. We did not even know if he was male or female, and

until we went to the vet, we thought he was female. I should not have

looked at the cat as a novelty being that he is Siamese, but really for

what we were going to be doing for him, and that is to give him a home.

I am so lucky that I decided to keep him. He has been one of my

greatest joys.

Shawn took Taz and had him until about 2008 when he went with his

grandmother and then when she got sick, we took him in. The reason

that Shawn had to give Taz up is because he was in a bad car wreck in

March of 2006. Where he was living, he would not be able to use a

wheelchair and my sister’s husband bought a condo where he moved.

Once my sister’s husband decided to build their new house they wanted

to sell the condo and Taz had to find another place. That is when he

went to stay with the

grandmother Vivian.

When we first got

Smokey we had to

keep him in a crate

because he was so

wild. If you let him

out of the crate he

would climb

33

curtains, I can remember when I took him upstairs to a room that I

played video games in and I shut the door. He was bouncing off the

walls and climbing curtains. To imagine that a cat his size a couple

years before his death used to climb curtains is amazing. Smokey

weighed about 20 pounds at one point. Smokey also used to jump

behind an opening that we had at our house in the basement where the

breaker box was for the electricity. He would stay back behind the wall

and my brother had to make a hole in the drywall so he would be able to

come out as we were not sure if he could jump back out. We ended up

having to trap him in a small animal trap. It turned out that he would

keep jumping behind the

wall and would manage to

get back out. If he was

scared, that is where he

would go. Smokey did not

much care for the 12 year

old boy that would chase

him around the house to

cuddle with him. I don’t

blame him for that, I can

imagine it would be pretty

scary having a 200 pound

boy running and shaking

the ground behind you. He however was able to make a connection with

me and one of the places he would run to what would be my bedroom

and on my bed.

If you read my previous “Anything but Ordinary”, you would see that I

did not have the smoothest childhood one can have. It was full of

emotional roller coasters with my disability mixing with the hormones

of puberty. I would often be fighting my parents or my brother or being

teased by my peers. I was very lucky with the care I got from my

Doctor, and staff close to me in school as if I did not have that, I would

34

not be able to be who I am today. Through all of my tribulations,

Smokey’s love always was there. He would always come to me. He

was my sleeping buddy, he is my friend, I hope to someday see him

again.

*Smokey *

35

Chapter Nine: Super Gerald

  • *

  • *

  • *

A Special story that I would like to share, (more to come on racing in

my next book) is the story of the Grassroots motorsports $2016

Challenge. I found out from my friend Shawn about the $2016

Challenge and I wanted to participate. I decided I was going to enter a

car a little late and wanted to use my 2000 Pontiac Grand Prix GTP

Coupe. The object of the event is to spend less than the year in a dollar

amount. So last year’s was $2016 and this year would be $2017. I

36

wanted to enter the Grand Prix but the car had so many issues and I

feared not getting it finished in time, so I decided to run exhibition with

my 2004 Impala SS that I was driving as my daily driver.

The event consists of three parts. The first part is Autocross, which I

had no experience with at the time; the second was an evening of drag

racing and the third was a car show where you told the judges about

what makes you different than the others and the story behind your

creation.

We did okay in the autocross and the drags, but the car show is what did

us in as we did not fit what the event was about.

Recent to the decision of running in the event, I learned of a friend that

was terminally ill who was the son of a parent that I visit at an Autism

Support Group. I don’t want to give specific names because I do not

have their permission to write about him, but he does go by Super

37

Gerald. He had Metastatic alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma. In order to help him with his treatments and to make them easier to handle, his

mother would make everything related to superheroes. For example,

his chemotherapy port would be likened to the one Iron Man had that

kept him alive in the movies.

I wanted to honor “Super Gerald” in my first motorsports event. I

decided I was going to have my car decaled in his logo and colors. In

fact, after the race, I had to drive to California for two speaking dates

and my friend Shawn and I left directly from the Gainesville Raceway.

We took to the road in honor of Gerald and were turning heads every

step of the way. I would let people know as to why we had a large “G”

on the hood of the car.

At the actual race, we finished 31 out of 41 cars; however my score did

not count because my entry did not “Fit” what the event was about.

Basically, my car cost way more than the $2016 allowed. We had a

fun time anyways and great exposure for Gerald and myself.

38

39

Chapter Ten: Dare to be Different

Like I said in the eBook “Anything but Ordinary”, conclusions to any of

my writing projects are very hard. I try my best to make it as “Smooth”

as possible. I am hoping that I can share this book with many around the

world in order to help spread awareness of Autism. We, that have

autism, see things so differently than everyone else in the world. My

40

writings are supposed to provide parents, educators, and many others

with a perspective into my life, but also give inspiration to others who

have Autism Spectrum Disorder. I hope for them to see that they can do

anything that they set their mind to. The world is out there waiting. This

eBook in particular was supposed to really do this as it tells of life

experiences versus my growing up. I have many more stories to tell and

I hope to share them with you in my next eBook, whenever I get that

written. I have been able to share in this past eBook that I do have

feelings, I do have ordinary wants, and I do like things that others do. I

just process things very differently. My Autism allows me to be hyper

focused in certain interests and be very observant. In a way, Autism is

like my “Superpower”, and many families need to understand that not

only does Autism not define them, but it also allows them to have talents

and interests that others do not, so I have a piece of advice for them,

“Dare to be Different” as just plain ordinary is boring…

41

2016 Blog Posts:

As an extra to my regular eBook, I would like to give you a collection of

my blog articles that I wrote in 2016. Please note that an “Aspies

Opinion of Marijuana” is a blog post as well. These articles were posted

elsewhere such as “Different Brains”.

Communication and Asperger’s (2016)

One thing in life that frustrates me to a very far extent is the people

around me ability to communicate on simple things. People who have

ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) have a very difficult time with

communication; rather it is giving communication or receiving it. Many

who have high functioning Autism such as me (Asperger’s) have a hard

time understanding the unwritten rules on communication. The thing is

about anyone who has ASD is that they see the world in a very different

way than anyone else; we see it in yes or no, black and white, and off or

on. There is no in between in any situation. Below are some examples

of where I struggle personally and I am sure many of my peers who have

ASD struggle too.

I have a very FOND interest in healthcare, particularly in surgery. I

really am fascinated with surgery because it is a skill that uses your

mechanical skills, and I am a very mechanical person. I am not a

surgeon and very much unlikely to be a surgeon, however, I am still

fascinated by surgery. A lot of people do not understand my “hyper

interest”. I have found that there are other opportunities in the

operating room as a computer technician in which I am already trained

and run an established non-profit. I want to learn more about “Surgical

Information Technology” such as the da Vinci robot and use of different

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types of scopes. I want to learn how to repair the different equipment used in the operating room. In a way, that is still contributing to the care of the patient by making sure that the equipment is operable by the

surgeon and safe for the patient. The reason I am going on about my

interest in Surgery is that in the workplace many people do not

understand Autism, and I have experienced this at my hospital that I

work with.

For the longest time I wanted to work in the operating room. Finally

after much persistence, I was able to get on board with the sterile

processing unit, and that is where I was able to feel at home as a

computer technician. The people in Sterile Processing clean and made

sure the equipment was functional. I made quick friends with the sterile

processing supervisor, and we worked together for a few months until

which he was fired for reasons not in his control. Other people on the

sterile processing unit did not quite understand that I was there to learn

and was not free labor for them to utilize, although I do not mind helping

them, I was there to learn. When I learned of the firing of the supervisor

I went to the Operating Room Administration’s office and I busted in on

a meeting they were having between the two managers and someone

else. The door was open; I just poked my head in and asked about

George, in probably a panicked tone. I wrote the OR manager who

never got back to me about what I should do or where I should be

working and I sent an email to the director of Surgical services who did

answer. She told me that she would review the departmental needs and

get back to me in the near future. I did not hear anything from either the

manager or the director for weeks. Of course with every response that

they did actually send, I sent one back in a more than thankful tone for

letting me work there. I recently reached out to both the manager and

director and did not hear anything for over two weeks when I decided to

send another message, saying the same thing as the first. I really enjoy

working with your department, I understand staffing challenges that are

going on, and I am patient but I do need to know something. After the

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second email, I got a response saying that they did not have the staffing needed to accommodate me in a volunteer capacity and perhaps things

will change later in the year. It did not take them two weeks to come up

with that answer and they should have let me know something, even if

they wanted to look into it further and then email me back, they should

have simply said that they were going to look into it.

The above scenario was a workplace issue where it would have been

simple to send a short email acknowledging the contact I had with them.

But, many people do not realize how important the simple act of

communicating really is, rather if you have ASD or not.

Another time when I was going to work at the Greater Baltimore

Medical Center in Towson, MD, the nurse manager said that I had the

job and told me to save the date for orientation, however she did not take

my calls and ignored me after I did not get any confirmation of that.

Finally, weeks later I get an email from both her and human resources

saying that they want to hire me badly. Obviously they were unable to

get me on the first orientation that she wanted me to be on, but she could

have communicated that to me better.

Next involves some personal situations in general. I love my friends and

I am very loyal to them. There are times when some friends may

“ignore me” by text, Facebook messenger, or email. This really bothers

me especially if we have plans in the near future as I need to know what

is going on. I have a distant friend who wants to buy a car that was

donated to The Buddy Project and wanted me to give him details. He

has yet to respond to my message and that was about three months ago.

I am very precise and I do respect that people cannot simply “Drop”

what they are doing to give me an answer about something or maybe

they might not know the answer, but I do appreciate a response.

I will talk more about the following in some of my upcoming Autism

book projects. I dated a girl for about a year and we were such great

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friends and got along great. Everyone thought that we were going to marry at some point. Issues with Communication however got in the

way of those plans. She had some bad things happen to her and she

would always keep me in “my place”. When we spent time together, it

was the same times every week. It was always Tuesday evening at her

equine lesson and Friday afternoons. She lived an hour from me and

there were times like on New Year’s she should have spent the night

with me because of living an hour away and being buzzed from

drinking. We even have a bedroom on the complete opposite side of the

house where she would have had her own bathroom. We were to see

each other the next day at an equine event so I could have easily picked

her up and dropped her off, but she could not talk to me and tell me why

she wanted to do the unpractical thing. We actually were to spend New

Year’s in Ocean City, MD at a fancy event but she used an excuse to get

out of going to Ocean City. I feel that she was afraid of sharing a hotel

room, and I would have even bought her a separate suite or she could

have slept in another room in my suite. You could tell she was

uncomfortable about the idea of traveling with me. She loves country

music and I was going to take her to Nashville to the CMA festival for

valentine’s day and she wanted to go. When it came time to book the

travel she would go silent. The lack of communication in our

relationship is what eventually did our relationship in. I do care for her

and she is my friend, but she cannot trust, and trust is what makes any

kind of bond between anyone work.

I really struggle with communication issues with people. I am very

black and white and value that bluntness from people. I am sure there

are many others on the spectrum that struggle with the lack of their

peer’s communication.

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Autism Predictability and the Desire for Interpersonal Relations (2016) Individuals with Autism tend to like sameness and predictability, and I

know that all too well! I very much like my Mountain Dew made by

Pepsi, and My Deer Park water by Nestle. I can make do with a few

other small substitutes, but I am most comfortable when I have my water

and Mountain Dew. I often carry them around in a bag when I go and

visit someone, to eat, or go for a long drive. I have not had much of a

problem with restaurants and them not liking me brining my own drinks.

I had one issue in New Jersey once with a friend when we went to a

restaurant. They wanted me to drink the water they sell, and I was very

uncomfortable with the idea. I told them to just charge me for one of

their water bottles and it would make it okay. I am also a big fan of

certain products because of familiarity. I LOVE GM cars, and am very

knowledgeable about the different models, especially in the Chevrolet

lineup. I am particularly fond of the Hewlett Packard technology

company. In the past few years I have become very comfortable with

the Samsung Galaxy phones. I did recently get a Google Pixel for a

work phone for The Buddy Project, but I think that is as far as it will go

with that. Whenever I go on vacation, I go to the same places, such as

Miami, FL and usually go the same time of the year. When I have been

doing my speaking engagements, I have gotten to discover new places,

and although uncomfortable and testing at times, I have really enjoyed it.

On top of my Autism I also deal with really bad anxiety issues and have

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, which makes me want order,

organization, and CLEANESS. Sometimes on these road trips I do not

get the latter. I once found myself using the bathroom at a Dollar

General during my last cross country journey. That was not fun, but I

coped and it helped me grow as a person.

A lot of people with Autism only like to travel to their favorite places,

and are uncomfortable with long trips with unpredictability. I have

mentioned how I have dealt with some of these feelings but I have found

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bravery to accomplish and overcome. Nothing in my life will beat my last trip, and that was to South Africa fall 2016.

I am not going to share a lot of details because I do not want to share

much about my friend out of respect for her, but we became friends in

the USA and stayed in contact and grew our friendship. I wanted to

invite her to the USA but when it did not work out that way, I decided to

visit her in South Africa. This was a HUGE leap for me because I have

never been out of the USA and I would have to go through the process

of getting my passport. My friend was very impressed that I would go

and visit her even though I had mentioned my fear of traveling out of the

country alone and the costs.

The ten days I spent with my friend in South Africa was an experience.

Things are so different there. What I take for granted here I did not have

over there, such as my favorite water. They did have Mountain Dew,

but it was hard to find and it did not taste the same. Of course, when I

look at the ingredients, it tells me why. There would be like five

ingredients versus the twenty plus that would be in Mountain Dew here.

You could actually taste the real sugar instead of the high fructose corn

syrup. In short, they make it BETTER in South Africa. Better for your

health that is! I also tried Sprite, and even though it was not like at

home, I latched onto that as my go to drink along with Coca-Cola

Companies Valpre water. One note, Valpre tastes great and it blows

Coke’s Dasani out of the water…ha-ha- from the USA. I carried that

around with me and stocked up on it whenever I got a chance.

One thing I noticed that when I was there is that they have such tiny

trash containers. I think that they do not make as much trash as we do.

This is coming from someone who uses liquid soap and paper towels. I

took some paper towels with me but I was able to manage with the

towels in the bathroom, which is a step out of my comfort zone.

Even though I did not have much of an appetite for the first few days

because of my anxiousness, food there was really good. You can also

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tell that it is fresher and less processed than here. I had an AWESOME

pizza at one of the malls over there. My friend says that there is better,

so I am hoping that I can find out. I was able to go all but one day

without saying “Ketchup”. It is tomato sauce there. In the USA Tomato

Sauce is the stuff that we put on pizzas, use in spaghetti, and etc.

I was very brave in my quest to visit my friend in South Africa for

someone who is used to predictability and sameness. I felt like a fish out

of water at times. I knew it was going to be different, but not that

different. It did take a lot of bravery to be able to go, even though the

long plane rides were the thing that scared me the most beforehand and

of course what the customs experience would be like. I feel it is

important to have the courage to get out of your comfort zone and

experience new things.

So while I am talking about how brave I was, and how it is important to

go out of your comfort zone, I think that most people with autism have

the stereotype against them that they do not want or cannot have an

interpersonal relationship. Another friend of mine, who is considered by

some on the spectrum, but is definitely neuro-diverse, was told that he

cannot be autistic by his doctor because “Those people are mean and

violent”, that is not the first time I heard that from people. An ex-

girlfriend of mine was reading a book about dating and autism and they

said it is more like being alone if you date someone on the spectrum

because they show no feelings and do not want any kind of relationship.

So what I am saying is that I sacrificed a lot and traveled across the

world, just to see a friend that I think a lot of. I think that proves my

desire for growing that friendship and the importance of this person to

me. So, someone with autism might very well be uncomfortable with

traveling that far alone, and that is given, but someone with autism is

thought to not want interpersonal relations, which is not true in my case.

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Dare to be Different

  • Author: Eric Zimmerman
  • Published: 2017-03-03 22:50:12
  • Words: 14410
Dare to be Different Dare to be Different